Rob Heppell: Welcome to the “Your Best You Today” show. I’m your host, Rob Heppell, and I am joined with our health expert, Dr. Kevin Jackson.
Dr. Kevin is a naturopathic doctor and has been helping people find natural solutions to their health issues for over 25 years. With the “Your Best You Today” online radio show, we’re going to dive into common health issues and explore natural solutions to them.
Welcome back to the show, Dr. Kevin.
Dr. Kevin Jackson: Hey, Rob.
Rob: Last show, we hit caffeine hard. I think people are not going to like us. First of all, we told them how bad sugar was and not only did we do it once, we did it twice. Then they’re thinking, “OK, well, you’re trying to get me off of all the sugar. At least I’ve got my coffee and my caffeine fix.” I think we put a real good dent in that topic last show, and you’re not going to let up, you’re going to tackle caffeine once again.
Dr. Kevin: Well, I think, as I was saying before, it’s the type of thing that can be a real game changer for people with regard to their health. People ingest coffee, tea, energy drinks, soft drinks, that contain caffeine on a regular basis and you don’t think anything of it. It’s just part of your routine. You’re not thinking, this is having negative implications on my health.
As we talked about last time, we have a love affair with coffee, especially. Some people with tea as well, but really, it’s about coffee. With the routine and the aroma and the flavor and all the good things that go with it, it’s very hard to give up for people.
People often come into my office and say, “Take anything out of my diet, just don’t take my coffee.” It can be difficult, and I understand that it’s difficult.
But as I touched on last time, if you are 100 percent healthy, you have zero health concerns, then you can probably get away with drinking it occasionally. But for most people, they can’t or they won’t drink it occasionally. They end up drinking it every single day. It’s a problem because…it acts like a mild poison in your body.
If you put a mild poison in your body every single day, it’s going to catch up to you at some point. We’re going to be talking about some of these things especially if you’re ingesting caffeine for prolonged period of time, what can happen, what might happen. I think that’s the important thing. If a person uses moderation and they’re really healthy, I wouldn’t worry about it.
Rob: You’ve mentioned in the last episode when we talked about caffeine that one of your patients said that it was harder to stop caffeine than it was cocaine. What makes it addictive? Is it an addictive drug or an addictive substance?
Dr. Kevin: Well, it does have a mild addictive effect physiologically on the human body. But I think the biggest addictive factors are those associations that we make with it, the aroma, the taste, the social situation, the comfort, the warmth, and all the things that we tie into it. It’s the first thing we do in the morning when we’re by ourselves reading a newspaper.
There are all these things that we tend to associate with caffeine. The enjoyment we have with friends around a cup of coffee at the coffee house. These all play a major role in why it’s so difficult to give this up. Then obviously, when you try to give it up, you don’t feel so well.
So, a lot of people say, “I’m not doing that anymore. I’ll just pass on that and I want to go back to coffee.” But it’s really worth doing and it’s worth spending the effort. It’s only three or four days, typically, to get over as far as the headache and the lethargy and all the things that go with that. If you can push through that then you’re out the other side and good things tend to happen from that point forward.
Rob: This is a little off topic, but is there like when we compare North Americans to other areas, say Europe, where if you’re talking about Italy and they have their little espresso houses and stuff like that, that’s part of their culture. You even know it’s pretty potent. Are they seeing the same effects or have we…like what we, as North Americans, do with a lot of things, super‑size it, consume way more than what others do, and just make it really worse or they battling the same issues?
Dr. Kevin: It’s a great point. I think there’s something to be said for that. One 2 ounce double espresso shot typically contains 75 milligrams of caffeine, whereas a Starbucks Grande is 330 mg of caffeine. It’s four times more caffeine. As you say, in Italy, they’ll have a little espresso and then that’s it for them or they’ll maybe have one more in a day whereas you get people having three, four Grande’s. They’re taking six, 10 times more caffeine than the person who’s having a little espresso.
There’s no doubt that that plays a huge role. It’s the quantity, how much we put into our body on a daily basis. That is what really inevitably is responsible for the negative health implications long term because typically IT IS long term. This is not about you have one cup of coffee and you’re going to have some severe health concerns.
Rob: We talked last time about some of the gastric issues, circulatory problems, what else could there be?
Dr. Kevin: Caffeine is a diuretic and so it’s going to make you urinate more frequently. That can have a negative implication in that it’s going to potentially get you up at night. Some people get up to urinate two maybe even three times a night.
