Caffeine, a stimulant of the nervous system, is generally anti-inflammatory, but research finds that the effect of caffeine on immune function is actually very complicated! For some people, caffeine decreases inflammation, and for others, it has the direct opposite effect.
Caffeine is in the seeds, nuts, and leaves of several plants, including:
- Coffea Arabica - used for coffee
- Thea sinensis - used for tea
- Cola acuminata - used in soft drinks
- Theobroma cacao - used in cocoa and chocolate
- Paullinia cupana - used as guarana in snack bars and energy drinks
These sources of caffeine appear in numerous products:
- Coffee and coffee-flavored food products (ice cream, frozen yogurt, etc.)
- Decaffeinated coffee
- Black, oolong, green, and white teas and yerba mate (herbal tea is naturally caffeine-free)
- Chocolate in all of its forms (bars, hot cocoa, ice cream, etc.)
- Energy drinks
- Protein bars (especially with chocolate or coffee additives)
- Breakfast cereals
- Medications for PMS, headaches, and migraines
- Some common additives in foods including ginseng, malic acid, and niacin
While the effect of caffeine directly on the thyroid may be highly individualized, the impact of caffeine on the adrenal glands is clear. Caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. Excessive cortisol production can lead to a variety of health issues, including an overactive immune system, disrupted sleep, impaired digestion, and depression.
While it's still unclear why some people experience an anti-inflammatory effect from caffeine and others experience immune stimulation, the best practice is to eliminate caffeine during the first phase of the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet.
The autoimmune protocol is process of elimination and reintroduction of common dietary triggers. It is designed to help people with autoimmune conditions determine their dietary sensitivities, reverse nutrient deficiencies, and determine a personalized, sustainable diet for the long term. In the elimination phase, you remove all grains, legumes, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and food additives or chemicals from your diet. Research suggests that these foods may worsen leaky gut or cause immune reactions. During the reintroduction phase, you reintroduce foods one-at-a-time to test your response to the foods you initially eliminated.
Coffee comes from the seeds of berries from certain Coffea species. It is eliminated as part of the autoimmune protocol as a seed. Coffee does not necessarily need to be eliminated for life, but to satisfy the purpose of the autoimmune protocol, it's worth ruling whether it is a cause of your inflammation.
This particular food to avoid can be discouraging to some because, "But first, coffee." Fear not. There are still plenty of autoimmune-friendly alternatives that are compliant with your elimination experiment.
Caffeine-free alternatives to coffee
Chicory root tea or dandelion root tea
Both of these teas are naturally caffeine-free, and when roasted, both taste remarkably similar to coffee. Chicory root may help to regulate blood sugar and bowel movements, and dandelion root may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Try these teas in your French press, tea ball, or blended with coconut manna and coconut oil for a dose of healthy fats.
Breakfast bone broth
Bone broth may seem like a strange way to start the day, but it's suggested to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. It's full of gut-healing nutrients like collagen, gelatin, calcium, and magnesium. Blend hot broth with coconut manna, coconut oil, and additional collagen for a latte-like morning alternative.
Fresh lemon-ginger tea
In addition to the widely known anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties of ginger, lemon has its own antimicrobial, anticancer, and antiparasitic activities. Steep fresh ginger in hot water and then add a few slices of lemon to enjoy.
Tiger-what? A bit of a misnomer, tiger nuts are not nuts, but a small root vegetable. They are about the size of chickpeas with a wrinkly exterior, chewy texture, and flavor similar to coconut. Blend one cup of tiger nuts with four cups of water until well blended. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth into a bowl and discard the pulp. Then, mix again with cinnamon and honey until combined, and enjoy over ice.
Most fruits and vegetables are allowed during the autoimmune protocol elimination phase, excluding citrus fruits and nightshade vegetables. Try juicing cucumber, green apple, and celery; or carrot, apple, and ginger; or even red apple and cinnamon!
A note from Paloma Health
Many nutritional factors play a role in optimizing thyroid function. Paloma Health offers you the opportunity to work with a nutritionist in collaboration with a thyroid physician to determine nutritional status for optimal thyroid health.