Six Alternatives To Coffee While on The Autoimmune Protocol

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Why is coffee avoided while on the Autoimmune Protocol?

One of the most commonly missed eliminations during the Autoimmune Protocol is, you guessed it… coffee! But why? Well, to start we avoid all seeds during the elimination diet as outlined by Sarah Ballantyne in The Paleo Approach. This is because seeds (along with nuts) are a common food sensitivity for some folks.

Fortunately, according to Sarah’s research, seeds are one of the categories of foods that are more likely to be tolerated as a reintroduction, so some of us may be able to get back on the coffee train after the elimination diet is over. But wait…

Is there another reason to avoid coffee?

Unfortunately, yes. Caffeine, which is contained in varying amounts in coffee, can be a problematic chemical for some people — especially when it causes a dependence and inches us towards adrenal fatigue. Although caffeine gives us energy or provides a “pick me up” when we need it, often it ends up causing more harm than good. Ask me how I know… my former career as a barista in Seattle might offer some clues ;).

Beyond the negative impact caffeine has on our adrenals, it also acts as an immune stimulant, having the potential to cause autoimmune flares in some folks. Because of this, I think it is wise to consider eliminating caffeine in addition to coffee, at least for a trial period, to see how your body fares without it (you can read more from me on this topic in Kicking the Coffee Habit).

Even though coffee is out, are other caffeinated beverages OK?

While the Autoimmune Protocol avoids seeds during the elimination phase, and thus coffee, there is no restriction on caffeine. Sarah does give a warning, however, that caffeine is an immune stimulant and can be an issue for some people. That means other caffeinated beverages, like tea, are allowed (with caution) during the elimination phase.

Why is it important to wean off of caffeine?

If you are going to ditch coffee, unless you are going to replace it with a caffeinated tea you are likely also going to be ditching caffeine entirely. It is important not to quit caffeine cold-turkey, and instead wean yourself off of it gradually. You can do this by gradually reducing the amount of coffee you consume, by mixing regular coffee with decaf coffee, or switching to another non-coffee but still caffeine-containing beverage, like tea and working your way to less and less caffeine. I recommend doing this over a period of a few weeks, even months, if you have a serious dependance.

If you are thinking about embarking on the Autoimmune Protocol, you will thank yourself later for taking this step to gradually work your way down before you start. Trust me, caffeine withdrawal is no joke, and I’ve personally spent weeks in bed trying to get it out of my system the “hard” way.

What should I drink in the morning besides coffee?

Here are my six favorite coffee alternatives that are compliant with the elimination phase of the Autoimmune Protocol (and beyond, if you are like me and decide to ditch coffee for good!):

  1. Chicory/Dandelion Blend — If you haven’t tried this yet, be prepared to be blown away – this is an extremely coffee-like alternative! The roasted chicory and dandelion have a similar bitterness and acidity to coffee, but they don’t have any caffeine. In fact, both of these roots contain properties that aid in liver detoxification, so including them in your routine can actually be a way to love your liver. Try this steeped in a French Press, tea ball, or prepared “bulletproof” style (my personal favorite!).
  1. Tea — It almost goes without saying, but swapping out coffee for tea is one of the easiest alternatives out there. If you are weaning off coffee and would still like some caffeine, try some black, oolong, or green tea (caution though, as green tea can stimulate the immune system and cause flares in some folks). Great herbal, caffeine-free alternatives include rooibos, chamomile, peppermint, and licorice.
  1. Bone Broth — For those who are not yet broth converts, skipping coffee to enjoy a cup of warm broth in the morning may seem odd, but it is by far the most nourishing way to start the day. Bone broth contains many nutrients that are healing to the gut, like collagen, gelatin, and minerals like calcium and magnesium. See my Pressure Cooker Bone Broth recipe to make yourself a batch!
  1. Lemon Ginger Infusion — Ginger is one of my favorite anti-inflammatory spices, and using the fresh root to make an infusion is a great way to start the day. I like to slice a 1” piece of root into thin medallions, and steep for a few minutes with hot water and a squeeze of lemon.
  1. Coconut Milk Chai/”Natte” — I reserve a beverage like this for a special occasion both because it requires a little more effort and planning to execute, and can be sweet (think a weekend brunch). You will find my coconut milk chai recipe on p. 102 of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook. Also try this Pumpkin Spice “Natte”.
  1. Probiotic Drinks — While these don’t satisfy the “warm” and “cozy” feeling that the morning coffee ritual usually fulfills, they can be a great option for the warmer months (or beyond, if you don’t mind cold beverages in the morning!). Make your own or purchase Kombucha, Water Kefir, or Kvass to get a daily dose of probiotics.

I hope this article has opened you up to the possibilities of what you can have to drink in the morning without (gasp!) coffee! I think you will find these options not only tasty, but many of them nourishing and medicinal.

Are you coffee and/or caffeine-free? Have you tried any of the coffee alternatives on my list, and which one is your favorite?

About Mickey Trescott

Mickey Trescott is a cook and one of the bloggers behind Autoimmune Paleo. After recovering from her own struggle with both Celiac and Hashimoto’s disease, adrenal fatigue, and multiple vitamin deficiencies, Mickey started to write about her experience to share with others and help them realize they are not alone in their struggles. She is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner by the Nutritional Therapy Association, and is the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, a guide and recipe book for the autoimmune protocol, and AIP Batch Cook, a video-based batch cooking program. You also can find her on Instagram.

