Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.
—Heather Morgan, MS, NLC
Do you sabotage your efforts to eat healthier and exercise by drinking sugary, caffeine-loaded and chemically-laden drinks? Many of these drinks are touted as “health drinks” and an unsuspecting consumer can easily assume they are healthy.
Rethinking your beverages means that you start looking at the ingredients (as well as the sugar and caffeine content) of the drinks you imbibe on a regular basis to see if they contain ingredients that contribute to leaky gut, autoimmunity or any chronic disease.
Why What You Drink is Important
Drinks and beverages are an important part of any healthy nutritional program. Many people tend to overlook the importance and powerful effect that our beverage choices have on our overall health. Sugar, caffeine, artificial colorings, and other chemicals added to many drinks raise your cortisol levels (the main hormone that is released in a stressful situation), and loosen the tight junctures of the gut, leading to leaky gut and autoimmunity. Healthy drinks provide important and vital nutrients to our bodies, minds, and spirits. The most important nutritional benefit of beverages is hydration. Even slight dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, and weakness. Drinks are also “refreshing” – they refresh us when we’re feeling a little tired, need a break, or our bodies need some nourishment.
Best Drinks to Rebuild
Review the lowdown on healthy and unhealthy drinks below. Then, simply choose to replace one or more of your beverages today and move forward with a healthier alternative. The top healthy beverages that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere include water, teas, and spritzers.
Water: The Best Thirst Quencher of All
Molly Siple tells us in her book, Healing Foods for Dummies, that “Water is a primary and fundamental nutrient, just like proteins, fat, and carbohydrates.”1 The following list explains how water is crucial for many functions within the body:
• Transports vitamins and minerals
• Takes part in water-dependent chemical reactions
• Plays a role in energy production
• Provides lubrication around joints
• Serves as a shock absorber inside the spinal cord and eyes
• Provides a vehicle for waste removal from the body (detoxes)
• Plumps up cells so that wrinkles are less apparent2
• Green Tea – Most everyone has heard about the benefits of green tea – you can even find it in lotions and soaps these days. The Chinese have been using green tea as a medicine for at least 4,000 years. A study in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicated that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent3. In addition, researchers at the University of Purdue concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells.4
There is also research that indicates that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol. Green tea is also reputed to be helpful for infections, menopause, heart disease, impaired immune function and rheumatoid arthritis, among others. The only down side to green tea is that it contains caffeine, about 60 mg in 6-8 ounces compared to over 100 mg in coffee. However, you can now have decaffeinated green tea.
• Herbal Teas – Drinking herbal teas is a wonderful way to slow down and take a nurturing break from the stresses of life. I take at least two herbal tea breaks a day, sitting quietly and just savoring the fresh, healing aroma and taking a minute for myself away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I also never go to bed without my chamomile tea . . . it is part of my bedtime ritual and promotes good sleep.
Here are a few of the more well-known types of herbal teas and their medicinal qualities:
o Ginger: Energizes, warms the system, and eases digestion.
o Chamomile: Calms, relaxes and promotes sleep.
o Peppermint: Aids digestion and lessens menstrual cramps.
o Ginseng: Counteracts fatigue and acts as a general tonic.
o Senna: Prevents constipation.
All these teas are wonderful cold as well. Enjoy!
One of the first secrets I learned after being diagnosed with MS and having to cut out all sugar, caffeine, and sodas was that club soda and all brands of sparkling waters spiked with fresh lemon or lime not only energized me, these refreshing drinks also cut down my sweet cravings tremendously. I began to experiment with orange and grapefruit wedges as well as adding natural sweeteners like stevia to these mixtures to create my own “virgin” spritzers.
With the spa revolution, I discovered that spas also use the spritzer idea with filtered water and add cucumbers, strawberries, or kiwi to the mix sometimes, which gives plain old water a refreshing, cool, clean flavor.
Dean’s Story: Ditch the sodas and Dig Life More . . .
Dean is a client I worked with that had huge success with cleaning up his drinks. He made a decision to get healthy and ditch soda. Here is what he shared:
When I started working with Linda, I had just been prescribed a medication for hypertension and was not feeling at all happy about that. Linda began to assess my diet and when she saw that I drank two to three sodas a day, she suggested that I switch to some healthier drinks. She suggested water and green tea. I also began to drink sparkling waters with lemon and juice splashes. Two months after I reduced my coffee consumption to an occasional latte as a treat and quit drinking sodas altogether, I had lost twenty-three pounds, was completely off medication for hypertension, and felt better than ever! Everyone was asking me what I was doing because I looked so great. I did not miss the sodas at all because the teas and other drinks were delicious, energizing, and refreshing. As a result, I also increased my water intake. Now, I feel great and find myself telling others to stop drinking sodas in order to feel better, lose weight and be healthier.
Drinks to Avoid or Limit
The following drinks cause a negative effect on your cells and overall health. Avoid them to create optimal health and enjoy continuous high energy.
