This post is my response to a great podcast episode, “Is Drinking Coffee Good For You?” by Chris Kresser, who by the way, is extremely analytical and knowledgeable about so many things regarding whole body health and has a must-listen podcast that I highly recommend subscribing to. I’m very picky about which podcasts I subscribe to, but Chris’ is one of the best.
This episode discusses how coffee is a “gray area” food — meaning that scientific research suggests that coffee is beneficial when it’s well tolerated by the individual, but it’s not always well tolerated. This really resonated with what I see in my patients on a daily basis in my practice (which I’ll get to in a bit).
The thing that really resonated the most about the episode is this:
People that need coffee are the ones that shouldn’t be drinking it because it is a bandaid for a deeper issue.
The Coffee Paradox
We drink coffee because we’re tired and need a boost, but the reality is that coffee makes us more tired due to its effects on the adrenal gland.
If you drink coffee and, later in the day, your energy crashes, you might think you need more coffee, but the crash is often a sign that the coffee is messing with your adrenal function.
The important thing is to pay attention to your individual response to coffee. It depends on how much you can tolerate. If you’re doing well with coffee, you should feel good with a natural boost, not jittery and wired.
For people who tolerate coffee well, there is lots of research that shows that coffee is beneficial to health, potentially because it’s loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants.
If you have one cup a day and you find that to be enough, you’re probably doing well with tolerating coffee.
But if you have a cup of coffee and afterwards, find yourself craving another, this could be a sign of another issue in the body.
Coffee Dependence and Bruxism as Indicators for Sleep Apnea
As a dentist, when I look in someone’s mouth and I see coffee staining as well as the effects of teeth grinding, my radar goes up.
1. Grinding of the teeth can be used as an indicator for sleep apnea. Brain scans of people with sleep apnea indicate that grinding the teeth is associated with the end of the pause in breathing, meaning that grinding is the thing we do when we sleep in order to restore the airway and breathe again after it has collapsed or has been obstructed, pausing our breathing.
2. Coffee dependence can signal adrenal fatigue. If you depend on coffee to get the energy and focus you need to make it through the day, this could be a sign that your adrenal gland is fatigued. In people with sleep apnea, the adrenal gland is overworked from producing the adrenaline needed — the fight and will to survive — each night during episodes of paused breathing due to a collapsed airway.
The two things that stain the teeth the most are coffee and tobacco, both of which are stimulants to the muscles, so they make you grind your teeth more often and more intensely.
It’s all connected.
The Teeth Grinding and Adrenal Fatigue Connection
It’s a vicious cycle:
You’re grinding your teeth at night to reopen a collapsing airway.
You wake up in the morning without having gotten the restorative benefits of deep sleep, so you need coffee to feel sharper and more awake.
The caffeine fires up the muscles, which makes you a better grinder and causes further damage to your teeth.
If you’re grinding your teeth and are a big coffee drinker, I’d recommend reconsidering coffee: Is it a pleasurable morning drink? Or is a stimulant you depend on to help you get through the day?
If the latter, talk to your dentist and ask about whether you grind or clench your teeth and, if so, request a sleep study from your primary care physician.
Mark Burhenne DDS