If you have already got that problem to start with as many seniors do, now you’re just exacerbating an already problematic situation. For some people, even if it just wakes them up once at night and they don’t get back to sleep right away then the lack of sleep can have far reaching effects. Diuretics are not a good thing because most of us don’t get enough fluid into our body to start with.
We don’t want things that are pushing fluid out of our body. That’s one thing. The other is that it has a negative effect on sleep, generally. We talked a little bit about this last time. That is it affects the quality of our sleep. We don’t get as deep of sleep when in fact, you do fall asleep.
What I often find is that when people are drinking a lot of caffeinated substances or ingesting caffeine on a regular basis is they’ll often say to me, “I wake up in the morning, I get eight hours, but I don’t feel rested when I wake up.” Then I get them off the caffeine and now, they’re starting to actually wake up earlier and they feel rested. They’re getting less sleep and they feel better in the morning.
To me, that’s a really important question that I ask virtually every patient that comes into my office. Do you feel rested on waking? If the answer is no we have to find out why because that should never happen. For some people is because they’re getting four hours sleep.
In which case, obviously, the solution is very straightforward. If you’re getting eight‑hour sleep as an adult and you don’t feel rested on waking, something is amiss and caffeine is a big player in that for a lot of people.
The American Medical Journal published an interesting study. It showed that there was this close correlation between caffeine consumption and decreased bone density or osteoporosis in women. Osteoporosis is becoming a big deal nowadays. I see so many patients especially women over the age of 50 that have severe osteoporosis.
Now, osteoporosis is basically thinning of the bones and increase risk of fracture. It starts off as osteopenia typically, that’s kind of the precursor. Then people become osteoporotic and then potentially severely osteoporotic and caffeine is a big player in this.
Sugar also plays a role and we might have touched base on that a little bit a couple of episodes ago. But really caffeine is one of the biggest players in this and especially people who ingest a lot of caffeine are more prone to osteoporosis.
Also, people typically can feel nervous and are more prone to tremors when they ingest caffeine on a regular basis. Tremors like a familial tremor or some people just find they shake a lot and getting off caffeine can often play a major role in helping them.
One of the common things that people come in to see me about are stress‑related illnesses. They’ve got a lot of stress in their life. They’re dealing with things that are out of their control for example family issues or their job are making life difficult for them. Well, caffeine stresses the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are the very glands that help us deal with stress. If you stress the glands that help us deal with stress that means that we don’t deal with stress very effectively. It has more of a physiological effect on us when we’re exposed to stress. The net effect then is that caffeine helps negatively affect the very glands that help us deal with stress.
Rob: Hold on Kev. I’ve been in stressful situations in my own work environment and dealing with developers and such. If I’ve had a project and if I’ve got a deadline and I need to just hammer through it I’m going to grab of coffee.”
Other people may grab an energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster and they’ll knock a couple back and then they hammer through like the pressure is on. Why do we think that that’s the solution when it’s going to give us the opposite effect?
Dr. Kevin: Well, I mean one positive effect that people do get from caffeine is that it increases mental acuity. You can actually think faster. I guess people use it because they need to have all their faculties about them. They need to be able to push through as you say. So when they ingest this caffeine, it’s going to help them get to their goal faster perhaps. However, the long term implications are that if you’re stressed a lot and you’re feeling the effects of stress inevitably if you keep ingesting that caffeine, it’s going to make it worse. What happens is when our adrenal glands are exposed to caffeine, they release adrenaline and cortisol. These are two adrenal hormones made by the adrenal glands and they get dumped in the blood stream. When adrenaline and cortisol hit the bloodstream, they cause our blood sugar levels to skyrocket. This harkens back to a couple of episodes ago where we’re talking about sugar and when we ingest sugar that causes our blood sugar levels to go up which increases our insulin level.
When insulin goes up it causes a host of other problems. But one of the big ones that we talked about was that insulin tells the body to store fat. The net effect of ingesting caffeine over a prolonged period of time, especially, if your adrenal glands are under duress and you’re stressed a lot, is your body potentially can store more fat.
That sounds completely counterintuitive from what most people think. Most people think you drink caffeine, you’re buzzing around, you’re going to burn off more calories and all, and you’re going to actually lose weight. That’s true if you, like some people, use it as an up regulator for energy, for exercise. But the long term implication is that your insulin levels are going to go up with time and this is not everybody and this is not people who are 18 years old and are athletic. This is more people that are 40, 50, 60 years old who’ve ingesting caffeine for many years, decades, and it starts to catch up with them.
