There is a lot of debate about whether or not coffee is good for us. Some think that decaffeinated coffee is better, others don’t want anything messing with their morning coffee kick. The question is further complicated by diet and medical conditions.
While this is definitely true of the caffeine content of coffee, the liquid has other things in it. One of them is potassium. There are several groups of people that need to be aware of the amount of potassium in coffee and whether or not there is any in decaf.
Coffee is not on the list of the highest sources of potassium only because a single serving doesn’t have as much as a single serving of other foods. Coffee fiends may find the liquid much higher on their source list. That means those who drink three or more cups per day. (1)
What does potassium do?
Stimulates the brain: Caffeine isn’t the only chemical in coffee that helps give the brain a jolt. Potassium will also stimulate the neurons in the brain. For this reason, it is considered something useful for those who have or are at risk for any form of dementia.
There are two ways potassium is good for the brain. One is that it increases the amount of oxygen in the brain. Our brains are the greediest organ of all when it comes to oxygen needs.
It takes up at least thirty percent of all the air we breathe.
The second, also appreciated by many older people, is decreasing the risk of stroke and death following a stroke. Strokes can occur for a lot of reasons, however cardiovascular disease is a prime candidate for causing them. So is diabetes. (4)
Stabilizes blood sugar: Most of us have felt a sugar rush or the results of not eating at the right time. However, diabetics and those with low blood sugar have serious problems from fluctuating blood sugar. While eating at the appropriate times is important, sufficient potassium is also important.
Improves muscle problems: In part, this goes back to the brain. The same pathways in the brain that the electrolyte stimulates also talk to the muscles and increase our reflexes. It also helps improve muscular reaction time.
Reduces cramping: If you’ve ever been dehydrated you may have noticed that muscle cramps are a problem. There are other conditions that do the same thing, and potassium can help reduce them. That is one reason it is on the list of electrolytes.
Enhance bone health: While younger people may not appreciate this, older people do. Calcium is not the only mineral needed for strong, healthy bones. Potassium is also required. This is especially true for older people because bones can begin to thin over fifty.
Anxiety buster: Everyone who is old enough to understand how Covid-19 has changed our world is under stress. Most of us feel anxious. In fact, the older we are, the more anxious we feel. Ninety percent of those who died were over fifty five. Eighty percent were over sixty.
There are a lot of ways of coping with stress and anxiety. Some are healthier than others and making sure there is adequate potassium in the body is one of them. A lack of it can make the problems worse, which can risk other problems.
Heart health: Doctors are constantly promoting a healthy diet to prevent cardiovascular disease. This means even young people need to look for ways to keep the heart healthy and happy. Potassium fits that bill.
Who may need more potassium?
There are a number of reasons someone might need more potassium. Heavy use of alcohol is one of them.
This is in part because it causes dehydration, which is another reason. Those who have diarrhea and/or vomiting may have the problem. Anything that removes fluid from the body rapidly is a likely cause.
Some antibiotics and a deficiency of folic acid are also culprits. If you must take antibiotics ask the pharmacist if potassium supplements are needed. You may also need probiotics with antibiotics.
Those who go on a low carb diet also need potassium. There is a great deal to these diets that should be carefully explained long before the diet itself begins.
The first is to understand how the body fuels itself. Most people think that it runs on the food we eat, and to a degree that is true.
However, what it does is convert the carbohydrates we consume to glucose. The glucose, also known as blood sugar, is then used by every organ in the body to power them. This is the body’s preferred fuel, and it is also how we end up gaining weight.
If we eat more food than our body needs for fuel, the body stores it in fat cells. When the fat cells get too full, the body makes more fat cells. The reason it doesn’t just expend the excess energy is because it knows we may need it at some point.
Many dieters know the truth about the body going into famine mode. A weight loss program has to be a very careful balance of both reducing the amount of fuel we have but not reducing it too much. That is what a healthy diet does.
Low carb diets like to get around this issue by burning fat instead of glucose. In order to do that, the body has to enter an unnatural state called ketosis. It’s done by reducing the number of carbs consumed to the bare minimum and increasing protein and fat. Without the carbs, the body starts to burn fat only.
There are some benefits of low carb diets. They are medically necessary for some people. Epileptic children who don’t respond medication thrive on this diet. Those who are morbidly obese also go on the diet at first, in order to get weight down enough for other diets to work.
