Namaste dear friends!
Many of my Ayurveda students have been asking me what do I think about coffee? Should we completely quit coffee if we are following an ayurvedic lifestyle?
Now every time I am faced with such a question, my suggestion is- “It depends!” It depends on your unique mind body constitution- your Prakruti as well as your Vikruti (imbalances in your body). We always have to look at various factors while considering what to eat and what not to! There is no one size fits all in Ayurveda! The same food could be medicine for one but poison for another! We will have to know the qualities of the food and then decide whether it is good for us or not!
We all know that coffee is a stimulant. It gives us that sudden surge of energy! That kick! It is priceless in a stressful situation when we are struggling to complete a task when our energy has been completed exhausted. But keep this in mind that too much of anything could be detrimental to your health!
I know that Coffee is a socially acceptable beverage! Many people start their day with a morning cup of coffee! I am not going to disappoint all you coffee lovers out there! Allow me to bring to you what Ayurveda thinks about coffee?
So, if you are someone who is in love with coffee, this blog is for you to understand the right way of drinking coffee, the ayurvedic way! Whatever you eat or drink, Ayurveda recommends – doing it mindfully & consciously and noticing the impact it has on your mind and body so that you can make informed decisions as to what’s right for you!
If we look at western research on coffee, some say coffee is not good for you and some say coffee can have so many benefits. It’s loaded with antioxidants, it improves brain function and memory, lowers the risk dementia and depression! And some of the negative claims that we hear about coffee is that it increases blood pressure. It is a digestive irritant and could lead to gastric ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, adrenal exhaustion & insomnia. I have heard many people say that they cannot have a bowel movement unless they have had their morning cup of coffee! It’s that addictive!
Ayurveda says all plants that grow on this planet serve a purpose! So, we can view coffee also as medicine! Just like any medicine, we want to monitor its effects on our body and then adjust how much we want according to the results we want to achieve!
As per Ayurveda, Coffee is bitter in taste. It is heating & stimulating. It promotes digestion as it increases the fire element in the body. It raises blood pressure and increases blood sugar. It’s astringent, i.e. it draws water out of the body. Now, these effects might be good for some Dosha types, but they might not be so good for the other doshas!
The same food could be medicine for one but poison for another. If you drink coffee as per your dosha, at the right time, in the right quantity and in the right season, it might be actually good for you!
So, let’s look at some of the basic guidelines for coffee drinkers as per Ayurveda: –
First of all, it is important that you know your Prakruti, your unique mind body constitution. For this please download this dosha quiz and have fun in finding the dominant dosha for all your family and friends!
If you have been following my blogs, you know that there are 3 doshas- Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Now each dosha will respond differently to coffee.
Kapha is made up of the elements water & earth. People who have a dominant Kapha would have a tendency towards water retention, weight gain, swelling, sinus congestion, excess mucus. Emotionally, these people have a tendency towards lethargy, foggy brain, lack of motivation and depression. For kaphas, coffee could be stimulating and give them that kick to get up and move! The heating effect of coffee could be good for them in overcoming their tendency to feel cold and the astringent quality of coffee could help get rid of excess water from a kapha body! Coffee could also boost their sluggish metabolism and help them lose weight! But if they are drinking excess coffee, they could easily become addicted to it and then they could have the opposite effect. They could become more sluggish & lethargic and even start gaining weight. So, you have to really be careful and not overdo on it. Remember use it as medicine! Make sure you take it in the right amounts and at the right time.
Pitta and Vata types need to be really careful with coffee. You know as per Ayurveda “like increases like”. Now if you already have a lot of heat in the body like in Pitta and you bring in more heating foods into the body, it could increase pitta. It’s going to show up as heartburn, acid reflux, diarrhea, skin rashes, acne and stomach ulcers. It might also show up as heated emotions of anger & frustration and a lot of criticism and judgement.
In case of Vata, which already has a tendency towards dryness and now if you bring in something that is astringent and drying, it could easily vitiate vata! Isn’t it? And this could show up as constipation, dry skin & insomnia.