That’s a really important thing because a lot of people would say, “No, I use caffeine. I work out and it works great. I lose weight with it.” I’m telling you about the people who are long term users and are now getting to a point in their life where maybe they’re finding it a little bit more difficult to lose weight.
I see this all the time. People come in and say, “I work out six days a week, watch what I eat. I don’t eat any fat and I can’t lose weight.” I get them off sugar, I get them off caffeine and typically the weight starts falling off.
Rob: So, you’re telling me that getting a black coffee with zero calories, and Kev, I’ve been on a ton of diets, and usually coffee is allowed on most diets…..so a zero calorie beverage with no sugar still affects our weight? So the caffeine is, what you’ve just said, almost doing or is doing the same thing that the sugar does by boosting insulin, making the body store more fat, and we’re kind of back on this viscous cycle when we thought we were making a smarter choice.
Dr. Kevin: Absolutely. That’s the paradoxical effect of caffeine. For a lot of people, it’s hard to fathom it. But when you experience it yourself you get to see that this is so often the case. This isn’t always the case. I just see it so often in people especially if somebody’s insulin resistant or they’re pre‑diabetic. They’re going to be much more susceptible to the effects of the caffeine especially if there’s a lot of stress in their life. The issue is we all have so many variables affecting our health.
You can’t make any hard fast rules that say if you ingest the caffeine, you’re going to gain weight. In a general sense, if you’ve been exposed to caffeine for a long period of time, if you’re having problems losing weight then you don’t want to be ingesting caffeine. Because it’s going to be ‑‑more often than not ‑‑ it’s going to be negatively affecting you because your insulin levels are going to be up, you’re storing more fat.
Not only are you storing more fat. If there’s a lot of insulin around, it’s telling you to store fat and not burn it as an energy source. Your energy is going to be lower than it can be. There’s the other side of caffeine. We’re assuming we’re getting more energy from it but the long term effects are that we end up with less energy as a result of it.
Another thing that I see that is becoming more prevalent out there with patients is restless leg syndrome. There is often a direct connection to caffeine consumption and restless leg syndrome. This is a situation where you lie down in bed and then you get this really strange feeling in your legs and you have to move them constantly and it usually impairs sleep. People can’t get to sleep or they get a reduced quality of sleep. Get caffeine out of your body, in all forms again, that includes green tea or white tea or soft drinks, yerba mate, and chocolate, you have to get it all out. Often you’ll find that it helps with restless leg syndrome.
The other thing that is a huge problem nowadays for guys is enlarged prostate. I see so much of this now. Enlarged prostate is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). In men over 60, it’s very common…I haven’t seen the numbers but it’s got to be more than 50 percent. (Editor’s Note: It is actually an estimated 50% of men by age 50 have histologic evidence of BPH)
Of course, they say that prostate cancer, all men or most men will or actually get a prostate cancer at some point if they live long enough. Caffeine plays havoc with the prostate. It directly promotes benign prostatic hyperplasia.
If you have BPH, enlarged prostate, then you need to get off caffeine – 100 percent. Very often just that alone helps and there are other factors that play a role and we’re going to be talking about benign prostatic hyperplasia in a show down the line. This is one of the most important things you can do, is to get caffeine out of your diet, in all forms.
Also, the other side of the coin, for women, caffeine is directly linked to something called fibrocystic breast disease. This is lumpy, painful, tender breasts. For some women, that’s just something they deal with. They just accept that that’s what they’re going to have to live with. In most cases, if you get all the caffeine out of your system, it’ll go away or at least the pain will be dramatically reduced.
Knowing this little known fact can be a huge plus for people. Between men and women, those two problems come up so often in my practice.
Another thing that caffeine is linked to, Rob, is arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats. One of the things that I see commonly is called atrial fibrillation. It’s a disease of the heart, where a chamber of the heart actually beats too quickly and it can cause fatigue. It causes just general malaise. People just don’t feel right. I have a number of cases of atrial fibrillation that have completely gone away, just by avoiding 100 percent of the caffeine in the diet. There are other factors that play a role, too, but caffeine is a huge one with atrial fib.
