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Dr. Laura Pipher

Coffee: Friend or foe?

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and many of us rely on it to start our day or provide a pick-me-up in the afternoon. However, in recent years, the relationship between coffee and inflammation has been a topic of much discussion and research. In this post, we’ll explore what the current research tells us about the connection between coffee and inflammation.

First, let’s define inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response by the body’s immune system to injury, infection, or other threats. While acute inflammation is a necessary and protective response, chronic inflammation can lead to various health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

So, what does the research say about the relationship between coffee and inflammation? There is some evidence to suggest that coffee can have both positive and negative effects on inflammation in the body. On one hand, coffee contains antioxidants that can help to reduce oxidative stress and prevent inflammation. Antioxidants are substances that can neutralize harmful free radicals in the body and prevent cellular damage.

On the other hand, coffee is also a stimulant that can increase cortisol levels in the body, which is a stress hormone. Elevated cortisol levels can increase inflammation, which can lead to various health problems. Moreover, excessive coffee consumption (more than 4 cups per day) has been associated with increased levels of inflammation markers in some studies.

It’s important to keep in mind that the effects of coffee on inflammation can vary greatly from person to person, and are influenced by factors such as the amount and frequency of coffee consumption, as well as individual differences in genetics and lifestyle. For example, some people are more sensitive to caffeine and experience increased cortisol levels with just a small amount of coffee. On the other hand, some people may be less sensitive to caffeine and can consume more coffee without experiencing significant increases in cortisol levels. 

One recent study researchers investigated how polyphenols (found in coffee) behaved when combined with amino acids (building blocks of protein). Results found that immune cells treated with the combination of polyphenols and amino acids were twice as effective at fighting inflammation as polyphenols alone. How does this relate to coffee? Coffee is full of polyphenols and milk is rich in proteins. Humans do not absorb polyphenols well on their own, so combining with proteins can increase both the inflammatory response and the absorption. 

In conclusion, the relationship between coffee and inflammation is complex and varies from person to person. While moderate coffee consumption (3-4 cups per day) has been linked to lower levels of inflammation markers in some studies, excessive coffee consumption can lead to increased levels of inflammation markers. It is important to understand that it isn’t the coffee alone, but how you consume your coffee as well.

In summary, while coffee can have both positive and negative effects on inflammation, moderate coffee consumption can be a part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. However, it’s important to be mindful of your individual response to coffee and monitor any changes in your health that may be related to your coffee consumption.


  1. The relationship between coffee consumption and inflammation: a review of observational and interventional studies. (2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5767600/

  2. Coffee consumption and risk of chronic diseases: An umbrella review. (2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5737821/

  3. The association between coffee consumption and markers of inflammation and oxidative stress: A systematic review. (2017) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5344137/

  4. Coffee consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease: a dose-response meta-analysis. (2015) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4466159/

  5. The effects of caffeine on inflammation markers: a systematic review. (2020) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7595298/


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