Dear Ayurvedic Abbie: Coffee Wakes Me Up, But Should I Drink It?

January 30, 2015    BY Kathryn Templeton

Dear Ayurvedic Abbie: 

I am ashamed to admit it, but I cannot seem to give up coffee. I don’t drink a lot of coffee, but it bothers me that I am reliant upon it to get me started in the morning. Why is it that even the smell of the coffee helps me feel more awake? I don’t like the idea of being addicted to something! I have tried to quit and I need help. Any ideas? I have tried to substitute tea, chai, and even hot chocolate. Nothing seems to work.

Cup-half-empty,
Kona Coffee King

Dear King Kona:

No shame allowed. Coffee—really nice, organic, fair trade, and brewed-with-love coffee—is not a bad thing! Yes, I know it gets a bad rap, but ayurveda has a place for coffee and its bitter, astringent, and often pungent tastes, so put down the whip! 

No shame allowed. Coffee—really nice, organic, fair trade, and brewed-with-love coffee—is not a bad thing!

Let's get our facts straight. When you say that coffee “gets you started,” what exactly do you mean? Does it help you to feel less foggy and more alert? Does it help stimulate your bowels for a nice morning evacuation? Does it help you to feel warm and energized? Many folks find that fogginess, constipation, cold, and sluggishness make waking up in the kapha (water and earth) time of day—between 6 and 10 am—challenging. Yep, morning time is governed by kapha dosha whose qualities include: wet, grounding, dull, slow, and heavy. You see, ayurveda has a relationship to each hour of the day, every season of the year, and every stage of life. If your dosha (constitutional make-up) is also kapha, well, that is double the heavy (and perhaps the reason you're BFFs with your snooze button). 

If, due to your constitution, you are “not a morning person," then a cup of coffee in the AM is actually something ayurveda might recommend—but with a little something to eat first. Why? Because coffee is a digestive aid. Yep, that is why all those lovely little cafes in Europe serve a nice demitasse of rich, dark espresso after a meal. Those delicious sips help your digestion function properly! (Plus, it just looks so cool in all those old Bergman films.)

Coffee will help to stimulate the body and the mind—partly due to the caffeine and, according to ayurveda, partly due to the tastes: pungent, bitter, and astringent. These tastes signal the body to “lighten up” and you get those lovely sensations of being more alert and energetic, and your bowels tell you to get to the throne asap! Drinking warm water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice will offer many of the same effects. There's much more that could be said on this, but for now, just consider taking this warm lemon-water tonic on an empty stomach, and notice how your body responds. I think you will be pleased.

Coffee will help to stimulate the body and the mind.

A big reason why coffee tends to garner negative reviews is that many of us have our coffee brewing on a timer so that we can wake up and swish down a cuppa joe first thing. Coffee on an empty tummy is not good for anyone as it can create excess acid (or heat, in ayurvedic terms) and this in turn can create everything from the jitters to irritability, and even acid reflux! 

Your stage of life also determines how your body might respond to coffee. The older you get, the more difficult it is for your system to tolerate a cup of coffee. But never fear! With a few adjustments, even a 108-year-old can enjoy a little espresso. Without knowing more about you (your age, your prakruti—biological constitution—and whether or not your coffee cravings are seasonal), I can still safely offer you three tips to help you wash your coffee shame away: 

Buy good stuff: This means coffee that is organic, fair trade, and freshly roasted. The closest thing to the tree that you can get!

Try to have a little something in your stomach before you take your first sip. Maybe some nice, warm, moist oatmeal with yummy spices to keep you feeling full and happy before you take a sip of your “love potion.”

Finally, size matters. That's right, King Kona! We are talking two to four ounces of coffee. No super-sizing here. To make your cup stretch, try adding in some warm spiced milk:

This spiced milk will add more ounces to your favorite morning drink and make it even easier to digest.

Take even parts milk and coffee. Warm the milk on a stove until it softly boils. Add in freshly ground cinnamon and/or cardamom to the milk while it cooks. This spiced milk will add more ounces to your favorite morning drink and make it even easier to digest. 

Good luck, my happy morning friend. Walk tall with your mug o’joy, and you let me know if anyone gives you heat for enjoying that morning treat. I got your back!

Blessings,

Ayurvedic Abby

Kathryn Templeton
Kathryn Templeton, MA, RDT/MT, E-RYT 500, is an Ayurvedic practitioner who has devoted her life to the health of others. A psychotherapist for more than 30 years, Kathryn is a master teacher in the field of Drama Therapy and continues to work both clinically and as an educator specializing in the treatment of individuals with complex trauma. As an E-RYT 500, NAMA Certified Ayurvedic practitioner and senior Para Yoga teacher, Kathryn has worked to develop specialized treatments integrating the... Read more>>