Can a cup a day keep the doctor away?
Recent studies have shown that drinking coffee in moderation is linked to life longevity. Past studies have also suggested that a risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis was the consumption of coffee.
So, which is it?
According to the Arthritis Foundation, “What was bad news is now good news for coffee drinkers – at least in most cases. Earlier findings seemed to indicate coffee might raise the risk of major diseases, but new research has determined that a little java not only doesn’t hurt, it can help prevent some diseases.
Studies now show coffee is not a factor in heart disease and cancer; it may actually lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Why the change? Most early studies focused on caffeine, and some – such as the one that seemed to show female coffee-drinkers had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than non-drinkers – failed to account for other risk factors, such as smoking, diet or alcohol consumption. Today’s research does, and it is looking beyond caffeine to evaluate other substances in coffee, including antioxidants that help protect cells in the body against damage.
When it comes to RA, though, there is a bit of lingering uncertainty. A 2002 study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) showed no connection between regular coffee and the onset of RA, but did find that four or more cups of decaf per day increased the risk for older women. But Ted Mikuls, MD, a rheumatologist who conducted the study, notes that in 2004, researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston found no connection between RA and either variety of coffee.
The jury’s still out on a link with osteoporosis, too. Caffeine can cause your body to absorb less calcium, but so far studies haven’t established whether drinking coffee contributes to bone loss. These studies suggest that you’d have to drink four or more cups a day (without milk) to risk harm.
Before you dust off your French press, there’s one more thing to consider: These studies all focus on factors affecting onset, not post-diagnosis issues. There may, for example, be interaction between caffeine and methotrexate, says Dr. Mikuls; research shows conflicting results.
Sarah Morgan, MD, and a registered dietitian at UAB, gives this advice: “My only guideline is moderation in caffeine intake,” she says. For most people, drinking one to two cups of coffee – decaf or regular – per day seems safe.”
One bad thing about coffee is that it can dehydrate you. For folks with Sjogren’s Syndrome, gout, and for rheumatology patients who are taking certain medications or who have overlapping health conditions, this can be especially dangerous and problematic. Thus, it is best to keep coffee consumption to a minimum and, if you’re going to indulge, be sure to drink LOTS of water — which you should be doing, anyway.
Additionally, some of the sugary substances and dairy products that people add to coffee can be unhealthy and can even cause or worsen inflammation in the body.
Tea, on the other hand, is almost always recognized for its healing benefits and healthfulness.
Green tea in particular has shown major health benefits for a whole variety of conditions.
According to the book, “20,000 Secrets of Tea: The Most Effective Way to Benefit from Nature’s Healing Herbs” by Victoria Zak, the power of tea is nearly unlimited, and, no matter your affliction, you can find a tea to help ease some of your symptoms!
On the subject of tea, Arthritis Today Magazine had this to say: “Green tea may block inflammation. Green tea has a pale color and delicate taste but new studies show it apparently has a robust ability to tamp down inflammation associated with two autoimmune disorders – rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Sjögren’s syndrome.
In one study, researchers took synovial cells from people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and divided them into two groups, treating one group with a green tea component thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. When they later exposed both sets of cells to an inflammatory chemical that plays a role in the joint damage of RA, they found the green tea-treated cells were able to thwart the chemical’s ability to cause joint damage.
In a second study, researchers compared the salivary glands of those who drank water with those who consumed a green tea extract. Glands from the green-tea-extract group had significantly fewer white blood cells and lower levels of autoantibodies – indicating relatively mild immune system activity – than the glands of those who drank water. Over time, the green-tea group also showed significantly less salivary gland damage.
Researchers say studies like these are starting to show mild-mannered green tea one day might be a source of treatment. Interesting note: The inflammatory chemicals that the green tea component has been shown to block are some of the same chemicals blocked by cutting-edge biologic drugs taken for some several autoimmune diseases.”
Like anything, though, moderation is key, and, everyone’s unique situation and circumstances are different, so always speak with your rheumatologist, family doctor, or dietician before incorporating tea or coffee into your diet.
Do you drink coffee or tea? Do you notice either exacerbating your symptoms? Does a Starbucks trip leave you invigorated or sore? Does Keurig kick your butt or help you get going for the day? What’s your favorite kind of coffee or tea? Leave a comment and share your story!
What’s YOUR weapon against arthritis?