September 4, 2015  The Love Hate Relationship of Coffee and Gluten
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Coffee... "I NEED it....." Do you get headaches in the morning? Do you rush to brew up a cup of coffee in hopes that this will alleviate your heavy-headed fog? Do you then feel tired mid-way through your day and beg a co-worker to brew up something in the break room? Do you stop off at a popular coffee chain for a jolt of liquid energy before running the kids to football or gymnastics? Do you make attempts to stop drinking coffee just to suffer from an intense headache that only seems to ease when you drink more coffee? But, then that same headache pops back up with a vengeance a few hours later? Well, guess what? Depending upon how coffee is grown, cultivated, roasted, and brewed, it may be causing your body to react exactly as eating a big loaf of gluten-loaded bread or a big bowl of wheat pasta; especially for those with a known allergy, auto-immune disorder, or irritation of the intestinal tract. And, here is the real kicker. It does not have anything to do with the caffeine in coffee that causes this reaction. So, even decaf drinkers, LISTEN UP! How Coffee Triggers Gluten Sensitivity So what exactly happens when a gluten sensitive person eats gluten? Folks with gluten antibodies or an auto-immune disorder may react to any gluten in the diet by mounting an immune response. This means that gluten is perceived by the body as an INVADER and the gluten antibodies attack the gluten itself trying to destroy it. This gluten attack is an inflammatory response and inflammation issues can occur anywhere in the body in any tissue or organ. For a person with an auto-immune disorder, this is HUGE as their body also attacks itself when an improper inflammatory cascade occurs. Certain proteins also stimulate this reaction. Proteins found in common foods that some may need or want to avoid such as milk, cheese, soy, whey protein, etc. The proteins in the above mentioned foods can react in people with a gluten sensitivity but it has been found that the protein in coffee is the most common cross-reactor to gluten. Because it is the protein in the coffee that is the trigger, switching to decaf coffee does not solve the problem. In a nutshell, fairly recent lab research has revealed that coffee is made up of 10% protein and that protein cross reacts with gluten antibodies more than milk, corn, rice, and casein. 1 That being said, when you consume coffee, the protein can cause the same or similar cascade of improper inflammation to occur as eating a bowl of pasta or drinking a glass of milk. But, I love Coffee! Is it possible to be gluten sensitive and not cross react to coffee? Yes, it is. And it is quite possible to tell by a simple test if the proteins in the coffee are triggering improper inflammation, pain, discomfort. Give it a try! Does this test work for all? No Does it work for Most? Yes 1. Stop drinking your normal coffee for 3 days. (YOU CAN DO IT!) 2. On day 4, drink one cup. a. If you feel better, more energized for 1-4 hours afterward but then experience a severe headache, abdominal discomfort, or irritability – DO NOT drink more coffee. This is more than likely your body reacting to the proteins (in a bad way) in coffee. This reaction might take longer for some and it often provokes the person to drink more coffee thinking the caffeine will ease the headache or moodiness. But in reality, it causes the headache to linger, the stomach to tense leading to other gastrointestinal issues, and quite possibly a relapse into an auto-immune disorder. b. Now, some will not experience the above – no issues at all. They are the LUCKY ones who do not have a sensitivity to this protein. So, stay with me. If you fall into the ‘a’ category from above (OUR WHOLE FAMILY DID!), we have a healthier option for you. Let’s talk Cold Brew! Cold Brew coffee is NOT coffee brewed in a hot pot and poured over ice. That is ICE coffee and it will cause the same reaction as typical coffee served hot. The proteins will react in a negative manner within your cells. And if you love adding chocolate milk or creams to your drinks, that’s a double whammy as the milk proteins will react too! UUUGGGGGGG Cold Brew coffee is exactly what it says. It is brewed using a cold method. Let’s talk science- when you brew hot coffee, the heat causes hydrocarbons to change. This is similar to boiling water. You change the composition of the water by turning it into steam. You break bonds between the H2O and they realign in the air. So what do you suppose happens to coffee when hot water hits it? Yes! It's chemical composition is altered and proteins become more prominent. When you brew coffee with hot water, the heat breaks apart the coffee and begins to form acids and proteins. These two items lead to inflammation and a cascade of ailments within each cell of your body. So, now, think about when adding a strawberry to a class of cold water. What happens? The two merge together while keeping what is good. Nothing is broken apart or destroyed by heat. Now, as many of you know, coffee in general has been studied for decades and there are plenty of studies showing lower episodes of diabetes and Alzheimer’s in those who frequented the dark beverage. Other studies show how coffee also assists in detoxing the liver and adds antioxidants to our diets. And many herbalists suggest the same. Coffee has always been a controversial beverage. In some, it can cause over-stimulation and yet the American Medical Association recommends conservatively that "moderate tea or coffee drinking likely has no negative effect on health, as long as you live an otherwise healthy lifestyle."2 So, we at RFL suggest you pay attention to your own body, do your own research, and follow your instincts. But, rest assured, when you ingest a cold brewed coffee, the good benefits of coffee will emerge! We recommend an organic, medium roast blend that is ground fresh and cold brewed within past 24 hours for optimal flavor. Also, store cold brew in the refrigerator and try it with a non-dairy alternative like hemp milk for a nutty, crisp flavor and extra health benefits! And, don’t forget to add your favorite essential oil for extra flavor and even MORE health benefits! References: 1. A. Vojdani and I. Tarash, "Cross-Reaction between Gliadin and Different Food and Tissue Antigens," Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 1, 2013, pp. 20-32. doi: 10.4236/fns.2013.41005. 2. DOI:
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Although I am a medical professional, the content of this site is for informational purposes only. Information posted here represent only my opinions or the opinions of other clinical professionals and/or professionals within their areas of expertise and are not to be used to diagnose, treat, or replace professional medical advice. You are responsible for how you use your homeopathic remedies including herbs, plants, tinctures, and essential oils. Please use them reasonably and carefully.