What Your Reaction to Coffee Says about Your Liver and Why You Should Be Concerned

What Your Reaction to Coffee Says about Your Liver and Why You Should Be Concerned

Olisa Mak, ND

I have a guilty pleasure: I love coffee, the smell of it, the bitter taste of it. Nothing wakes me up on a day off more than a fresh cup of dark roast coffee. I usually drink anywhere from two to four cups of coffee a week, but never more than one a day. Yesterday, I drank two cups of coffee, a latte that was quite strong and a dark roast two hours apart. The effect? A coffee overdose. For the rest of the day, I was restless, experienced chest pains, had chattering teeth, hands that were shaking, a headache and was unable to sleep. I was buzzed and overly stimulated. It wasn’t until five in the morning, roughly 14 hours after my second cup of coffee, that I stopped feeling the buzz. Although, this morning, I woke up feeling completely hungover like I had a night out drinking.

Although most people do not experience such an extreme reaction, it isn’t uncommon to hear people say that they can’t handle coffee, that they feel “jittery” after drinking it. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who simply do not feel anything after drinking coffee; they can have several cups a day with no after effects.

So what does all of that mean? Why do some people, like myself, have such extreme reactions to coffee whereas other people feel nothing?

First we have to understand how coffee is metabolized in the body. When we drink coffee, it reaches our digestive tract where the coffee is modified and individual chemical constituents of coffee are absorbed by our small intestines. Once in the small intestines, the various chemical compounds found in coffee are absorbed and circulate throughout the bloodstream and reach the liver and other organs.

The liver metabolizes coffee in a step-wise manner and in each step, the compounds are chemically modified to become more and more water-soluble, to ensure proper elimination by the kidneys and bowels. here are two general steps in the liver detoxification process, which I’ll call phase one and two. When you’re overly sensitive to coffee, your phase one is sluggish whereas if you don’t feel anything from coffee, your Phase one is too active.

So how can you bring these two steps back into balance? If you’re overly sensitive to coffee, you need to give your phase one a boost. Phase one relies mainly on B vitamins (amongst other nutrients) whereas phase two mainly relies on amino acids from protein sources like good quality meat and fish. A diet abundant in colorful fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins is key. There are also supplements that have been especially formulated to support liver function when changing your diet isn’t enough. Certain foods, especially cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are also great for giving your phase one a boost. If your phase one is overactive and you don’t feel anything from coffee, then you need to slow down phase one. You can do this with herbs, such as Calendula officinalis, or spices such as turmeric (in a supplement form it is sold as curcumin).

Other than feeling “jittery” after drinking coffee, why is it important to correct an imbalance between the two phases? At the end of phase one, reactive oxygen species are produced. If phase one is overactive or faster than the phase two pathway, you ultimately get an accumulation of reactive oxygen species because your phase two just can’t keep up with phase one. Reactive oxygen species are chemically reactive molecules known to cause inflammation and damage throughout the body, including cellular DNA damage. Reactive oxygen species or high oxidative stress have been implicated in chronic conditions including cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis and aging, Having signs of an imbalance between both phases has long term consequences and should be addressed.

Figure 1. Your liver and Phase 1 and Phase 2.

liver diagram

Diagram created by Dr. Olisa Mak

Although the body naturally produces reactive oxygen species, the body has protective mechanisms in place to protect itself. By eating a diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, zinc and thiols (e.g., NAC) which can be found in garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables, the body neutralizes these harmful, reactive oxygen species.

The balance between both phases is important to understand as it plays a key role in the metabolism of everything that our bodies comes into contact with—not just coffee but alcohol, medications, supplements, pesticides on our foods, even chemicals we absorb through our skin from personal health care products. The rate at which these two phases function ultimately defines how well our liver protects us from everything that we are exposed to. The chronic illnesses associated with high oxidative stress may not appear right away but ultimately affect our ability to live healthy and happy lives. Love your liver by eating a well-balanced, organic diet, rich in antioxidants and nutrients.

My ordeal from drinking only two cups of coffee one after the other brought to my attention the imbalance between my liver’s phase one and phase two. I too will examine my diet and find a way to improve my liver’s functioning. Will you?

If you’re concerned about your liver function, book an appointment to see how your liver function can be improved. Make better, more informed, decisions about their health. Come in for an appointment and get started with an individualized treatment plan just for you.

