Thyroid, caffeine and sleeeep

OxfordCoffeeIt’s always hard to know who to trust in this unwell world. I watch a lot of videos, read a lot of books and take a lot of courses. I’ve also met a surprising number of women on thyroid meds. Last year I attended – if that is the word – an online thyroid conference and encountered the work of Dr Alan Christianson, one of the speakers and author of a couple of relevant books: Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease, and Healing Hashimoto’s – a Savvy Patient’s Guide. I haven’t read these (*yet*), but liked what I heard in his talk, and he provides a very helpful clip on the Healing Hashimoto’s link above that will help you evaluate different kinds of natural (dessicated) thyroid meds. (Many folks have told me Synthroid, the cheap and easy artificial version most commonly prescribed here, doesn’t work so well for them.)

Christianson has recently published an interesting piece on his clinic’s website about the effect of caffeine on thyroid and adrenal hormones: One Trick To Improve Your Adrenal And Thyroid Hormones. (Spoiler alert:) It has to do with coffee consumption, and the role that caffeine plays in hormone function and cortisol (stress) levels.

Recently I also came upon a post about caffeine and the need to take your morning coffee after your meal rather than on an empty stomach. This allows your body to turn your breakfast protein (amino acid = tryptophan) into the important neurotransmitter serotonin, which manages mood and sleep.

Coffee is a controversial beverage, well beyond its effects on sleep, and has been the subject of much research. It’s been found to raise homocysteine levels (=inflammatory effect on blood vessels, associated with cardiovascular disease), to be associated with higher levels of adiponectin (=regulates blood sugar, and associated with weight control), and to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, gallstone attacks in men, endometrial cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. It may or may not have anything to do with the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Confusing, no? In fact, many of the claims bouncing around the internet are based on research that relies on associations and observational studies rather than on classic “hard science” long-term randomized double blind placebo control studies. Which are pretty hard to do on humans, who tend to be uncontrollable and unreliable subjects (see Gary Taubes’ helpful article about this, or check out Michael Pollan’s entertaining discussion of the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study and the practical difficulties of reporting one’s food intake in In Defense of Food)

So like all things it seems, coffee is best taken in moderation. And, I should add, taken with good timing rather than with excessive syrups, sugars and artificial flavourings.