19 comments

  • Wendy says

    Coffee is the one thing I have absolutely struggled with! Giving up sugar, grains, dairy was easy but in 2 years of being Paleo I’ve never managed to ditch the coffee habit. I have cut it down from 4 cups a day to 1 first thing in the morning. I would love to see if I get further improvements in my health without it. I have Graves and RA. I have done all the suggestions on your list – broth, herbal tea, dandelion tea, not helping😕. I’m currently working with my naturopath on healing food intolerances. She has tested for coffee and says it doesn’t show up as a problem food. Working on a beef intolerance atm. Coffee for me is connected to emotions. It helps wake me up in the morning, I crave it if I’m stressed, but I also crave it when I’m happy and things are going well! Really struggling to go one day without it which is what makes me think it could be a problem. Would love your thoughts.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hey Wendy!
      The beautiful thing about the autoimmune protocol is that it is a template, meaning there are many ways in which you can personalize and make your own. It sounds like you have drastically reduced your coffee intake, and that little bit you still have gives you a big benefit in ritual and happiness. I would say if you reach a point with AIP + that cup of coffee where you feel great, good for you! If you still feel like there is some root cause that needs to be uncovered before you do deeper healing, ditching the coffee for a little while might be worth it. It is really up to you. Wishing you the best!

  • anita says

    I just started the AIP I am now down to 1 cup a day of coffee. That was very hard to do. I will conquer it. Just a matter of finding something I like instead. The chia tea with coconut milk I have not tried yet perhaps.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Anita,
      Good for you, I hope you find joy in some of these alternatives! Good luck!

  • Nancy says

    Really enjoy your blog and continue to learn so much about autoimmune healing. I have Hashimoto’s and, although not fully AIP, have found cleaning up my diet to be so helpful. The Autoimmune Paleo cookbook has been really helpful! Thank you! I’m not a coffee drinker but do love black tea. I have found that doing my ‘homemade’ decaf process helps reduce the caffeine to a tolerable level. I pour just enough boiling water over the tea bag to cover well and let sit for 30 – 45 seconds. Then I pour off that water (hanging on to the teabag w/ a spoon) and refill the cup with more hot water and let it steep. That first ‘flush’ of tea seems to contain most of the caffeine and allows me to drink my favorite black tea without the jitters. Voila! (May I just toss out a request re: your website. The continual movement of adv. photos on the sidebar makes it difficult to focus on the blog. Would appreciate calming that movement. Thanks!)

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Nancy,
      Thanks for being here! I like your suggestion about how to lower the caffeine content of tea. I do this when making kombucha, as I don’t want the caffeine to be passed on to my brew. Also thanks for the suggestion about the sidebar.

    • Kat says

      Great article. I don’t read many articles on here anymore due to the moving ads on the sidebar. If I really want to read something (and I wanted to read this one as caffeine is a big thing to completely let go of for me) then I have to hold my right hand up over the ads. Are you a highly sensitive person Nancy? At least one in five people are and web design is usually tailored more towards people who aren’t as sensitive so they actually enjoy extra movement (I’ve compared notes with friends on this).

  • Tammi M. Mitchell says

    Do you combine them together or is there a particular blend? If you do combine them, how much of each? Thank you.
    The chicory and Dandelion.

  • maartje says

    Nice post. I love broth, but I cant stand it anymore 🙁

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Maartje,
      Have you tried using broth in recipes, like soups and stews, instead of drinking straight? That is what I do most often nowadays.

  • Ashley S. says

    I don’t know if it’s AIP-friendly, but I often enjoy a spoonful of molasses with hot water. The consistency is similar to coffee and it has a ton of vitamins and minerals. My NP recommended I take it for iron deficiency. 🙂

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Ashley,
      Back in my vegan days I was prescribed a molasses and water drink for my iron deficiency. To be honest, nothing moved the needle until I started eating meat again, especially organ meats! This is a creative drink idea though, thanks for the suggestion!

  • Nancy Perry says

    Hey, Mickey! I have your Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook! In the water kefir recipe on page 199, it says 1/4 cup water-kefir grains for the whole recipe if two quart jars. I’ve always heard that you need a 1/4 cup grains per 1/4 cup sugar in 1 quart of water. Is that a typo? Thanks!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Nancy, not a typo, just my recipe!

  • Liana says

    I need clarity on whether Nutiva and Spectrum palm shortening are healthy or not. I use Nutiva shortening in my coffee every morning to get that creamy texture. It’s great! I have also seen it used in many Paleo recipes. However, my md said palm oil is horrible for the body. Can you clarify? Also, I am really wanting to try the bulletproof coffee alternative but it comes to About $50 for 1lb of chicory & 1lb of dandelion roots total. Yikes!!!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Liana,
      Palm shortening made from palm oil is included in the elimination diet. I believe it to be a healthy saturated fat. About the dandelion and chicory – there is no way you need 1 pound of each, maybe start with a couple of ounces and see how you like it first!

  • Geri says

    would Teeccino Caffé chicory and dandelion coffee substitute be ok.?

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hi Geri, Teecino contains barley and is not included on the elimination diet. Sorry!

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