Coffee is one of the most widely consumed caffeinated drinks worldwide, with about half of Americans regularly using it as a daily pick-me-up. Coffee has some known health benefits, like reducing the risk of dementia and heart disease, but is coffee good for your lungs, too? According to limited research studies, yes!
This study from 2018 found that coffee was linked with a reduction in respiratory mortality, and one study discovered improved lung function in coffee drinkers.1 However, a separate study found that coffee may be linked to a higher chance of lung cancer.2 They note that cigarette smokers are more likely to drink coffee, which may have contaminated the findings, but the link is still present in non-smokers.
So, does this mean that coffee is bad for your lungs after all? Not necessarily. A moderate amount of coffee can actually make breathing easier. Plus, that study was purely observational and doesn’t take into account the myriad other lifestyle factors that can lead to lung cancer.
How Does Coffee Affect Breathing?
The caffeine in coffee is a mild bronchodilator, according to the US National Library of Medicine. This means it has a weak relaxing effect on the lungs, thereby widening the airways in your body. For conditions like asthma, where the airways become inflamed and narrow, this can mean an easier time breathing. This study found that daily coffee drinkers suffering from asthma have 29% fewer asthma symptoms.
Don’t go chugging that pot of coffee just yet — too much caffeine can actually hurt breathing. If you are sensitive to caffeine or exceed the daily recommended limit of 400 milligrams per 24-hour period, your heart can race to the point that you have a difficult time catching your breath. For asthmatics, this can trigger asthma attacks and worsen symptoms.
When using coffee to help improve breathing, the key is moderation. Try drinking a single cup and seeing how you feel after that. If you take medication to treat asthma or other respiratory conditions, consult your doctor about coffee consumption. Some medications may have unexpected interactions with caffeine, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Can Coffee Be Used to Treat Asthma Symptoms?
The first thing you reach for during asthmatic symptoms should be your inhaler, which is specifically designed to alleviate your symptoms. Coffee may be good for your breathing, but it isn’t a quick fix by any measure.
How Else Does Coffee Affect Health?
Coffee is associated with a slew of health benefits, like reduced chances of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other cancers. Many long-lived people attribute their longevity to drinking coffee, among other factors.
What about coffee and the liver? This study found a 43% reduced risk of liver cancer in people who drink 2 cups of coffee a day. In patients with liver disease, drinking coffee may even slow the progression of the disease. Take note that this only applies to moderate coffee consumption. Heavy or excessive consumption may have the opposite effect, accelerating liver cirrhosis.
Coffee can be hard on people with gastrointestinal conditions because of its acidity. It can exacerbate symptoms like upset stomach and acid reflux, especially in excess. We’d recommend asking your doctor about whether drinking coffee would be more helpful or harmful for your condition.
Coffee provides much of the world with the energy to get up and tackle their day, but it can also have positive effects on the lungs and other organs. The key to using coffee to help with breathing is to drink in moderation, so ask your doctor if ever in doubt.
Featured Image Credit: Nicolas J Leclercq, Unsplash