Let’s start this post with the only answer we can really give to this question, and that is: there is no clear answer. Everyone is different and what one person can tolerate may create a fiery pit of hell in the digestive tract of someone else.
But whether you’re a coffee fiend reading this out of pre-emptive concern, or if you’re suffering from symptoms that seem to tie into your fondness for that 7 am kickstart in the morning, don’t fret. We’re not here to get you to go cold turkey, we’re here to ascertain whether coffee is causing you an actual problem and whether you can get around that problem without putting your local Starbucks out of business!
The reality is the coffee does affect your gut health. But it’s not all bad. Coffee also stimulates peristalsis which results in more bowel movements. In fact, some people with this issue actually drink coffee regularly because of the laxative effect it provides. If you often find yourself suffering from constipation, then this isn’t really a bad thing – in moderation.
However, if you suffer from IBD-D or IBS-D (where diarrhea is your main issue), then this clearly isn’t a good thing and you fall into the bracket of people who should reduce their coffee intake. With that in mind, if you suffer from IBD-C or IBS-C (constipation) then coffee could actually help you out quite a bit. Right? Sort of.
The problem with this idea is that the acidity of coffee can have an adverse effect on the lining of your stomach and intestines and create irritation and swelling. So if you have any existing gut problems, drinking a lot of coffee on a daily basis can exacerbate these symptoms, regardless of whether it helps to clear out your bowels.
So Where Does That Leave You?
Well, recent studies have also shown that coffee can have a positive effect on your gut microbiome (wine too, by the way!). And it all really does depend on the gut health of each individual. Whilst some people can down cups of coffee every day without consequence, others will experience issues such as bloating, stomach gurgling, heartburn, and acid reflux. Studies say that specific enzymes in coffees are also thought to trigger an immune response which causes these inflammatory symptoms.
It’s still not really known why coffee affects some people more than others, but this tolerance is thought to be related to a range of factors such as metabolism, genetics, and our own individual microbiome.
Basically, if your gut is healthy and you’re not drinking 10 cups of coffee a day, your regular cuppa won’t do much damage and can even be beneficial. But if you have a sensitive gut or you’re suffering from a serious digestive condition, you’re going to have to consider cutting coffee out for good because the inflammation it can cause simply is not worth it.