There is also the lack of hunger this diet brings (figuratively) to the table. If you’ve ever been on a diet that calls for calorie counting, you know that it can be a very hungry diet. No one likes it and it has ended many a diet before. The fat and protein tend to sate and prevent hunger.
Who might need to avoid too much potassium?
Like anything, there can always be too much of a good thing. No matter how good it is for us in the right amounts, overdoing the potassium for any reason can cause serious issues. On the other hand, there are people who actually have to keep potassium intake low.
Renal disease: As we get older, our renal system begins to slow down just like everything else. However, kidney disease can strike anyone at any time. When that happens a large number of things become dangerous and potassium is one of them.
That doesn’t mean people with renal disease should never have it. Potassium is still needed to run the body efficiently. It means that going for high amounts of it is a bad plan. Kidney patients are taught to avoid all kinds of high potassium foods for this reason.
As for drinking coffee, doctors may not approve. It’s not just the potassium. Caffeine is a diuretic, which makes the kidneys work harder. Decaf coffee may be the only middle ground in these circumstances.
Addison’s disease: On the top of the kidneys sit the adrenal glands. These glands produce several different types of necessary hormones. One of the jobs the adrenal glands perform is helping break down potassium. When these are damaged, the ability to do break down potassium decreases.
As with kidney disease, those who have Addison’s disease need to watch how much potassium they consume. If the body can’t flush out what’s in there, a condition called hyperkalemia will occur and it can be bad for many organs.
Medications: There are several medications that can cause a buildup of potassium. This means that the lack of potassium in decaf coffee is ideal for those who need to take them and still want their coffee fix. Regular coffee may be out of the question during treatment.
Not all chemotherapy drugs fit this bill, but some do. It may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of things when cancer is involved, but routines give balance. Switching to decaf isn’t a bad plan and it could help with the stress.
Ace inhibitors are used for those with high blood pressure. Coffee is frowned upon by many doctors and cardiologists because the caffeine can raise it. However, the potassium levels are also a problem. Decaf doesn’t remove all of the caffeine, but it does remove the potassium.
A hot drink is often just the thing for a sore throat, and the coffee cup is often used. However, there are antibiotics that can be problematic when it comes to potassium. If you are on antibiotics, ask your pharmacist if that’s the case. Switching to decaf for the lower potassium will help.
Are there other considerations about coffee?
If you read the news or listen to it on the radio or television, you will find that opinions about coffee vary from week to week.
Sometimes they change from day to day. There are always going to be pros and cons for the beverage.
The debate about decaf is just as hard. Some say it’s healthier, some say it’s unnatural and unhealthy.
When it comes to potassium, the only debate is about whether or not you need the extra amount. If you don’t, or you have problems that could be hurt by it, decaf may be the way to go.
The bottom line is that this is a debate best reserved for your doctor and pharmacist. Most people aren’t harmed by coffee, and they aren’t harmed by decaf coffee. Your doctor knows your medical condition. The pharmacist knows the medications you take.
There are required warnings when writing articles of this nature. They can be boring, but they are legally necessary. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here.
The USFDA has not approved any of the above statements. Studies that are reported are done by scientists; any claims have to be approved before they can be stated as facts. The effects of potassium are known, but claims aren’t allowed.
While coffee is the key to this article, potassium is the focus. The information may encourage you to buy potassium supplements, which is problematic. As mentioned, too much potassium is dangerous.
Here is something every master herbalist, doctor and pharmacist wishes everyone knew. This is as important for coffee as it is for supplements. There are limited numbers of people who can diagnose and prescribe. Master herbalists are not in that group… for good reason.
It is said that the person who self-diagnoses and self prescribes has a fool for a doctor. It’s debatable if doctors are included in this group, but it can run both ways. It’s probably best even for a doctor if another doctor did the diagnostics… and the prescriptions.
Coffee itself, whether decaf or regular, can pose problems. It can cause your vision to blur, making close work and even computer work more difficult. It is a cardiac irritant and can be a bad plan for anyone with severe cardiac problems.
It is also important to think of what gets put into coffee after brewing it. Nondairy creamers contain a large amount of sugar, unless sugar free is purchased. If possible, plant based creamers are a safer and better bet.