Should I quit coffee?

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 6 September 2016

know.betterI have had so many patients over the years come to see me and are scared that I am going to take their beloved coffee away from them. For some reason being a coffee drinker is equated with bad health, just like eating saturated fat. We know however that saturated fat, like that found in coconut oil, is actually really good for us. Could the same be said for coffee? After all there are studies now showing that regular coffee intake can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease – but only in some people.

 It turns out that whether or not you should be a coffee drinker is determined largely by your genetics.

Caffeine is a drug that has to be metabolized in the liver by a series of enzymes called the cytochrome p450 system. This series of enzymes also breaks down pharmaceutical drugs like birth control and antidepressants, as well as environmental chemicals like paint and exhaust fumes.

The efficiency of this enzyme system will determine if you are a fast metabolizer or a slow metabolizer. Approximately fifty percent of the population possesses the slow metabolizing variation of the gene. This means these people process caffeine in the liver at a much slower rate (eg. up to 24 hours) than fast metabolizers (eg. about 6 hours).

In the slow metabolizers, even if you are only drinking one cup of coffee a day, you could always have caffeine in your system. When the caffeine builds up in the bloodstream, higher levels of adrenaline will also occur. This could in turn affect your blood pressure, heart rate, and ability to sleep properly in a negative way.

Differences in caffeine metabolism can also provide an explanation as to why the research results related to the health effects of caffeine can be so divergent.

So how do you know which genetic variant you have? Well, you don’t know for sure unless you do a genetic test, but here are a few questions you can ask yourself to see whether a caffeine holiday would be beneficial:

  • Have you ever had heart palpitations after drinking coffee?
  • Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?
  • Do you have hypertension?
  • Do you get a headache when you don’t have coffee?
  • Are you sensitive to the smell of smoke, perfume, gas, or paint?

Now I would love to hear from you! If you were to guess do you think you are a fast metabolizer or a slow metabolizer? Have you ever taken a caffeine holiday? Leave a comment below and I’ll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday.

6 Replies to “Should I quit coffee?”

That is a great article! I went off coffee for a month when I did a hormone detox in the spring with Michelle. The first couple of days were really hard…by the third day I felt as if I had the flu….then I started to feel great and was sleeping so much better.

I decided that I would not drink coffee again but started up…went from one cup a day to two and the odd day three. Just this morning I thought that I should quit as I was feeling a little edgy. This article really clarified it for me. So, I will prepare myself for not feeling great for a few days but feeling fabulous aster that!!!!

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Thanks for your comment Pat! It is so easier for little things to start to slide and we don’t realize how much it could actually be affecting our overall health.


I only drink decaffeinated coffee that is not decaffeinated using chemicals. Only the swiss water method is safe.
Regular coffee causes an extra ‘Q wave” on your cardiogram according to cardiologists.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

I agree that the best decaf option is the Swiss water processed to avoid unnecessary chemicals that could be dangerous to our health. Would love to read more on the Q wave phenomenon as well.

Claudette Rochon

I am new to the world of Naturopathy; in 5 months I got rid of asthma and joint pain! So impressed and happy.

As I answered yes to four of the five questions I’m assuming I have a slow metabolism.

Started my first DETOX with Abby and am on day 2 of no caffeine. I am feeling groggy and get mild headaches but coffee is definitely off the menu!

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Great work Claudette! You should start feeling great in about 72 hours after getting rid of caffeine. If you still really like the taste of coffee you could add back in decaf after the detox is over but make sure you use a Swiss water processed brand or else you will be getting unwanted chemicals that are frequently used to take the caffeine out.

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