8 Coffee Side Effects You've Probably Never Heard Of, But May Change Your Drinking Habits
I love my two daily cups of coffee (preferably an almond cappuccino, should anyone wish to buy me one.) It's a ritual for me, an indulgence, the perfect end to both breakfast and lunch. But as much as I love the taste of coffee, honestly, the main reason I drink it is for the caffeine. But there are some other unexpected side effects of drinking coffee you might not be so familiar with, outside of our pure enjoyment of it.
Being the coffee lover that I am, I decided to do some research on my favorite beverage and spoke to some experts. What can I actually expect to happen after downing my (currently iced) coffee? Is all the hype about negative side effects true?
According to Tania Elliot, MD, the answer is yes and no. "Most people think about the impacts of caffeine, the main compound in coffee. But there are other compounds in coffee that can have an effect," Dr. Elliot tells Bustle. "For example, diterpenoids, which are found in unfiltered coffee can increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL)."
But there's a bright side, Dr. Elliot notes. "[The benefits of drinking coffee] include increased alertness, improved memory, cognitive function, and concentration," she says.
And it's delicious to boot! Here are ten consequences of drinking coffee you may not be aware of, according to experts.
1. It Doesn't Dehydrate You
There is a rumor going around that coffee can dehydrate you, but that simply isn't true. It's now commonly thought that although coffee is a diuretic, meaning it makes you urinate more frequently, its water content actually contributes to hydration, according to research conducted by the Scientific Information on Coffee.
Dr. Elliot confirms this. "Caffeine in coffee stimulates the bladder, however it does not dehydrate you," she says.
But while it may not count as part of your eight daily glasses, you should also try and stay hydrated through pure water. Just know that when you're downing that cup of Joe in the morning to get your early morning energy, it can make you pee, but it's not causing dehydration.
2. Coffee Increases Heart Rate
If you've ever been enjoying a cup of java, only to notice that your heart has sped up by the last sip, you're not alone. Coffee is a stimulant, which means it has the ability to increase your heart rate, and research agrees.
Much like running, coffee does increase our heart rate, according to a 2014 study in the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications. It also increases blood pressure, according to Reader's Digest, but this effect is temporary.
While this shouldn't cause you too much of a problem, be sure not to overdo it on the beverage. "Health consequences [of coffee] include tremors, palpitations and worsening of heart arrhythmias," Dr. Elliot notes. So if you have heart issues, talk with your doctor about your coffee consumption.
3. It Makes You Happy
Do you ever hold a cup of coffee in your hand, and get that immediate rush of joy when you breathe in its aroma? Then, once your cup is complete, you go about the day with a smile on your face? Turns out, that's not just in your head — coffee can really make you happy.
Drinking coffee also increases our dopamine levels, one of the happy hormones, according to a study published in Translational Psychiatry. "Like most stimulants, caffeine interacts with dopamine receptors in the brain," Dr. Elliot says.
If you feel good after drinking a cup, that's why. It's also what makes attempting to withdraw incredibly difficult, so take note if you experience a dip in your mood when you stop drinking coffee.
4. It Also Has A Laxative Effect
There's a reason you may be running to the bathroom first thing in the morning after drinking your first cup of coffee. Not only can coffee make you have to pee, it can also get things in the gut moving.
Coffee has an impact on the colonic muscles. In layman terms, this means it makes you poop, according to SELF.
"Caffeine stimulates smooth muscles in GI tract and can stimulate a bowel movement," Dr. Elliot says. This can be extremely helpful if you are experiencing the many uncomfortable symptoms of constipation, Dr. Elliot notes. It also may be that little nudge your body needs to keep things regular.
It all makes sense now, doesn't it?
5. It's Not Great For Anxiety
If you are the type that gets jittery after drinking a cup of coffee, then you know that your morning java has a way of turning up the dial on your anxiety. Coffee can spark anxiety and panic attacks in some people.
In the short-term, coffee can have some side effects on people prone to anxiety. "Coffee drinking can lead to increased jitters, tremors, and heart rate, making an already anxious person more anxious," Dr. Elliot says. "However, long-term coffee drinking has not been found to be associated with an increased risk of developing anxiety."
If you find that you are more anxious after drinking coffee, but still want that cup of Joe, it may be best to speak with a mental health professional about your symptoms. This way, you don't have to live your life completely coffee free.
6. It May Make Your Bladder Unhappy
As previously mentioned, coffee is a pretty decent bathroom-stimulant. It can make you go both number one, and number two, but it's important to realize the impact this can have on your bladder.
Drinking coffee can potentially cause bladder issues, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases.
Dr. Elliot agrees. "Coffee drinking can lead to increased risk of urinary incontinence," she says, meaning you may not have as much control over your bladder. "It does [also] increase the volume of fluid in the bladder." And this can lead you running to the bathroom
However, this and indeed many of these negative side effects only happen in extreme cases, and for most people, drinking a cup or two of coffee a day is fine. In fact, it can even have surprising positive effects on the body.
7. Coffee May Be Liver-Friendly
Sarah Flower, a nutritionist at Skinny Coffee Club, tells Bustle that there are some potential virtues of drinking coffee. She says it can help protect against liver damage and liver cancer, if you drink up to three cups a day. She also says it can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Flower tells Bustle, "This is because it is believed to reduce sensitivity to insulin."
Dr. Elliot also notes that while there is some evidence to support coffee's liver-protecting benefits, extensive research still needs to be done. "Small studies have shown it can protect against cirrhosis of the liver," she says.
8. It Can Help Lower Risk Of Certain Cancers
Coffee can also potentially reduce the risk of certain cancers, Flower says, "especially for cancers of the liver and uterus ... According to a study published in the BMJ, coffee can reduce our risk of prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, melanoma, oral cancer, leukemia and liver cancer."
Similarly, Dr. Elliot says that there has been some evidence to support that coffee can lower your risk of certain cancers. "Prostate cancer risk reduction is the best studied," she says. "Other claims for risk reductions of other cancers have not been fully proven out." So for now, it may be best not to take coffee as the cure-all for future health risks, but still enjoy your morning cup with a smile on your face.
Clearly, coffee is doing more for our body than just giving us that caffeine boost in the morning. It's good to be aware of all the side effects, negative and positive, and be vigilant if you notice any thing amiss. I guess this advice rings true here: everything in moderation.
This post was originally published on September 6, 2018. It was updated on June 5, 2019. Additional reporting by Kristin Magaldi.