How Does Coffee Affect People with a Chronic Lung Condition?

Red coffee cup on wooden table filled with coffee

Do you enjoy starting each morning with a hot cup of coffee? Or maybe you l like ending a long day with a bite of dark chocolate. If caffeine is a normal part of your routine, then you are one of the 80% of Americans who consume caffeine on a daily basis [1]! 

In moderation, caffeine may offer certain health benefits, such as alertness, improved brain function, and memory [2]. On the other hand, caffeine can also contribute to feelings of anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and depression [3]. 

Steaming cup of coffee sitting on kitchen table.Caffeine and Your Lungs

Caffeine is a stimulant that is naturally found in fruit, coffee beans, cacao, and guarana plants [4]. These sources are then used to produce many of the popular foods and drinks we consume each day, including coffee, chocolate, tea, soda, etc. 

Because caffeine stimulates the nervous system, when consumed in large amounts, it can increase your heart rate, which in turn, can cause rapid shallow breathing (i.e., small short breaths) [5].

If you’re living with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), bronchiectasis, or even asthma, you might be wondering: “Is coffee bad for my lungs?”

The answer to this question is not as cut and dry as you may think. In fact, one study found that caffeine may work as a weak bronchodilator to help treat asthma symptoms and reduce respiratory muscle fatigue [6]. 

“Caffeine has a similar action to the medication theophylline, which is sometimes prescribed to treat asthma. They both relax the smooth muscles of the lungs and open up bronchial tubes, which can improve breathing” [7].

Another study reported that people who drink coffee every day reduced their asthma-related symptoms by 29% [8]. 

Graphic icon of to-go coffee cup.COPD and Caffeine

One concern that many people have concerning COPD and coffee—or other food and drinks that contain large amounts of caffeine—is that caffeine may interfere with certain medications that help manage COPD [9]. This can include certain antibiotics and bronchodilators [10].

Bronchiectasis and Caffeine

The interesting relationship with bronchiectasis and coffee, or other caffeinated products—aside from how it may interfere with certain medications used to treat constricted lungs and airways—is that caffeinated beverages have a mild diuretic effect, especially when consumed in large quantities.

“Significantly high levels of caffeine intake may contribute to dehydration by stimulating the body to release more liquid than usual” [11].

In a previous article, we discussed the importance of staying hydrated when you’re living with a chronic lung condition like COPD or bronchiectasis. As these conditions make it more difficult for the lungs to mobilize and clear mucus independently, water helps thin and loosen mucus so it’s easier to move and cough out [12].

Though it’s true that caffeinated beverages can contribute to your daily fluid intake, there are better ways to stay hydrated and nourish your body. Water, for instance, helps your body fight infection, supplies it with essential nutrients, and keeps organs functioning properly [13].

While caffeinated products like coffee may help you stay alert, they can also make you feel anxious and cause your heart to race or experience irregular heartbeats [14]. This in turn will affect other vital organs, including your lungs and how you breathe. 

So, Is Coffee Bad for Your Lungs

More research will need to be conducted to accurately answer if coffee and bronchiectasis, or coffee and COPD, have a positive (or negative) relationship with one another. 

What we do know is that you’ll want to speak to your clinician about whether or not caffeine products, like coffee, will interfere with any medications you’re using to help manage your condition.

In addition, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing beverages and foods that help you stay hydrated and reduce mucus buildup to avoid a respiratory infection and worsening of chronic symptoms. 

Aside from knowing which foods and activities to avoid when living with bronchiectasis or COPD, you’ll also need to ensure you’re actively managing your condition with the right airway clearance treatment. That’s where SmartVest comes in!

SmartVest is a high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) therapy device that you wear like a vest. By delivering rapidly repeating pulses of air, it gently squeezes and releases your upper chest wall with 360° chest coverage to help loosen and propel mucus upward, where it can be coughed out more easily. 

Request a Patient PacketMake SmartVest Part of Your Home Therapy Routine

To learn more about how SmartVest can help you prevent mucus buildup and enjoy airway clearance therapy in the comfort of your home, request an informational packet today! 
Have questions? We’d love to chat! Contact one of our Patient Care Advocates, who are also Respiratory Therapists, for a one-on-one discussion about making SmartVest a part of your treatment plan by scheduling a time to chat or calling directly at 1.855.528.5690.

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Resources

[1] Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Caffeine & Long Work Hours.” Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/longhourstraining/caffeine.html

[2] Medical News Today. “What does caffeine do to your body?” Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285194

[3] Medical News Today. “What does caffeine do to your body?” Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285194

[4] The Nutrition Source. “Caffeine.” Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/

[5] Forbes. “Caffeine. The Silent Killer of Success.” Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2012/08/21/caffeine-the-silent-killer-of-emotional-intelligence/?sh=58a18473118c

[6] National Library of Medicine. “Caffeine for Asthma.” Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7053252/

[7] The Nutrition Source. “Caffeine.” Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/

[8] Jocksci. “Caffeine Intake and Asthma Symptoms.” Retrieved from https://docksci.com/caffeine-intake-and-asthma-symptoms_5e86be9a097c4723378b458a.html

[9] Cleveland Clinic. “Nutritional Guidelines for People with COPD.” Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9451-nutritional-guidelines-for-people-with-copd

[10] Medical News Today. “What does caffeine do to your body?” Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285194#risks

[11] Medical News Today. “Dehydrating drinks: Caffeine, sugar, and other ingredients.” Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/dehydrating-drinks#Caffeinated-drinks

[12] Lung Health Institute. “Staying Hydrated with COPD.” Retrieved from https://centersforrespiratoryhealth.com/blog/staying-hydrated-with-copd/

[13] Harvard T.H. Chan. School of Public Health. “The Importance of Hydration.” Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-importance-of-hydration/

[14] Cleveland Clinic. “Caffeine: How to Hack It and How to Quit It. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15496-caffeine-how-to-hack-it-and-how-to-quit-it

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