Is Coffee Bad for Digestion?
Coffee. Our go-to for that morning or afternoon pick-me-up. Coffee is actually quite a complex beverage. While it contains caffeine, it also contains over one thousand different compounds, including antioxidants and oils 1. The way coffee is processed, including the beans used, the roast degree, and storage conditions can influence the compounds in your cup.
Some recommendations for patients with digestive conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome discourage the consumption of caffeine. As one of the most consumed beverages in the world, you may be asking, is coffee good or bad for digestion?
Is Coffee Bad for Digestion?
While there is no definite answer as to whether coffee is good or bad for digestion, it certainly affects the digestive system.
Various research studies have indicated that coffee can contribute to:
- Heartburn and indigestion 2
- Stimulation of movement in the intestines, leading to loose stools and/or diarrhea 3
- Anxiety and the inability to sleep, resulting in worsening symptoms of digestive conditions such as IBS and IBD 5
- Heartburn or increased symptoms of GERD 4
While there is no single irritant that can cause digestive troubles, it may be worth trying out different roasts, and eliminating dairy from your beverage. More than 7 million Canadians are impacted by lactose intolerance, a digestive disorder where one is unable to properly digest dairy products. This can result in diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps/pain, bloating and/or excessive gas.
Can I Drink Coffee with Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
A 2015 study asked patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis about their opinions on coffee and their symptoms. 73% of those surveyed regularly consumed coffee, and 45% of patients with Crohn’s disease attributed coffee with negative effects 5. Only 20% of ulcerative colitis patients reported experiencing negative effects when consuming coffee.
It is always important to listen to your body and to contact your healthcare provider to determine what is best for you and your condition.
Benefits of Coffee:
But it’s not all bad! One scientific review of 194 research publications found that moderate consumption of coffee (up to 3 cups per day6) did not result in harmful effects on the organs of the digestive tract. The data suggests that coffee may stimulate the colon (causing you to poop!) as much as fibrous cereals and 60% more than a glass of water, which may help with concerns of constipation 7.
Some other benefits of coffee include:
- Eliminating Waste: Because coffee helps stimulate digestion, it helps you eliminate waste quicker. This may help reduce the incidence of constipation, and reduce the risk of certain cancers, as harmful materials spend less time in the colon and against intestinal walls8.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Coffee has been found to positively impact the gut microbiome with its prebiotic properties. Coffee can lower harmful specifics of microbes and feed the good bacteria in your gut 7.
- Source of Dietary Fibre: Dietary fibre can be found in some coffee grounds. A medium cup of coffee (16 ounces) can contain as much as three grams of fibre, similar to that of a raw apple 9.
So, what kind of coffee should I drink?
A 2010 study found that dark roast coffees are usually less acidic, containing twice the amount of N-methylpyridinium, a compound that blocks the ability of stomach cells to produce acid (2). If you are experiencing tummy troubles after consuming your cup of coffee, try to opt for a dark roast to determine if you will experience less discomfort.
As always, everyone is different, so it is essential to monitor your intake of coffee and symptoms to determine what is best for you!
1.Bonita et. Al (2007). “Coffee and cardiovascular disease: In vitro, cellular, animal, and human studies”. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.006
3.-“Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA),” Diabetes Care. DOI: 10.2337/dc08-1799
5. Barthel, Christiane et al. “Patients’ perceptions on the impact of coffee consumption in inflammatory bowel disease: friend or foe?–a patient survey.” Nutrition journal vol. 14 78. 12 Aug. 2015, doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0070-8
7.-Nehlig, A. (2022) Effects of Coffee on the Gastro-Intestinal Tract: A Narrative Review and Literature Update. Nutrients. doi.org/10.3390/nu14020399
8. Rao SS, Welcher K, Zimmerman B, Stumbo P. Is coffee a colonic stimulant? Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1998 Feb;10(2):113-8. doi: 10.1097/00042737-199802000-00003. PMID: 9581985.