Coffee and digestion – what is the story?

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Some folk with digestive upset swear that coffee does not affect them and others found they had to give up that delicious beverage to reduce some symptoms. Those who experience only constipation find a morning coffee has a beneficial laxative effect.

So your relationship with coffee probably all depends on the type of symptoms you experience.

It is not just caffeine that is the issue so just changing to decaffeinated coffee is not the answer usually. There are a myriad of naturally occurring chemicals in coffee that make it taste as it does and many of these may act on secretion processes in the gut, increase inflammation and intestinal content movement. Remember too that our love of coffee and strong coffee at that has increased enormously in the last five years and many guts are feeling the consequences.

Actual scientific evidence is variable though probably due to the different effects on different gut segments. It is known however that drinking coffee makes stomach symptoms worse in general – it can lead to inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) as well as making reflux (gastro-oesphageal reflux) worse. The laxative effect of coffee makes those with rapid gut transit /diarhoea symptoms worse though as mentioned above constipated individuals benefit from this. Coffee itself is however low in FODMAP’s it may be that you can include some in your daily plan…so again, it depends on your individual symptoms.

I am often asked ‘How do I know if coffee affects my symptoms?’ . The simple answer is to do a two week trial and see what happens, a diary helps. This is not as hard as it sounds as because chances are you are feeling off with digestive symptoms and a if a limited time without coffee could see some improvements most people manage this. If that is too much try just one fairly weak cup per day and have it with food, not on an empty stomach. Alternative hot beverages include black/milk tea , lemon and ginger tea or chamomile tea for example.

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