Brewing The Truth: The Effects of Coffee on Our Gut
Ah coffee, the beloved morning pick-me-up for many. And for good reason - the sweet aroma of roasted beans, the much-needed boost of energy and the comforting warmth in our hands and bellies. But for some, coffee can lead to heartburn or an uncomfortable run to the bathroom soon after. If that sounds familiar, this blog is for you! Let’s have a look at how and why and what we can do to alleviate any discomfort.
Coffee has many benefits including its high level of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It also contains caffeine which can be seen as a blessing or a curse as it fights fatigue and increases energy levels but can also increase anxiety and disrupt sleep.
How Can Coffee Affect Our Gut?
When it comes to coffee and our gut, there are various factors that have to be considered.
- As mentioned above, coffee contains caffeine, a natural stimulant that can increase the frequency of contractions throughout our digestive tract which in turn stimulates digestion and excretion (meaning we’re likely to have more or faster bowel movements). This can be particularly helpful for those with IBS-C (or constipation) but not so much for those with IBS-D (or diarrhoea).
- Coffee also contains many different acids which have been shown to increase stomach acid production. This helps to break down our food so it can move through our gut but can also aggravate heartburn and associated symptoms.
- Other additives such as milk or sweeteners can also contribute to an upset stomach. Regular cow's milk, for example, is high FODMAP due to the lactose as are many sweeteners (like honey or sugar-free alternatives) which are often high in fructose or polyols.
Tips to Avoid an Upset Stomach
If you find yourself resonating with the above symptoms, the good news is there are several things we can do to combat these uncomfortable coffee-related stomach issues.
- Try to avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach. Given it’s considered acidic, sipping it slowly alongside food (or Fodbods) can ease its digestion.
- Watch your additives! If you’re lactose intolerant, try opting for a plant-based milk alternative such as almond or soy milk, and if you’re on a low FODMAP diet, be mindful of sweeteners (we recommend checking out this guide for more information).
- Try drinking cold or iced coffee as it is slightly less acidic than hot coffee meaning it’s easier to digest and causes fewer problems.
So, there you have it - the good, the bad and the gut-wrenching truth about coffee and its effect on our digestive system. For the record, we’re not saying no to coffee (because we’ll definitely continue to drink ours) but just know that it affects everyone differently. With a little care and consideration, you can continue to enjoy your beloved brew without any tummy aches or bloating!