Are Coffee and Tea Hydrating?

This is a big debate out there but really for the most part it depends on how much coffee and tea you are drinking and what else you are drinking in addition to coffee and tea.

So whats the problem?

Coffee and tea are both high in a kind of molecule that are called tannins. Tannins are the kind of molecule that is used in tanning leather hides. What they do is take the protein molecules that are present in epithelial tissue (your skin and digestive system lining) and they bind the proteins together so that molecules (like water for leather) cannot get through. This is an excellent process for making leather usable and waterproof but when you do the same thing to your digestive lining it makes it very difficult to absorb water and required nutrients, aka food.

It does take a relatively large amount of coffee and tea to cause tanning actions in the digestive lining. If you are drinking plenty of other fluids the effects of coffee and tea should be negligible. But if you are drinking more than 1-2 cups of coffee and/or tea a day it is necessary to drink additional water to counterbalance the tanning effects of the coffee and tea. The calculation I like to use is the following. If I normally would drink 8 cups of water a day and I add in 2 cups of coffee, I then need to drink 10 cups of water with the 2 cups of coffee. I add one additional cup of water for every cup of coffee. For myself, I don’t need as much additional water when I am drinking tea. If you drink a lot of coffee or tea each day you can see that you might quickly be aiming to drink significantly more fluids than before.

There is hope however! Every day our digestive system works hard to grow new epithelial tissue and our old digestive lining is broken down and disposed of. This means that when you have damaged your digestive lining with tannins it will eventually replace itself. I generally think that the whole lining is replaced every week but it will be different for each individual.

Taking a break from coffee and tea for a week can allow your digestive system to replenish its epithelial tissue so you can more effectively absorb your food and water as well. This may be an excellent choice to make to reset your energy levels. So often we drink coffee and tea to increase or energy levels but tannins may be stopping us from absorbing many of the nutrients we need to have energy from our food. A reset may be a good way to test this on your way to healthier hydration.

In the end, coffee and tea do have high water content to help hydrate you but they do also have tannins that can greatly reduce your ability to absorb water over time. It is all about balance and paying attention to your body. Learn what it is like when you don’t have coffee and tea to make an informed decision as to if they have a place in supporting your own hydration levels.

Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more of our posts, join us on Patreon. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online. For more learning opportunities or to work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultationsvisit The Dancing Herbalist.com.

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