Gluten free diets and lifestyles are becoming increasingly common as people care more about their health and make lifestyle choices to improve their health and wellbeing. So, if you’ve been eating gluten-free and are still experiencing gluten-related symptoms, the problem may well be your coffee intake.
There are a number of different foods that cause gluten cross-reactivity in those who are sensitive to or intolerant of gluten because the proteins in these foods are perceived by the body as invaders in the same way gluten is. Dairy products are the most common cross-reactive food to those with gluten issues, because of its casein proteins, however coffee (specifically caffeine) also contains problematic proteins and the cross reaction to coffee is actually more severe than dairy. Indeed, a 2013 Study published in the Journal of Food and Nutrional Sciences by Aristo Vojdani and Igal Tarash detailed the extreme cross-reactivity of caffeine in coffee. What the researchers discovered was that highly-processed coffees, particularly instant coffee and roast and ground coffees, produced the highest level of cross-reactivity. But why?
The current consensus is that the processing itself contributes to the cross-sensitivity, since organic, whole-bean coffees did not produce the same level of cross-reactivity issues, so that the proteins in coffee are changed in such a way during processing that the body perceives them as a threat, which causes the similar inflammatory symptoms as gluten in those that are sensitive or allergic to it. Ironically, the cross-reactivity symptoms of caffeine, such as migraines, mental fogginess and fatigue, will actually cause people to drink more coffee! This causes a vicious cycle of further caffeine cross sensitivity! The caffeine content in coffee ranges from approximately 100 to 200 mg of caffeine per 6 oz serving.
But, the key to understand about caffeine is that it is a common gastric irritant, which can contribute to stomach mucosal degradation and can overstimulate the adrenal glands. Caffeine can be seriously detrimental for someone suffering from adrenal burnout or insufficiency, and for those people, it is recommended to remove the caffeine for several months while the body recovers. So, if you’re already on a gluten free diet, try going without coffee for a full week.
Yes, this can be hard to do if you’re dependent on caffeine to get you through your day, decaf coffee can really help with period! After a week, once the caffeine antigen load in your body has been significantly reduced, try having just one cup in the morning and then monitoring how you feel. If your symptoms have diminished after a few days without coffee and your one cup of whole-bean coffee doesn’t produce any symptoms, then it’s safe to say that you can go back to your normal coffee intake, but stay away from instant and ground coffees. And decaffeinated coffee from Swiss Water Decaf, since it is chemical free and 99.9% caffeine free, is an excellent choice to help wean you off too much caffeine, but still enjoy the taste of single origin coffee!