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Is Coffee Good For You?

Posted by Deborah Graefer, L.Ac., MTOM on

The Link Between Coffee and Your Gallbladder

More than 600 billion cups of coffee are consumed by the world’s population yearly. That demand makes it the second most sought-after commodity in the world after crude oil. The coffee industry also serves as a livelihood for more than 25 million people. Based on global market trends, it is still expected to increase in the next few decades as the millennial population fuels its industry growth with the promotion of the “café culture”. From being a medicinal herb to becoming a breakfast beverage of choice, coffee has now evolved to being a status symbol as well.

Despite the overwhelming numbers and worldwide patronage of coffee, one question remains unanswered – is coffee good or bad? Unfortunately, there is no definitive response to that. In our Gallbladder Food list, we have categorized coffee under the “do not consume” list for a number of reasons, all of which will be discussed in this blog. It is very important for patients suffering from gallbladder attacks to avoid coffee. On the other hand, science proves that coffee may also support the liver and the bile. So is coffee your gallbladder’s friend or foe? That all depends.

For sure, coffee has its merits. In fact, it has historically been used as an herbal medicine due to the therapeutic effects of its components. So although we can’t say yet that we recommend coffee drinking, coffee drinkers may be happy to know that they have good reason to do so. We’ll present you with the facts and let you be the judge. But before we enumerate the good and bad news, let’s acquaint ourselves with some basic things we need to know about coffee:

Quick Coffee Facts

The term “coffee” originated from the word qahiya which means “to lack hunger”, referring to coffee’s effects on appetite. Throughout the Arabic-speaking world, coffee was called qahwa which was previously a term that referred to wine and thus it became known among the Europeans as the “wine of Islam”. The earliest documented evidence of coffee was also found in Arabia, dating back to the 13 th -15th centuries. As early as that time, coffee was said to be prepared in a manner similar to what we do today – roasted and brewed. Legends however, claim that coffee has been consumed way before that time. It is said that 1000 years ago, coffee wasn’t enjoyed in its liquid form. Instead, Ethiopian people used to eat the beans together with some animal fat to boost their energy. Chinese medicine practitioners have also used coffee for therapeutic purposes. It is said to regulate and sink the Qi, open orifices, move bowels, and help with respiratory conditions as a bronchodilator.

Rumi and Coffee

You probably know of the famous 13th century estatic poet, Rumi who was a Sufi or mystic. While we don’t know if he drank coffee or not, the Shadhiliyya Sufi order is attributed to the spreading of coffee drinking around the same time when Rumi lived and wrote. These Sufis were most interested in its ability to promote wakefulness and used it during their all-night spiritual dhikrs or vigils. In fact, in Algeria, coffee is sometimes called shadhiliyye in reference to the Shadhiliyya shaykh who introduced it.

The Obvious Effects on Sleep

As people from centuries ago already know, coffee has an obvious impact on sleep and rest. As we have mentioned in our previous post, the availability and intake of caffeine-rich beverages such as coffee, tea, and power drinks contribute to the disruption of the circadian rhythm. This results to poor digestion and compromised gut health among others, thus affecting the gallbladder.

Studies in humans have shown that caffeine increases cortisol and epinephrine at rest, and that levels of cortisol after caffeine consumption are similar to those experienced during an acute stress. Coffee activates our fight-or-flight response as it triggers the adrenal glands. It may be good if you’re trying to keep awake. However, it will definitely take its toll on you in the long run. Drinking coffee, in other words, re-creates stress conditions for the body.

Nutrition Facts for Coffee
The nutritional profile of coffee is difficult to qualify and quantify because of all the variables. Also, the preparation and flavor which may entail the addition of milk, cream, or other sweeteners, definitely affects the type and amount of nutrients fund in each cup (not to mention digestion). But if we are to breakdown 1 cup (8 fl oz) of black, medium strength, caffeinated coffee, it is approximately made up of 41% carbs, 17% fats, and 42% protein.

5 Important Links between Coffee and the Gallbladder

1.Coffee induces gallbladder contraction

Among all the links between coffee and the biliary system, this must be the most significant. Coffee ingestion, whether it is caffeinated or decaffeinated, increases cholecystokinin release and gallbladder contractions. Cholecystokinin is a gastrointestinal hormone produced in the duodenum of the small intestine in response to food intake. It is responsible for stimulating the release of bile from the gallbladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas, facilitating the digestive process. It also relaxes the sphincter of Oddi at the end of the bile duct, allowing for the flow of bile and pancreatic enzymes into the small intestine.

Gallbladder contraction is a good thing - usually. It needs to contract in order to eject the bile. But if the gallbladder is inflamed, contraction can hurt. And if it's full of stones, those stones can be pushed out and get stuck in the bile ducts, causing a gallbladder attack or more pain.

Contraction can be helpful in the prevention of gallstones as it keeps the bile moving and biliary sludge from forming, and studies back that up. 

2.Coffee supports digestion and metabolism

Coffee induces a series of digestive effects, including gastrin release, increased gastric acid secretion, prolonged relaxation of the stomach, and increased rectum and colonic activity (thus helping with to keep the bowel moving). Because of these physiological changes, coffee is often blamed for some gastrointestinal discomfort such as dyspepsia, diarrhea, and GERD. Some people feel that it helps ease constipation, cramps, and gas. Among these claims, the only one with scientific proof is the prevalence of acid reflux and heartburn among excessive coffee drinkers. It’s definitely on the DO NOT DRINK list for acidic conditions. However, there are many who find that switching to cold brew coffee which is 75% lower in acid, makes a big difference. But honestly, if it wrecks your stomach, better to just leave it alone. Use something like Adaptogen for a boost in the morning.

