Lupus and Coffee
How many of us NEED a cup of coffee to start our day? Yet, what does it mean to consume coffee while living with lupus? The medical community is beginning to ask that question as well. Read on and find out about coffee and its impact on lupus.
Many of us drink coffee – globally, we consume over 400 million cups a year! While many enjoy a good, hot brew, coffee may be taken for granted as being nothing more than a daily pick-me-up. It may be difficult to believe that coffee may offer some health benefits beyond the buzz it brings, even for individuals with lupus. Coffee may help the immune system regulate more efficiently as well as help protect from tissue damage.
Researchers have begun studying the coffee plant over the last several years and its medicinal properties. This research has piqued the interest of the medical community and consumers alike. Some of the compounds of a good roast may promote well-being, and may likewise be of interest for those with autoimmune disease.
There are 100 species of coffee, though Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora are the two most widely grown and sold. The coffee that billions of us consume every day from Australia to Ethiopia comes from the beans in the cherries found on coffee trees.
A coffee plant contains several nutrients and compounds that are essential for it to grow and thrive – these, in turn, may benefit us. Building blocks of the coffee plant include:
- Antioxidants: Coffee contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that scavenge and destroy free radicals, protecting tissue and cells from damage. Free radicals are unstable atoms that may be derived internally from the body or external sources from things such as X-rays, ozone, cigarette smoke, and air pollutants.
- Anti-mutagens: These compounds may prevent cells from becoming malignant, therefore, decreasing the risk of colorectal, renal, liver, pancreatic cancer, and tumors.
- Fat molecules: These molecules include fats and oils that may increase levels of bad cholesterol, causing a buildup of plaque in the walls of vessels and arteries and potentially contributing to cardiovascular disease.
Of course, coffee also contains caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by making us feel energized and focused – it is the most widely used drug in the world! It can also stimulate the respiratory system by opening up breathing passages, and the cardiovascular system by increasing heart rate. On average, an eight-ounce cup of coffee-based contains anywhere between 95 – 200 mg of caffeine, and decaffeinated coffee has about 3 mg of caffeine. Caffeine reaches peak levels in the blood within an hour of consumption, lasting up to six hours. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers it safe to consume up to 400 mg of caffeine a day. In moderation, caffeine may promote weight loss and improve cognitive function and alertness.
Along with the broader health benefits of coffee mentioned earlier, consumption might also provide more targeted benefits for those with lupus.
Studies have found that caffeine can increase the release of anti-inflammatory proteins, down-regulate the inflammatory response, and suppress T-cell, B-cell, and antibody production. Researchers of one study found that those with lupus who had a daily caffeine intake between 154 mg – 377 mg/day experienced a lower prevalence of “lupus nephritis, neuropsychiatric involvement, hematological manifestations, hypocomplementemia, and anti-DNA positivity.” These individuals also had lower blood levels of pro-inflammatory proteins, which are key players in the autoimmune process.
It is important to note that everyone responds differently to coffee, however. Both coffee and caffeine can cause stomach upset and heartburn. Even in small amounts, caffeine increases blood pressure and can cause irregular heartbeat. It can also interfere with the ability to absorb calcium, which can weaken muscle and bones, contributing to the development of osteoporosis – something that taking prednisone already puts an individual at risk for. Caffeine also negatively impacts quality of your sleep. This is a concern for with lupus to fighting fatigue and having to manage symptoms and flares. Many with lupus also experience other serious health conditions that may be negatively impacted by coffee. Others may just not like feeling jittery or anxious. It is really important for coffee drinkers who have lupus – or potential coffee drinkers – to talk to a healthcare practitioner to make sure it is a healthy choice.
Coffee not only stimulates the nervous system, but stimulates research in its health benefits as well. While this body of research is still in its infancy, more research will undoubtedly follow. For those with lupus, coffee may potentially be another tool in the management of their autoimmune disease.
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Author: Liz Heintz
Liz Heintz is a medical research writer who received her BA in Communications, Advocacy, and Relational Communications from Marylhurst University in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She most recently worked for several years in the healthcare industry. A native of San Francisco, California, Liz now calls the beautiful Pacific Northwest home.
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