Coffee’s the most popular drink in the world. Besides tea and wine it’s the only beverage that’s truly stood the test of time. We started drinking it 2,000 years ago and haven’t stopped.
And that trend ain’t slowin’ down baby.
I could spout off some esoteric stats about all the java we drink (I’m prone to do that you know), but a cursory walk down your nearest city block should provide you enough information to come to the same conclusion. Little cafe’s are sprouting up in even the most remote street corners and Mecca-Starbucks is still a rapidly reproducing java-virus.
Coffee’s Safe. Don’t Worry. But…..
As I’ve written before, coffee is basically safe to drink. However, chronic coffee drinking over long periods of time might have unwanted consequences for some people, including:
- Increased blood pressure – you know, the shakes, increased heart rate, constricted blood vessels, dizziness, the random appearance of African Bush elephants waltzing across the ceiling before you pass out from your heart attack, etc. Some people are sensitive to the effects of caffeine in this way and experience elevated blood pressure if they take too much of it. (I’m one of these people, elephants and all). Caffeine intake can reduce bloodflow by 27% for people who have a sensitivity.
- Reduced fertility. Ouch. The FDA has gone on record recommending that pregnant women cut their caffeine intake in half to prevent miscarriages and other birth complications.
- Think you can quit? Not so fast. Caffeine’s not truly addictive, but like anything else your body can get hooked on it. At least 50% of coffee drinkers go through some sort of withdrawal when they quit drinking.
- Hey Minerals, smell ya later! Coffee has a lot of tannins, which bind to minerals inside the digestive tract and carry them out of your system before they can be used by your body.
- Brittle bones. The acidity of coffee might slightly alter your body’s pH, causing calcium bicarbonate to leech out of your bones, making them more brittle.
- Reduced ability to detox. Caffeine is cleared from your body using a set of enzymes in the liver that are used to clear all sorts of things, and too much coffee can cause caffeine to eat up metabolic bandwidth that could be used to remove more harmful substances.
- When it comes to caffeine, we ain’t all created equal. Most people remove caffeine from their system in 4 hours. But some of us are just a wee bit special, and can take up to 9 hours to get it out of our system. Just long enough to give you a little bit of sleep apnea.
Again folks, don’t let me scare you. Coffee is fine. If there was a large population of humans that truly couldn’t handle it they removed themselves from the gene pool a long time ago.
But there’s a good chance lots of people rely on coffee more than they should. It’s not a substitute for sleep or good circulation, and going overboard will probably leave you cranky and irritable.
You know the stereotype of the office zombie walking around with sagging jowls, bread bowls under his eyes and a cup of coffee in his hands?
It’s not an accident. The enzymes used to clear caffeine from your system make extensive use of the antioxidant glutathione, and if your glutathione levels run dry you begin to accumulate wrinkles in ways that don’t look right.
So having a good grasp on how to manage your caffeine levels is important. Especially in the long run.
Caffeine is like a molecue hand-crafted by god himself to help us stay awake. It’s completely absorbed, enters your bloodstream quickly, dissolves in water, travels through fat, and is a hand-in-glove fit for your liver’s garbage disposal system. It’s such a good substrate for your liver’s detox enzymes that caffeine clearance is usually the metric they use to test how much of an effect other drugs have on your liver.
It’s the Little-Amphetamine-That-Could.
So what’s the problem?
The dig is that too much coffee without a break might sap your liver’s regenerative capacity, leaving you susceptible to other ills.
The Killer P’s
When your body needs to remove something from its system it’ll scoot it to the liver, where it can take care of business. Your liver’s weapon of choice is a family of enzymes called cytochrome P450 (aka THE KILLER P’S!), which clear a whole lotta’ stuff from your body. Cigarette smoke, heavy metal traces, those wood chips you used to eat when you were a kid……pretty much the whole gamut.
When you read bad sales pages about detox foods, it’s the cytochrome enzymes those pill-poppin’ charlatans are hazily referring to…….even if they don’t know it.