• All Soft Drinks, Including Diet Sodas. They have a ton of sugar (10 teaspoons)! Just cutting soft drinks from your diet can help you to lose 10 pounds or more, in a short time, like Dean in today’s client success story. Diet sodas have aspartame, which has been proven to have many negative effects on health. To make things worse, research shows that people who drink diet sodas actually gain weight!5
• Processed Juices. One glass of juice is comprised of six to eight pieces of fruit, making the sugar content too high. Because the fiber has been removed, juice bypasses normal digestion and enters the bloodstream immediately, shocking the body, and causing cortisol levels to rise. Besides, all of the enzymes and most of the vitamins have been killed during the pasteurization process, leaving little true nutrition. A healthier way to enjoy juices is to either get a juicer and/or splash club soda into your juice, diluting juice content to only one-third.
• Sports Drinks. Sports drinks are also loaded with sugar, and oftentimes, other chemicals, so unless you are exercising intensely for over an hour – or in extreme heat – you don’t need a sports drink. You can get those electrolytes from a packet of Emergen-C Lite (no sugar) sold in natural food stores or vitamin shops. Another wonderful electrolyte drink is Fortune Delight tea mix from Sunrider International foods. (See resource section.)
• Red Bull, Monster, and 5-hour Energy drinks. Drinks that contain Ephedra, Mahjong, and very high doses of caffeine should be avoided. These are powerful drugs and stimulants and cause the stress response in your body to kick in (often leading to leaky gut, autoimmunity). They also wear your body out by allowing you to push way past your normal energy levels, leading to eventual adrenal exhaustion, hormone imbalances, and other health problems.
• Coffee. Limit to one cup per day if you absolutely can’t bear to live without it. Caffeine is a diuretic, promoting loss of minerals and vitamins, and can also trigger anxiety, sleeplessness, irregular heartbeat, and low blood sugar. It is also addictive.
Weaning Off Coffee
If you are used to drinking two or more cups of coffee (or other caffeinated beverages), your body is most likely addicted to caffeine, and is using it as an artificial stimulant. You will most likely experience withdrawal symptoms as you stop propping your body and mind up with caffeine. By following a healthy gluten-free, clean diet and eating nutrient-dense foods, you will begin to build up sustainable energy. In the meantime, try the following ideas to help you through the transition:
1. Quit drinking coffee on a weekend, so you can adjust somewhat to the withdrawal symptoms before the work week.
2. Go cold turkey – this is the quickest way to quit, but you should prepare yourself for possible headaches and fatigue as your body detoxes.
3. Mix half caffeinated with half decaffeinated coffee for the first week.
4. Reduce your caffeine intake each day for a week. For example, if you are drinking two cups a day, reduce it to one cup on day two, then to half cup on day three, and so on.
• Black Teas. Black tea is high in caffeine and tannins which can add to the jitters, and it contains enzymes that split thiamin (vitamin B1), making it unavailable to the body. Even the benefits of the tannins have a downside and can block the absorption of calcium, iron, thiamin, and vitamin B12. Another side effect is that tea, like coffee, is a diuretic.
• Milk and all dairy. Many people are allergic to dairy, or are lactose intolerant. Milk drinks contain saturated fats and cause mucous to form in many people. Try switching to coconut milk. You can try using almond or cashew milk, and if no reaction, you can consume these two milks as well. They’re delicious and have no saturated fats!
• Many processed “health drinks”. If it’s in a bottle, it means it is pasteurized and has lost most nutrients and all enzymes. If it contains more than 10 grams of sugar, it is too much sugar for your body to handle without causing the stress response.
• Alcoholic Beverages. Research has shown that there are several benefits of drinking alcohol – particularly red wine – such as polyphenols, which have been shown to protect your heart and protect against cancer, and flavonoids, which have been shown to remove free radicals, molecules that can damage your arteries and cells. However, there are many risks involved in drinking alcohol, such as its toxicity to the liver, which can cause liver disease, problems with blood sugar, insomnia, hypertension, and oral cancer. Fruits and homemade fruit juices are a safer bet for those same benefits.
In a journal or notebook, answer the following questions:
- How might my health and life be better if I gave up some of the unhealthy drinks I love?
- What could happen if I stop drinking these drinks and substitute healthier ones?
- Now, write down the changes that you are going to make in your beverage selection and intake starting today.
Wishing you a beautiful week filled with love, joy, peace and lots of healthy refreshing drinks.
1 Molly Siple, Healing Foods for Dummies (Foster City, CA: IDG Books, 1999), 149.
2 Ibid., 150.
3 Yu Tang Gao, Joseph K. McLaughlin, William J. Blot, Bu Tian Ji, Qi Dai, and Joseph F. Fraumeni, “Reduced Risk of Esophageal Cancer Associated With Green Tea Consumption,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute (1994) Vol. 86, Issue 11: 855-858. doi: 10.1093/jnci/86.11.855.
4 Susan Gaidos, “Study Finds How Green Tea May Prevent Cancer,” Purdue News (1999).
5 Mandy Oaklander, “What Diet Soda Does to Belly Fat,” Time Magazine, March 17, 2015.