Is this seemingly 'healthy' coffee ingredient ruining gut health?

Is this seemingly 'healthy' coffee ingredient ruining gut health?

Certain individuals herald coffee as a miraculous brew, while others express concerns over its potentially harmful components, such as mycotoxins. Let’s delve into the scientific evidence to comprehend the impact of coffee on digestive wellness. A Brief Chronicle of Coffee

The exact inception of coffee consumption remains a mystery, but historical records trace its existence back to at least the 15th century.

Coffee is widely acclaimed for its ability to invigorate, and there’s a legendary tale of an Ethiopian shepherd who made this discovery. He observed his goats becoming lively and sleepless at night after consuming berries from particular trees. Upon hearing this account, the local monks created a beverage from these berries to remain vigilant during extended prayers. This marked the genesis of human consumption of coffee.

The production of coffee involves collecting berries from coffea plants, known as coffee “cherries”. These cherries undergo either a wet or dry processing procedure, followed by drying, milling (hulling, polishing, and sorting), roasting, and eventually exporting. Coffee enthusiasts may choose to grind their own beans or purchase pre-ground beans. 

Generally, coffee is acknowledged to possess health-promoting properties. An analysis of 112 meta-analyses of observational studies revealed that coffee possibly contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory constituents. Long-term consumption of coffee may offer protection against inflammation and related diseases.

Minimizing inflammation is advantageous for digestive health. Research indicates that coffee possibly exerts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic effects on the gastrointestinal tract’s lining. Specific potential positive influences of coffee on digestive health include:

  • Accelerated restoration of gastrointestinal functions in individuals who consumed coffee post-abdominal surgery, compared to non-consumers.
  • Enhanced bowel movement in individuals with constipation, although it might not be favorable for those with diarrhea.
  • An increase in beneficial bacterial strains, such as Bifidobacteria, which could improve the gut microbiome.

Is Coffee Associated with Digestive Discomfort?

Despite the potential benefits, it's common to hear claims or experience that coffee consumption may lead to digestive issues, predominantly IBS, acid reflux, and leaky gut.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

An observational study found coffee drinkers to have a 44% higher likelihood of developing IBS compared to non-drinkers, particularly in individuals consuming over 106.5 mg of caffeine daily. Johns Hopkins recommends avoiding caffeine as it may stimulate diarrhea in IBS patients.

However, it's crucial to realize that the observations mainly pertain to caffeine intake, not solely coffee. There are no randomized clinical trials yet examining coffee’s specific role in IBS. If you suffer from IBS, considering excluding coffee while focusing on gut repair through anti-inflammatory, natural diets like low-FODMAP.

Reflux and Acid Indigestion

Coffee is suspected to contribute to conditions such as laryngopharyngeal reflux, GERD, and acid indigestion. However, coffee was not solely studied but considered among other food and beverage items.

A small randomized clinical trial involving 30 participants sensitive to coffee and exhibiting GERD symptoms demonstrated that coffee consumption induced acid indigestion and regurgitation in most subjects. The study found no significant difference based on the roasting process.

Leaky Gut

Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, involves the weakening of the gut lining, permitting toxins to infiltrate the bloodstream, leading to systemic inflammation. Individuals with leaky gut often report aggravation of symptoms, such as diarrhea or stomach pain, upon coffee consumption.

Mold in Coffee: Fact or Fiction?

There are assertions regarding coffee containing mold, fungi, or mycotoxins, which could lead to a range of health issues. Mycotoxins are toxins produced by molds and are present in various food and beverages. While trace amounts of mycotoxins have been detected in coffee, no studies conclusively demonstrate harmful levels. Anecdotally, some individuals sensitive to mold report gastrointestinal issues upon consuming conventional coffee but not when opting for mold-tested variants.

How do you make coffee gut friendly?

Making coffee more gut-friendly involves adjusting your coffee preparation and consumption habits. Here are some strategies that can help in reducing the potential adverse effects of coffee on the digestive system:

  • Choose Low Acidity Beans: Some coffee beans are lower in acidity, and opting for these can be gentler on your stomach. Look for coffee labeled as smooth, mild, or low-acidity. Arabica beans are usually lower in acidity compared to Robusta beans.
  • Cold Brew Coffee: Cold brewing coffee tends to produce a smoother, less acidic beverage. You can make cold brew coffee by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in cold water for about 12-24 hours and then filtering it.
  • Avoid Drinking on an Empty Stomach: Drinking coffee on an empty stomach can increase the production of stomach acid and may lead to digestive discomfort. Have a meal or at least a small snack before consuming coffee.
  • Add a Pinch of Baking Soda: Adding a small amount of baking soda to your coffee can neutralize the acidity. However, use it sparingly as it can alter the flavor.
  • Use Dairy or Non-Dairy Milk: Adding milk or a milk alternative can help to neutralize the coffee's acidity. Some people find that almond milk or oat milk is particularly soothing.
  • Avoid Excessive Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: Too much sugar can contribute to an unhealthy gut environment, and artificial sweeteners may cause digestive discomfort in some individuals.
  • Monitor Portion Sizes: Drinking large quantities of coffee at once can be harsh on the stomach. Opt for smaller, more frequent servings if necessary.
  • Experiment with Brewing Times: Longer brewing times can extract more acids. Experiment with reducing the brewing time to see if it makes the coffee gentler on your stomach.
  • Use Clean, Filtered Water: The quality of water used for brewing can affect the taste and acidity of coffee. Use clean, filtered water for a smoother cup.
  • Consider Adding Prebiotics or Collagen: Some people find that adding a prebiotic fiber supplement or collagen powder to their coffee can help support gut health.
  • Be Mindful of the Time of Day: Drinking coffee later in the day can disrupt sleep, which in turn can have negative effects on gut health. It’s best to drink coffee earlier in the day.
  • Listen to Your Body: Finally, listen to your body. If certain types of coffee or brewing methods consistently cause you discomfort, it may be best to avoid them.

Is Coffee Beneficial?

If you have a healthy digestive system, consuming coffee should be fine and might even be beneficial due to its anti-inflammatory properties. About two cups a day appear to be favorable for overall health.

However, if you experience digestive issues such as stomach pain, bloating, or reflux, it's advisable to avoid coffee initially. Focus on establishing a healthy gut through a low-inflammatory diet and probiotics. Once digestive health improves, reintroducing coffee could be possible.

Remember, managing chronic illnesses involves identifying and addressing triggers. Temporary avoidance of triggers like coffee during the healing phase is beneficial, but reintroduction post-recovery is often feasible. For personalized assistance in evaluating and improving your health, don’t hesitate to consult professionals who can guide you on the road to recovery.

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