Dr. Olisa Mak ND is at Inspirit Clinic in Yaletown, Vancouver, BC.

GERD and Protein Pump Inhibitors: Seeking Alternatives

GERD and Proton Pump Inhibitors: Seeking Alternatives

Ingrid Pincott, ND

Proton  pump inhibitors (PPIs) are one of the ten most prescribed drugs in North America. PPIs are used in the treatment of acid reflux or GERD. I see at least one patient every week who is taking PPIs and wanting to get off them.

Bob, age 45, is a typical example. He has been taking PPIs for years and his GERD symptoms were not completely under control. He also had developed a rash he could not get rid of through conventional treatment so he is ready to try and improve his health. Certainly if a person is in severe gastric pain due to hyper-secretion of stomach acid, these drugs are useful to treat the acute phase. The side effects of long term treatment include: Decreased blood flow to the stomach, bacterial overgrowth in the stomach, hyperplastic polyp formation in the stomach, increased bile reflux and increased food allergy because food is not digested properly. Hypersensitivity reactions that can occur include urticaria, contact dermatitis, and drug rashes.

One of the reasons an MD might recommend a PPI for life is due to Barrett’s esophagus which increases the risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC).  However, in some recent research published by F. Hvid-Jensen, 2014, the risk of developing EAC increased with PPI use due to the increased formation of polyps while taking the drug!

Other complications of long term PPI use include: gastrin secretion increases, contributing to the risk of colon cancer, and esophageal adenocarcinoma; women taking PPIs have an increased risk of hip fracture, and reduction in bone density; there is also an increased risk of developing community acquired pneumonia especially in the elderly; and, finally, there is an increased risk to developing C. difficile as well as an increased risk of having a heart attack.

I recommended to Bob to come off PPIs gradually over six months to avoid rebound excess stomach acid. Some patients I have seen come off a lot faster than that because they did many other changes at the same time. For example removing wheat from their diet, eating a low carb diet, and eating food in proper combination helps a great deal to reduce GERD symptoms quickly. I put Bob on my candida program which addressed a lot of these recommendations in one protocol. The “yeast” killers help to kill off harmful bacteria and taking a strong probiotic away from the “yeast” killers helps establish a healthy microbiome. I told Bob this treatment program has helped many with chronic GERD.

I also have great success with a digestive aid containing  licorice, marshmallow and slippery elm that is aimed to heal the  stomach and help digest starches and fats without the use of protease, which can aggravate these cases in the early phases of treatment.

I saw Bob one month later. He was using the PPIs much less and was amazed. His skin was beginning to clear and he was much less itchy. He continued on the candida program for another two months and once he was off the PPIs I recommended a slightly stronger digestive enzyme. During this time I noticed on his blood work results that his liver and gallbladder were abnormal so I added a bile thinner and detoxifier for at least three months.

At the six month mark, Bob had lost 20 pounds due to the diet changes, his liver enzymes were back to normal and the only digestive aid he needed were the probiotics and the digestive enzyme. Often the symptoms of too much stomach acid are the same as too little stomach acid. The rest of his maintenance health program included B complex, vitamin B12, omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin D and a calcium magnesium complex. PPIs deplete magnesium and B12 so we had some catching up to do because he had been on them for so many years.

[A version of this article originally appeared in the Campbell River Mirror, March 25, 2016.]

The Gut-Brain Connection: Free Talk in Vancouver April 12

The Gut-Brain Connection

Join Dr Olisa Mak, ND of Vancouver clinic Inspirit Health on Tuesday, April 12 for a free talk about the gut-brain connection at the Sina Pharmacy.

Time: 7-8:30pm

Location: Sina Pharmacy and Fresh Juice Cafe, 505 Smith Street Vancouver BC

optimizing gut-brain connection talk

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 4.16.49 PMDr Olisa Mak, ND

inspirithealth.ca

220 – 997 Seymour Street

Vancouver BC

About Dr. Olisa Mak

 

 

Networking Luncheon: May 13

Let’s do Lunch

Networking Luncheon
Island Restaurant, Golden, BC
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Please RSVP by Tuesday, May 12 – 4pm

Guest Speaker ~ Dr. Erika Buckley-Strobel from Aqua Vitalis Naturopathic
“Nature’s Additions to your First Aid Kit”

Hosted by the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce

Please RSVP with menu selection
Questions? Call 250-344-7125