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Is Coffee Bad for Your Thyroid? Alternatives & What to Avoid

a cup of coffee

The wonderful smell. The familiarity with the boosting energy. What’s not to love about coffee? If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you’re familiar with waking up and having a nice cup of joe to start your day. But what if you suffer from or are susceptible to thyroid issues? Does coffee negatively affect your thyroid? And if you have thyroid issues, should you stop drinking coffee altogether? Coffee can negatively affect adrenal function, which affects your thyroid as well. Coffee may affect your intestines and absorption of thyroid medicines. Before deciding whether to drink coffee, you should consult with your doctor.

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How Does Coffee Affect Your Thyroid?

The truth is that coffee has been shown to have negative effects on your adrenal function, which works in tandem with the thyroid gland. Studies have shown that coffee can alter intestinal activity, change gut flora, and negatively impact the absorption rate of thyroid medication.

It’s also worth noting that coffee has been shown to increase cortisol and TSH levels in the body due to caffeine. And as you may already know, cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”, and has been linked to several different ailments.

A study published in the Thyroid Journal suggests that coffee may block the digestion of thyroid hormones. Patients with hypothyroidism should take their thyroid supplement early in the morning. Doctors strongly recommend that you wait for at least 30 to 45 minutes before drinking your coffee or any other beverage.

So, what can you drink instead of coffee? Let’s take a look.

Top 6 Coffee Alternatives for Thyroid Problems:

1. Dandelion Coffee

dandelion coffee
Image: PavelKant, Shutterstock

Dandelion coffee is another warm drink that will help you get through a cold morning. It is made from roasted dandelion roots and tastes just like coffee–well, to many people it does. It can be blended with roasted barley rye and chicory root.

Roasted dandelion root contains antioxidants as well as probiotics. These are good bacteria that help improve digestion and increase your immune system.

2. Yerba Mate

a male hands holding a wodeen cup of yerba mate
Image Credit: Los Muertos Crew, Pexels

Yerba Mate is a smoky, dark, and woody-tasting tea made from the leaves and twigs of the popular shrub. At 85 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce cup, it has almost twice the caffeine of regular black tea, and only a bit less caffeine than coffee.

You can have a few cups throughout your day, and you won’t feel deprived of your caffeine fix. You can also get a wide range of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from the tea–not to mention that it’s not an inflammatory drink (like coffee) and may even boost your immune system–green tea particularly.

3. Rooibos Tea

rooibos tea
Image Credit: miiya, Pixabay

This tea is both delicious and sweet and it can give you an awesome way to beat the winter blues. Rooibos is a comforting and warm drink that can serve as a coffee substitute for anyone sensitive to caffeine. It’s entirely herbal and contains no caffeine whatsoever. It’s both dark and mild with faint notes of sweetness, and to top it off it’s packed with powerful antioxidants.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a local cafe that offers any type of “red espresso,” try it. Red Espresso is another term for rooibos tea and it can be served as regular espresso. This means you can order rooibos-based beverages like red lattes and red cappuccinos.

4. Coconut Water

coconut water
Image Credit: Irenna86, Pixabay

You don’t have to save coconut water for your smoothies only, you can use it as a great substitute for coffee. Oftentimes, dehydration can cause lethargy, especially after a good workout. This is where coconut water can come to the rescue, as it’s high in electrolytes.

Coffee is a diuretic that can leave you feeling depleted because it can cause you to lose a lot of your internal water reserve (via those bathroom breaks). Coconut water can also help you to regulate your blood sugar levels and you can combine it with a bit of orange juice for an interesting and filling morning juice.

5. Power Smoothie

cups of oat milk smoothie
Image Credit: zefirchik06, Shutterstock

And you can always switch out your morning mug for an 8-ounce fruit smoothie. Fruits including berries, bananas, oranges, and other natural sweeteners can provide a great base for a morning smoothie. They’ll also provide energy and a range of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.

And don’t forget to add a few veggies. You’ll find that green vegetables such as kale and spinach are low on the glycemic index, which means they will be slow to digest throughout the day.

6. Spirulina

Image Credit: Nouchkac, Pixabay

Spirulina can be another healthy chlorophyll-filled ingredient that you can add to your smoothie. It’s a type of alga that’s often found in supplement form. However, it can also be found in liquid form. Research has shown that spirulina can improve circulation and endurance.

In addition to coffee, there are quite a few other foods that health experts recommend avoiding if you suffer from thyroid issues, hypothyroidism particularly–which is the most common.

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Top 5 Foods To Avoid If You Have Thyroid Issues:

1. Gluten

three loaves of bread
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

Gluten, a protein found mainly in foods containing wheat, millet, and barley, can cause digestive problems and irritation to the small intestines. Hypothyroidism can result from this blockage of the thyroid hormones’ absorption. Studies have found that a gluten-free diet improves thyroid medication absorption.

If you prefer a high-grain, however, you may want to consider quinoa, brown rice, and buckwheat as gluten-free grains.

2. Soy and Soy-Derived Products

tofu and soya beans
Image Credit: waichi2021, Pixabay

Health experts also recommended eating soy-based products in many cases as well. Soy and tofu, and other soy-based products are high in isoflavones. This compound is thought to increase hypothyroidism risk and make it more difficult to absorb thyroid hormones.

Though research is still split on whether an increase in soy products could worsen the condition, many doctors warn against consuming soy products and high amounts if you suffer from thyroid issues.

3. Junk Food and Processed Sweets

potato chips
Image Credit: Hans, Pixabay

Canned desserts, preserved meats, and potato chips should be avoided. These snacks all contain super-high amounts of sugar, salt, and oil–ingredients that have been known to exacerbate thyroid issues. Also, these foods usually have no nutritional value and cause inflammatory reactions and people who suffer from immune issues, such as hypothyroidism.

4. Alcohol

two mugs of alcoholic drink
Image Credit: Engin_Akyurt, Pixabay

If you have thyroid issues, then consuming alcohol is usually considered a big “no-no”. Alcohol, even in very small amounts, can have a negative impact on the body’s thyroid hormone levels and the ability of thyroid glands to make the hormone.

A study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism found that alcohol can increase or cause certain mood disorders. These same disorders were also closely linked to hypothyroidism.

5. Cruciferous Vegetables

cabbage and broccoli vegetables
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Cabbage and broccoli are known as cruciferous vegetables and “goitrogens”. Though they are high in fiber and nutrition, they can cause thyroid dysfunction. Some research indicates that cruciferous veggies can interfere with iodine absorption and lower thyroid hormone production.

Health experts recommend that you avoid eating these veggies raw if you have thyroid issues, as cruciferous vegetables have been shown to alter thyroid function. If you do consume these vegetables, it’s best to consume them in very small quantities so they can cook long enough to deactivate the goitrogens.

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Coffee & Your Thyroid: Wrapping Things Up

The thyroid is a very important gland in the body, and it works in conjunction with your adrenal system for hormonal function. If you suffer from thyroid disease or have had issues with your thyroid in the past, it may be best to consult your doctor before consuming coffee or caffeinated beverages on a regular basis.

Also, if you suffer from thyroid disease or issues, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, it’s best to know what foods and drinks (such as coffee) can exacerbate your condition so that you can avoid them.

Featured Image Credit: PactoVisual, Pixabay


Ollie Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones is a zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia. Originally from the US, he thought he loved coffee before his big move down under, but his discovery of the flat white and the cafe on every corner has taken his coffee passion to a whole new level. He's so excited to share his knowledge and experience with readers worldwide (and keep testing coffee drinks while he's at it).

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