A question I get asked regularly from subscribers is, “Eric, how does coffee affect my gut? Is it bad? Should I keep away from it? Is it junk?”
Coffee has many effects on your digestive system, just like it has many effects on your overall health. Coffee can agitate some people. In other people, coffee can help calm them down. On the plus side, coffee contains antioxidants, similar to dark chocolate. Many people have a cup of coffee to help them concentrate when they’re writing or doing detailed work. For many people, coffee is an enjoyable daily ritual. Often, it’s a social activity as well.
Some people use coffee to help them move their bowels. However, coffee contains acids that can irritate the gut. If you have reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, or another type of digestive condition, avoid coffee if it seems to make things worse. Coffee can also cause problems for people with thyroid or adrenal issues. Don’t be like my grandfather who drank so much coffee that he ended up with a jar full of kidney stones. When I was in my 20s, I had severe Candida, and I couldn’t tolerate coffee at all. Now that my gut is in great shape, I enjoy a good cup of high-quality coffee. I read a study from 2009 that involved 16 healthy adults. The study looked at the types of bacteria found in fecal samples. The subjects had three cups of coffee daily for 14 days. The fecal samples taken after the two weeks of drinking coffee had higher levels of bifidobacteria when compared to samples from people who don’t often drink coffee. It’s interesting that coffee can increase the number of beneficial bacteria. Not only was the number of beneficial bacteria increased, so was their level of activity.
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If you are going to drink coffee, make sure you also drink plenty of water during the day. Coffee and tea are not suitable substitutes for water. Coffee can be dehydrating because caffeine is a diuretic.
My recommendation is that if you have a gut problem, including issues with your pancreas, IBS, or GERD, it’s best to avoid coffee until your digestive system is healthier. This is the same advice I give to people when it comes to fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut. Don’t put a heap of stuff in your gut when your GI system is already acting up. That won’t work. It’s not good advice to suddenly start eating tons of probiotics and prebiotics.
Coffee can be good. Coffee can be bad. It depends on how much you’re drinking, the quality of the coffee, and the state of your gut. If you’re going to drink coffee, invest in a good coffee maker and pay a little more for high-quality coffee. You won’t regret it.