It’s not all the time that caffeine avoidance works. It’s just something that I’ve seen enough cases of it go away completely that it really should be taken note of. I think, hopefully, some people out there who have atrial fib can try this out for themselves and see what they think.
Rob: We have created a culture, where we are in the Pacific Northwest. Coffee is a big thing, it’s a huge social thing. It’s probably been big for many years. Given that, one would still think that this information that you are passing on to our listeners would be readily available out there given the technological and media information explosion.
Kevin: It’s a great point. You would assume that to be the case, but because coffee and caffeine is a multi‑billion‑dollar industry, they’re protecting their interests. They don’t want this information out there. They don’t want people to know that there’s anything wrong with ingesting this. In fact, Google it.
If you Google caffeine and its health implications, most of it comes out saying there’s nothing wrong with it, don’t worry about it. 300 milligrams of caffeine a day, it’s OK. It’s not going to hurt you. Even if you’re pregnant, it’s not going to hurt you. When in fact, there’s very definitive information to show that if you’re pregnant, you don’t want to ingest caffeine.
It can cause miscarriages and low‑birth‑weight babies. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it can actually prevent conception. This information, you’re going to have to Google.
If you’re Googling it, you’re going to have to go down five pages to get to the nitty‑gritty that actually tells you about the negative implications that are science‑based, that are shown in some of these important medical journals. Nobody wants this information out there.
Rob: The big companies, and with my business as a marketer, we know how to not manipulate but fill up those search results. Who’s going to pay for that? Not the anti‑caffeine movement because that’s just educational. It’s going to be people who have billions of dollars on the line.
Kevin: Proprietary interests. It’s all about proprietary interests. It’s not just caffeine. The sugar industry’s the same way, and similarly with the food industry. The medications out there, the pharmaceutical industry. If there’s a proprietary interest, there’s no doubt that their agenda’s going to be pushed.
And typically, the negative side of that agenda, or the opposite of that agenda, is going to be pushed away. We have to search for those things, if we’re looking for a true, middle‑of‑the‑road approach, rather than listening to what these companies are touting as the benefits of their product, while at the same time hiding any of the side effects or the negative effects of ingesting those substances.
Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is in the world we live in today. Money makes the world go around.
Rob: What else do we have?
Kevin: The other thing I just wanted to mention was about some of the drinks and some of the substances out there, the drinks, mainly, that contain caffeine. What I say is 50 milligrams of caffeine, if you ingest that in a day, most people are going to start…There will be some negative health implications, anything above 50 milligrams of caffeine a day.
For a lot of people with chronic health concerns five milligrams a day is a problem. But for the average person, anything more than 50 milligrams can become problematic. An All City energy drink is 300 milligrams of caffeine. A Barq’s root beer is 23 milligrams. Chocolate milk is five milligrams. Coke Classic is around 35 milligrams. Diet Coke, 45 milligrams. A Full Throttle is 145. Jolt is 200. McDonald’s large coffee, 145 milligrams. A Red Bull, 80 milligrams. Pain medications and cold medications, they range anywhere from about 15 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per tablet or capsule. They don’t all have it, but some will have caffeine, and that’s the range for them. Rock Star is 160 milligrams. Snapple Elements is 108 milligrams of caffeine. At Starbucks, a grande Americano, that’s 225.
A Starbucks grande coffee is 330 milligrams.
Rob: Hold on. Starbucks grande coffee is 330? You said anything over 50 is ‑ Well, it should be zero ‑‑ but you said over 50 can potentially manifest with health implications.
Kevin: Absolutely. One Starbucks grande, you’re already six and a half times above what I was saying, the 50‑milligram mark. That’s just one of them. I know lots of people who have two or three of those in a day. Inevitably, that’s going to affect you. It’s got to catch up to you somewhere. A black tea ranges from 50 to 60 milligrams. A green tea is 25 to 35 milligrams.
I think the bottom line here is if you’re trying to help your health, if you have health problems, you’re trying to get well again, you need to cut caffeine out of your diet completely. Ideally, that’s what we’re looking at. If you’re looking for, and you have to have some caffeine, and you drink a little green tea, that’s probably the best thing you can do.
Green tea has over 100 antioxidants in it, so it’s got some wonderful things in it that are really good for you. Much, much more than any coffee drink would have. The amount of caffeine is minimal. That’s not to say that it’s not going to affect you, and some people are absolutely affected by one cup of green tea. But if you have to default to something, that’s a better option.
