Is Caffeine Allowed on AIP?

Short answer, Yes.

But this would be a very boring blog indeed if I didn’t give you some more detail!

I’ve had a few people message me to ask what I drink at breakfast time, and I’ve seen a lot lately on some AIP groups of people torturing themselves with caffeine withdrawal when they first start AIP, because they think its not allowed. But caffeine is fine, we just don’t drink coffee because it is a seed, and seeds are eliminated until re-introduction Stage 2. It’s nothing to do with the caffeine in it.

Black and green tea are perfectly fine to drink in the morning with your breakfast. This will help you wean off the large doses of caffeine that you’re likely accustomed to if you’re a big coffee drinker. Coffee has twice as much caffeine as tea does, black tea has slightly more than green, but still half the amount as coffee. Chocolate also is eliminated because it is a seed, not because of the caffeine content, which is about 1/3 the amount as coffee.

Caffeine in general is not bad, although some people will have a reaction to it, even in small doses. If after eliminating coffee, but still drinking tea, you notice that you’re getting the jitters, or your stress response is heightened, you may want to consider also eliminating caffeinated teas, until you heal some more. Try reintroducing black tea after 30 days.

Remember, AIP elimination isn’t forever! You should do a complete elimination for at least 30 days, or as many as 90, to give your gut a chance to kick-start the healing process. Some people choose to stay in the elimination phase even longer. I stayed in full on elimination phase for 4 months the first-time round, because I wanted to wait until my specialist appointment and follow-up blood work. Which then showed no traceable levels of ANA! Others have decided to stay in the elimination phase for as long as one year, but that can become tiresome, and overly restrictive to most people. The decision is entirely up to you of course how long to stick with it, and what goals you wish to accomplish with AIP. But don’t prolong elimination just because you’re afraid to try anything and trigger a reaction. You’ll never know until you try! If you trigger a flare, just go back to the beginning until symptoms subside, and then try something else.

Not everyone will achieve remission like I did. I don’t know what the statistics are, or if there even are any, because AIP is not a treatment that is tracked by any government health office anywhere. There are a lot of clinical trials on-going however; Dr. Terry Wahls is having great success with her trials using her Wahls Protocol, a modified AIP, on patients with Multiple Sclerosis.

Everyone will however benefit from a more nutrient dense diet than the standard grain based westernized diet. Yesterday I was looking up some nutrient facts for a workshop I’m presenting in a couple of weeks. The comparisons between grain based foods, like oatmeal, pizza, and pasta, are far inferior to a paleo AIP diet, heavy on the vegetables. I’m always boggled by how many vegetarians I know who don’t actually ever eat any vegetables. They eat pasta and pizza. I’m sorry folks, but tomato sauce is not a vegetable! And one or 2 bits of mushroom or green pepper in or on, isn’t going to make up for the nutrient deficiency of the grains!

But, I digress! We were talking about caffeine! Who put that soap-box there anyway!? LOL!

Drinking tea, black or green, does have some noted health benefits. Tea is full of antioxidants, which can help us from the effects of pollution, and harmful chemicals that may be on our food and building up in our system. Green tea has the highest level of antioxidants, as well as polyphenols, which have been shown to protect against degenerative diseases. Green tea however has been known to be an “immune booster”, so keep your intake to about 2 cups a day, maximum. If you’re having a flare up of something, perhaps limit to one cup per day, or switch to black tea, just to be safe. My favourite is Earl Grey. The bergamot is helpful to calm the mind.

Green tea, black tea, and oolong all come from the same plant, but depending on how the leaves are processed depends on the end product. Green tea leaves are just dried. Black tea leaves are dried longer and fermented (though not enough to have any alcohol content!), and oolong is somewhere in between the two. If you have access to organic brands of tea, go for those, so that you’re not adding to your toxin load, but honestly, even conventionally grown tea is just fine, if you can’t find organic. Don’t fret too much, it just adds to your stress level, and we don’t want that! I make my kombucha with just plain ol’ Tetley tea bags.

I typically suggest to my clients that they have a maximum of 2 cups of caffeinated tea in the morning if they feel the need, and if they want a hot beverage after that to switch to caffeine free herbal teas. Caffeine free, and de-caffeinated are 2 entirely different things, please do not drink de-caf anything. It is chemically processed to remove the naturally occurring caffeine, and we don’t want to increase our toxin load! Herbal teas are naturally caffeine free.

Teavana was recently closing a lot of stores locally, so I went and stocked up on some nice loose-leaf herbal teas. I have quite a collection now, both at home and at work. I find that the warmth of tea calms my scratchy throat that was caused by Sjogren’s damage. Even though my disease is currently in remission (knock wood), the damage that was done has not been able to be reversed, so my mouth pain and scratchy throat, dry eyes, and nose continue. Some days are worse than others, depending what I’ve been doing, and weather conditions. Winter time is the worst because the heat comes on, and dries everything up. So, I keep well hydrated, and herbal teas are a perfectly good option for that! Hot or cold.

Some herbal teas will also have their own medicinal benefits, depending on the herb. If you have GERD, you may want to avoid mint teas, as they can exacerbate the problem. But ginger tea with a bit of honey may help to soothe an upset stomach and heartburn. You can buy honey ginger tea bags, or make your own with fresh ginger and raw honey. I do both. Ginger and honey are also good for when you get a cold or flu, mixed with some hot lemon as well for some vitamin C.

I love some nice fragrant citrus based teas, I have 2 types that I got from Teavana. One has lavender in it, for a calming and relaxing effect. The other doesn’t have the lavender, so it’s nice and fragrant, and brings some sunshiney thoughts when it’s dark and cold outside. It’s also nice in summertime as a refreshing iced-tea.

There are so many different flavours of herbal teas available, it is often overwhelming looking at the shelves when you’re at the grocery store! If you have a favourite flavour, stick with that, unless it is something that is going to cause you harm. Ginseng, and echinacea are other “immune boosters” that you may want to avoid, because we’ve already got an overly stimulated immune system, we don’t need to give it another boost! And if you suffer from rag weed allergies, avoid chamomile, as it often cross reacts for a lot of people. Try something new every now and again, maybe go into a local coffee shop and ask what’s good, try something to see if you like it first before you buy a whole box. I’ve had to donate a few boxes of tea to the stash at work because I bought them and then didn’t like them, or discovered they’re immune boosters and I just don’t want to take that chance of re-triggering anything! Still, there are more options of teas that we can drink than there are types that we cannot, so don’t discourage, you’ll find something awesome.

Coffee and chocolate are Stage 2 re-introductions with seeds and nuts. Take your time getting there, allow your body to heal. But if you’re having a bad day, and only chocolate and a lottery ticket is going to make it better, then by all means, go get yourself a nice bit of dark organic chocolate. There’s no sense in torturing yourself! Stress is the enemy, and if your new lifestyle is contributing to your stress, it kind of defeats the purpose! One row of chocolate is unlikely to derail you. Just have a bit, enjoy it without guilt, and then wrap it up nicely and put it away somewhere out of sight until reintroduction time.

If it’s a cold blustery day and you’re longing for a hot mug of cocoa, try some carob instead. The other day I wanted cocoa, but don’t have any, so I made a hot carob drink that turned out quite nice. I used ¼ cup of coconut cream, 1 tbsp of carob powder in a mug, then poured in hot water to fill the mug and stirred. Then I sprinkled on some Ceylon cinnamon, and oh man was it good! The perfect substitute, and one I will definitely be taking with me when I go camping next weekend!

If you have any questions about AIP, and how you may fit it into your life with chronic disease, pleasse comment below, or send me an email to rebecca@rebaweber.ca


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