Aside from digestion, coffee also influences metabolism. Metabolism is a series of chemical processes which changes food into energy, but also goes beyond that to breaking down old cells and building new ones and basically keeps everything working. According to various studies, coffee consumption has an impact on fasting glucose metabolism, calcium absorption, lipolysis, and energy release.

Although the exact impacts of coffee in insulin resistance or diabetes are not yet defined, few studies show that there is a relationship between the two. At this point, it’s difficult to conclude that it’s a good thing since evidences from studies are very different and sometimes even contradicting. Caffeine in coffee is also said to increase presence of calcium in the urine and feces which may deteriorate calcium balance as illustrated in some animal studies. As for its effect on lipolysis, coffee improves breakdown of fats. As a lipolytic agent, caffeine in coffee helps spare the utilization of stored glycogen during moderate exercise, thus increasing endurance. Caffeine is also said to burn hepatic fat. Lastly, coffee’s impact on energy release may help boost physical and cognitive performance.

3.Coffee may help support the liver

Coffee and all its components help the liver in so many ways. First, coffee contains chlorogenic, ferulic, caffeic, and n-coumaric acids as well as melanoidins (the brown polymers formed during coffee roasting). All these components have strong antioxidant and antiradical abilities. As the body’s biggest built-in detoxifier, the liver needs all the help it can to get rid of free radicals and oxidative stress. Detoxifying the liver helps it perform its functions better.

Bile flow is also positively influenced by the intake of coffee. In a study on the effects of coffee on the duodenal transport and bile excretion in rats, they found out that regular coffee intake may increase the bile flow rate by as much as 45%. This helps in the prevention of biliary sludge which is commonly how a number of gallbladder diseases start. Some studies also prove the association of coffee consumption to a lower risk in a variety of liver diseases like liver cancer, cirrhosis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

4.Coffee is linked to increased cholesterol levels

There are number of documented researches which state that the diterpenes cafestol and kahweol found in boiled coffee can raise total cholesterol and LDL (the bad cholesterol) in humans. However, it seems that this only happens with the consumption of unfiltered coffee. Paper filter traps most of coffee oil and diterpenes. Other filtering methods like the sock method using cotton nylon cloth and metal mesh filtration are also effective.

High cholesterol levels may cause a lot of diseases within the biliary system like fatty liver disease, gallstones, bile sludge, and many more. Fortunately, it looks like this fact of coffee can be easily solved.

5.Coffee is associated with weight loss

Achieving and maintaining normal body weight is important for everyone, especially for those suffering from gallbladder disease. Obesity is also a risk factor for gallstone development. And if you’re one of the many people who are looking at coffee to solve this dilemma, you need to read on.

As mentioned earlier, coffee may have an effect on physical performance. Therefore, coffee consumption may increase energy expenditure, fat oxidation, and thermogenesis. This means that after coffee ingestion, the body is able to burn more fat. This is true for both obese and normal weight test subjects. Peptide YY (PYY), the endogenous peptide associated with satiety and decreased hunger, is also shown to increase after coffee intake. This supports the common claim that coffee can lower hunger levels and suppress appetite.

On the other hand, some research studies claim otherwise. Based on other experiments, excessive caffeine intake may lower the levels of leptin in the body. This is the “feel full” hormone which tells our brains when it is time to stop eating. So the jury is still out on this one.

Other Uses of Coffee

Aside from being consumed as a beverage, coffee can be used in many other different ways.

  • Coffee Enema
  • Coffee Scrub
  • Coffee Oil
  • Garden Compost and Fertilizer
  • Insect Repellent
  • Deodorizer

We have a separate webpage on the benefits and step-by-step instructions for coffee enema. Coffee enema is a detox practice discovered by German scientists in the 1920’s that can support the opening of bile ducts and stimulation of bile production. Check this page if you want to know more about it.

Healthy Options

Giving up coffee is a seemingly impossible task for many but a necessary sacrifice for those with gallbladder pain. However, if you are just looking for healthier alternatives to sweet and fatty frappuccinos and lattes, here are some options you may want to consider.

1.Bulletproof Coffee

Bulletproof coffee is one of the latest healthy food trends. It’s strongly advocated by keto diet practitioners who are following a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. There is still very limited scientific evidence to support the benefits of Bulletproof coffee but it is said to be anti-inflammatory, appetite suppressing, metabolism boosting, and energy enhancing. Trending is the addition of medium chain triglycerides, Bulletproof XCT oil or Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil, surprisingly gives the impression of cream where there is none. These oils are also good fat for your biliary system as they bypass the liver.

2. Green Coffee

Green coffee (also known as raw coffee) is the rising star in the coffee world. In recent years, research studies about its benefits started to increase. Chlorgenic acids found in green coffee are said to be more bioavailable than those from traditional roasted coffee beans. Aside from that, green coffee is said to have an antihypertensive effect, inhibitory effect on fat accumulation, and modulatory effect on glucose metabolism. This can be found in supplement form here.

3.Leptin Green Coffee

They say it’s green coffee but better. Leptin green coffee is green coffee infused with leptin. As discussed earlier, leptin is a peptide that helps curb appetite and supports the body’s fat burning process. This product is particularly aimed at individuals who want to enjoy their cup of coffee and not worry about leptin resistance and weight gain. There are also available supplement versions of the green coffee infused with chlorgenic acid in every pill just like the 100% Pure Green Coffee Bean Extract w/ 50% Chlorogenic Acid.

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