The Killer P’s work in a detox system that comes in two flavors, creatively called phase I and phase II.
Phase I detox takes toxins and actually turns them into compounds that are even more reactive so they can be shuttled to phase II. Phase II finishes the job and flushes the toilet.
You need both of these systems working well to be able to rid your body of toxins. If they’re not, you’re much more at risk for developing cancer and autoimmune disorders. Caffeine uses the Killer P’s to rid itself from your body, which can eventually blunt their ability to do other necessary work.
Killer P’s…….Meet Broccoli.
The fact that broccoli is good for you should not come as exciting news. (For your own sake).
However, the specific reasons why broccoli helps are less well understood. Besides the fact that it’s green.
Like garlic, broccoli’s useful because it injects your body with sulfur, which is a really important signaling molecule inside your body, and one that’s used extensively by the Killer P’s. (This is the reason garlic and broccoli have similar health benefits).
In fact, broccoli’s ability to regenerate the Killer P’s is almost magical. Sprinkle a little bit of brocco-dust on them and all’s well. The active molecule in broccoli is called sulforaphane, and it’s very sensitive to cooking. So the broccoli you get on your stir-fry probably isn’t helping much. Raw broccoli and steamed broccoli are best.
If you drink a lot of coffee, the single best thing you can do to counteract its health risks is to eat a lot of vegetables from the Brassica family. They all do a wonderful job of rejuvenating the Killer P’s.
It’s for this reason broccoli seed extract is the main ingredient in the recommended supplement stack.
Curcumin, Milk Thistle
Curcumin and milk thistle round out the supplement stack for their ability to assist broccoli and protect your liver against oxidative damage.
But their use comes with a few caveats.
Curcumin – Curcumin almost counts as a wonder tonic, but with one exception – it inhibits phase I detox enzymes. [footnote]Specifically, it’s a strong inhibitor of Cytochrome P450 1A2, which is the Killer P that most often binds to caffeine.[/footnote] This would normally be a good reason not to take it…..except it does a marvelous job of rejuvenating phase II detox. So it’s a little bit of a see-saw. For this reason curcumin’s probably a good idea, but at a *small* dose. Don’t take anything that’s too concentrated and phase it out if you’re not seeing results. Or increase the dose of broccoli extract.
Milk Thistle – Often considered the herbal remedy for alcoholics. That’s because its active ingredient Silymarin is very good at protecting the liver against glutathione depletion. Your body’s machinery for getting rid of excess alcohol shares a lot in common with its tools for getting rid of caffeine, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’d be useful for both.
Lampe, Johanna, et. al. “Brassica vegetables increase and apiaceous vegetables decrease cytochrome P450 1A2 activity in humans: changes in caffeine metabolite ratios in response to controlled vegetable diets.” http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/6/1157.long
Lammers, Laureen, et. al. “Short Term Fasting Alters Cytochrom P450 Mediated Drug Metabolism” http://dmd.aspetjournals.org/content/early/2015/03/20/dmd.114.062299.long
Coelho, Alexandria, et. al. “Cytochrome P450-Dependent Metabolism of Caffeine in Drosophila melanogaster” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4324904/
Oetari, S. et. al. “Effects of curcumin on cytochrome P450 and glutathione S-transferase activities in rat liver.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8534266
Jones, R. B. “Cooking method significantly effects glucosinolate content and sulforaphane production in broccoli florets” http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814610004723
Sarikamis, Goige, et. al. “High glucosinolate broccoli: a delivery system for sulforaphane” http://download-v2.springer.com/static/pdf/610/art%253A10.1007%252Fs11032-006-9029-y.pdf?token2=exp=1429229949~acl=%2Fstatic%2Fpdf%2F610%2Fart%25253A10.1007%25252Fs11032-006-9029-y.pdf*~hmac=74f9f488b7f4e135257caa4c933d5ab1c03b4430b45286bb0a5b6bbcc6d0198e