If you are participating in the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, you may have a lot of questions about which foods to eliminate, and which foods to use as substitutes. One common question that many people have is about coffee: Is it okay to drink on the AIP diet? If not, why not? What are the different replacement options out there?
Let's briefly review what the AIP diet involves, and then talk about why you may need to eliminate coffee from your daily intake. Then we'll discuss some of the potential substitutes for your coffee habit.
What is the AIP Diet?
The purpose of the autoimmune protocol diet is to reduce inflammation from "leaky gut," and alleviate or remove other common symptoms of autoimmune disorders. It is an elimination diet, which means that participants deliberately avoid certain foods for several weeks. Then they slowly reintroduce one of the eliminated foods, and compare their level of health before and after eating the food.
The AIP diet is considered to be an extension of the paleo diet, with a particular focus on vitamin-rich foods, and foods that contain processed sugar or other additives.
Why Should You Avoid Coffee on the AIP Diet?
If you're the type of person that "needs your caffeine fix" in the morning, then it may seem overwhelming to give up coffee for several weeks at a time. However, there are good reasons for avoiding coffee while on the AIP diet. Here are a few big ones:
1. Coffee comes from seeds
Coffee beans are actually seeds of the Coffea plant. As part of the AIP diet, it's important to eliminate all seeds, since both seeds and nuts are common inflammation triggers for people with a "leaky gut."
Granted, seeds (including coffee beans) are often better-tolerated after their reintroduction into a person's diet. However, during the AIP elimination period, you need to lump coffee in with all other seed-based foods.
2. (Regular) coffee has caffeine
If your primary reason for drinking coffee is the caffeine kick you can get out it, then we have some more bad news for you: Caffeine could be the cause of your troubles.
Caffeine is an immune stimulant, and causes your adrenal glands to release cortisol (aka, the "stress hormone"). This results in that alert, hyper-focused feeling that many people get after drinking a cup or two of strong coffee. The downside of this reaction is that your adrenal glands may get overworked, result in feelings of fatigue (the infamous "caffeine crash" that most of us have felt at some point in our lives).
Over a longer period of time, adrenal fatigue can result in more serious health conditions than the occasional energy crash. For instance, adrenal fatigue may contribute to insomnia, weight gain, feelings of irritability and anger, and depression. Moreover, caffeine can even cause autoimmune flares in certain people.
While there's no specific restriction on caffeinated drinks in the AIP diet, it may be best to avoid coffee for this reason as well. (It might be good to see how your body reacts without any caffeine, anyway.)
3. Coffee is cross-reactive to gluten
Many (if not most) people who have hyper-permeable intestines (aka "leaky gut") are experiencing a reaction to gluten-based foods. However, coffee and gluten are sometimes cross-reactive — meaning that your body may not be able to distinguish between gluten and coffee molecules. So even if you eliminate gluten from your diet, your body may still experience similar reactions from the intake of coffee.
What are Some Alternatives to Coffee?
If you're starting to get anxious over the thought of no coffee in the morning, don't fret! There are a number of AIP-friendly substitutes for coffee that can provide that daily fix you need, without the negative effects. Here are a few of the alternatives you could try:
- Tea. This is probably the easiest and most obvious substitute you could test out, especially if you want to keep some caffeine in your diet. You could start drinking black or oolong tea in place of coffee during your elimination phase. (Be careful with green tea, as it is an immune stimulant.) If you want to break free of the caffeine addiction, try herbal teas like rooibos, peppermint, and chamomile.
- Chicory. Roasted chicory (a herb from the dandelion family) contains a similar flavor and even texture to coffee. However, chicory doesn't have any caffeine — in fact, it is even known to help with liver detox. You can prepare this root in a number of different ways: in a French press, in a tea ball, or combined with other ingredients for a "bulletproof" concoction.
- Bone broth. Okay, this may seem like a strange alternative to coffee in the morning — but hear us out. Bone broth contains a ton of gut-friendly nutrients like gelatin, and is rich in healthy minerals like magnesium. You can drink the broth warm and fresh, which may bring some of the comfort of a hot cup of coffee back to mind. Bone broth is also easy to prepare. It's definitely worth your consideration!
- Probiotic drinks. These are drinks like Kombucha and Kefir. You won't get that warm, fuzzy feeling from these cold drinks that coffee can offer; but these are excellent options for adding a daily dose of healthy bacteria to your gut. And during those muggy summer months, you can't beat the refreshment that these probiotic concoctions provide!
- Lemon ginger infusion. The ginger root has great anti-inflammatory properties. You can easily slice off small pieces of the root and steep them in hot water with a dash of lemon. This drink is warm, refreshing, and great for your intestines.
These are just a few of the coffee substitutes you can find on the AIP diet. Even after the elimination phase ends and you can start drinking coffee again, you may find that these alternatives will do the trick for you just fine.
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