Vata and Pitta individuals have some kind of a drive in them. They are quite mobile. Coffee could overstimulate them and make them more driven towards their goals. This could vitiate both vata and pitta. Coffee pulls on the reserve energy of the adrenals, putting the body deeper into nutritional debt. The more exhausted you become, the more desperately you will turn to coffee as a stimulant. Vata & Pitta coffee drinkers must understand that rest is the best medicine for exhaustion, not using coffee as a stimulant! But this could be really hard for a vata or a pitta. Vata dominant individuals love to move and Pittas are always driven towards their goal. Both of them have a tendency to over stretch themselves and finally end up exhausted!
So, if you are seeing signs of Pitta vitiation, i.e. if you complain of acid reflux, heartburn, hypertension or have skin rashes or acne, or if you often feel angry, irritated or judgmental, you must stop coffee and see if these symptoms get better.
If you are seeing signs of Vata vitiation, i.e. if you complain of dry skin, dry hair, constipation, gas, insomnia, or if you often feel spacy or restless or disoriented, you must stop coffee and see if these symptoms get better.
If you really want to drink coffee, here are some guidelines based on your doshas:
If you are a well-balanced Vata or a well-balanced Pitta and are not seeing any signs of vata or pitta vitiation, then you may have organic coffee with organic cream/milk and organic sugar. You definitely want something heavy like milk/cream in it as coffee is light and you want something sweet in it as coffee is too bitter. This would balance out the light & bitter qualities of coffee and not be too aggravating for both vata and pitta.
For kaphas, they must have coffee black without any added milk or sugar. If you add milk or cream, it’s going to make it heavy and cause congestion and if you add any sweetener, it’s going to increase kapha and lead to weight gain. But please don’t consider this as a green light for you to drink unlimited amounts of coffee in a day! Remember it is addictive!
It is recommended that kaphas could have one cup in a day and that too before 10 am. As per the ayurvedic clock, 6 am-10 am is kapha time. During this time, kapha energy is high in the universe and it could lead to increase in Kapha in our body as well, which could lead to sluggishness, lethargy and brain fog. Therefore, if we do the opposite by drinking a stimulating drink like coffee, it’s acceptable to some extent for Kaphas. Kapha is heavy & cold, Coffee is light and warm! So, the stimulating, heating & light qualities of coffee is great in balancing the sluggishness of Kapha.
Remember Kaphas-Keep the quantity in check. Do not go for a Grande (16 ounces) or a Venti (20 ounces) thinking that its good for me so I can have a lot of it! Moderation is the key here! Too much is going to be too stimulating and taxing on your adrenals and in the end lead to exhaustion & dehydration or even acid reflux! Too much coffee could also lead to emotions like a racing mind, scattered emotions, anger or frustration! So, stick with that one-cup a day!
Go organic! Yes, if you want to drink coffee, always go organic. As the pesticides in non-organic coffee could wreak havoc in your system!
Do not drink coffee on an empty stomach as it would increase the acid in your stomach!
Ayurveda recommends-Start your day with warm water with juice of ¼ lime or lemon at least 30 min before breakfast. This is going to ignite your agni (digestive fire) and wake up your digestive system and you will have a good bowel movement!
Then, you may have your nourishing breakfast after you have had your bowel movement!
And then you may have your cup of coffee as per your dosha (black or with cream/milk and sweetener).
This could be a little challenging for many of you if you are used to waking up and having your coffee right away! But if you follow these ayurvedic recommendation, you will feel more energized for the rest of the day.
If you want to wean off coffee, a good substitute would be herbal teas. If you cannot go straight to herbal teas, try going to organic Indian Chai latte and gradually move towards organic green teas and finally to the right organic herbal tea that’s right for your Dosha!
To identify your true Prakruti and learn all about the diet & lifestyle that’s right for your Prakruti, please go through our self-paced online course “Health & wellness with Ayurveda”.
Stay tuned for our next online course on “Strengthening Immunity by Improving Digestion”. Click on this link for the course overview!
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The content provided in my blogs are for knowledge sharing purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.