I actually recommend water‑decaffeinated green tea for most of my patients. You’re going to get less than five milligrams of caffeine in that drink, typically. Decaf black tea, as well, is generally is pretty good. Again, water‑decaffeination method, because there are some pretty nasty chemicals that they decaffeinate with, and you don’t want those in your system.
Rob: They just have to ask, “How is this decaffeinated? Is it chemically done, or…”
Kevin: Water‑decaf. They call it a Swiss water method, and there’s another, I think they just call it water method. It’s a much safer way than ethyl acetate which is like a dry‑cleaning solvent, basically, that they use to decaf some of these caffeinated substances. In a nutshell, Rob, what I’m really trying to get across here is that there are lot of reasons why people shouldn’t put caffeine into their body.
If you’re trying to get well, if you’ve got health issues, whether that be joint pain or whether that be heart‑related problems or you’re trying to lose some weight, you’re just trying to get healthy because your energy’s low. You got to get caffeine and sugar out of your body. That’s basically what four of these first five episodes are about.
We’re going to be touching on some more, very important foods and their implications on health in the subsequent episodes. I think there’s a lot more to come.
Rob: Just to leave the folks, because you’ve ruined their day…
Kev: [laughs] I’m used to that.
Rob: Especially their next four days. What would be a good alternative in the morning? Drinking hot water, obviously, isn’t. There’s no aroma. I’ve heard, “What about a little bit of cinnamon and lemon juice and hot water?” What are some alternatives?
We don’t want them to go cold turkey and miss out on their routine because, as you said, the routine is part of the addiction, too, of having the coffee or just how to start the day.
Kevin: That’s so true. Anytime you take something out, you want to try and find something to fill the void with. Herbal teas are generally excellent options. A lot of people love just hot water with a little lemon in it. Lemon juice squeezed into hot water, a little stevia, if you need to sweeten it, or just a slice of lemon in a glass of hot water. That’s certainly a possibility.
As I mentioned, decaf black and green tea are options. There are some coffee substitutes out there. They’re generally made with roasted chicory. Actually, chicory is a great herb. Roasted chicory is actually good for your liver.
We were talking about caffeine and how it affects liver. Chicory actually helps rejuvenate the liver. Roasted chicory and…Actually, some of the coffee mixes out there, they put roasted chicory in with the coffee because it kind of has that more full bodied flavor compared to most of the roasted grains.
If you can get a roasted chicory alternative, a lot of people find that it kind of fills the void left by the coffee or the absence of coffee. There are products containing roasted grains like barley and rye with chocory like Caf‑Lib, Krakus, and Inka
Those are three of the big ones that are commonly found in health food stores, that offer an alternative to coffee.
Rob: That’s great. I think you’ve given everyone some great stuff to think about, to contemplate their daily routine as they go through the day. When they’re going to reach for that coffee or go to the store to get that caffeinated beverage, maybe it gives them something to think about.
As you try to go forward, you don’t have to do it cold turkey, just maybe try to wean yourself off and get below that 50 milligrams point.
Kevin: Yes, whatever it takes Rob. I think the bottom line is if a person can get away from caffeine completely then that’s fantastic. If they can reduce it, that’s better. It’s better than not doing anything.
It depends on how severe a person’s health concerns are. If you’ve got severe health concerns, I say do everything you can to get your body as clean as possible and your body can’t be clean if you’re ingesting caffeine on a regular basis.
Rob: Well, you’ve heard it and I wish you all the best luck.
Kevin: You might not like it, but you’ve heard it.
Rob: I wish you all the best of luck for the next four days. But after that and when you join us next week, we’ll be looking to talk to the new caffeine‑free you [laughs] when we meet again. On behalf of Dr. Kevin Jackson, thank so much for this Kev, as always these are super eye opening.
Our whole purpose of doing this is just to shed some light of things that big corporate companies are not going to do it, the government’s not going to do it, and a lot of the doctors aren’t going to notice either.
We just want to get this information to you so that you can make a better choice next time you’re faced with making those decisions. If you think that this or any of our podcasts have helped you, we’d love to hear from you.
All these things that Kevin is talking about have helped me out and I’m a work‑in‑progress, so I’m going to question him because I’m not giving coffee up every day. We’re just doing it in small little chunks here and there. But hopefully, you and I can go through this process together – that is getting to your best you today. On behalf of Dr. Kevin Jackson, this is Rob Heppell.