After an insane week of multiple daily trips to Starbucks, I started to question my daily coffee. Granted, I was consuming a crazy, ridiculous amount of coffee—nearly 48 ounces daily. My body reacted. I had my first rosacea outbreak. For a girl who has never had acne, the white heads and blotchy, itchy, hot skin that covered my face was too much. Rosacea runs in my family so I figured that I would get it eventually. Now that I had experienced it, I wanted to make sure I didn’t again.
Before you think that this was all a vanity play (and in some ways it was), I have been questioning my daily coffee for a while. Luckily, science has also been trying to figure out whether it is friend or foe to our health. The big question: is it my friend or foe?
Consideration #1: I have rosacea.
Not sure what that is? Imagine your worst teenage acne outbreak: your face red and covered with white heads. Now add heat, itching, and bloodshot eyes, and you know what a rosacea outbreak is. This skin condition is an inflammatory one that may affect one in 10 people. While its cause is unknown, there are certain things that can trigger it. Hot coffee is known to trigger it, but…
So does spicy food. And when I had my outbreak, I was noshing hardcore on jerky bites from EPIC. They are so delicious, but high on the heat.
Is this a reason to quit coffee? Probably not, since I tend to drink ice coffee and my rosacea doesn’t flare up as often.
Consideration #2: I drink coffee during workouts.
When I wake up at the crack of dawn to head out for my walk, the coffee shop is on my route. So I stop and grab a cup to help me clip along. Caffeine has been linked to improved performance, especially when it comes to increased speed and power output. So, it is a plus as a sports drink per se.
During what is considered an endurance workout—more than 45 minutes, drinking coffee may become a problem because it could set me up for dehydration. But when I talk to UK-based nutritionist Dr. Carrie Ruxton about this, she tells me: “Caffeinated drinks are mostly water, which offsets the [dehydrating] effect of caffeine. In a study on men, published in 2011 in the British Journal of Nutrition, we found that up to 6 mugs of tea per day produced similar effects to water when hydration markers in blood and urine were measured. Urine output was similar between water consumers and tea consumers.”
What’s more: the caffeine content matters as does the amount of water you consume at the same time, explains Dr. Ruxton. So, an espresso (high caffeine, small volume) would be more likely to dehydrate than a large mug of tea with milk (low caffeine, large volume).
Is this a reason to quit coffee? No.
Consideration #3: I drink coffee first thing in the morning.
I think we all know by now that coffee is a stimulant. In the morning, the stress hormone cortisol is at its highest levels in your body, says James LaValle, a clinical pharmologist and creator of the Metabolic Code. Drinking coffee first thing in the morning can send those levels into overdrive, as this video from AsapSCIENCE illustrates.
Is this a reason to quit coffee? Probably since I have enough problems dealing with stress.
Consideration #4: I have a heart issue.
Despite my new and improved mitral valve, atrial fibration (a-fib) is still a concern for me. A-fib is an irregular heartbeat or a flutter that can lead to stroke, blood clots, and other heart-related complications. The caffeine in coffee has been long thought of as a stimulant that could cause this.
Is this a reason to quit coffee? Yes.
Will I give up coffee?
Probably not, but I am still thinking about it. One thing that I have learned is to listen to my body. I drink 16 ounces of iced coffee each morning. If I drink more, I am a jiggery mess. Skipping a day doesn’t reward me with a gnarly headache. But, even so, I know that I shouldn’t mess around when it comes to my heart, which is a pretty compelling reason to wean off my habit.