Coffee and Your Gut Health: Is it Friend or Foe?

By Krista


Last Updated: September 23, 2022

Ah, the gut microbiome! If you’ve dove into health blogs or follow health gurus, you might’ve heard lots of talk about this part of the body lately. In fact, research continues to come out regarding how to improve gut health and even how the gut microbiome impacts other systems throughout the body. 

And get this: A shocking 40% of adults suffer from some kind of gut issue. It’s safe to say that something awry is going on when it comes to our gut health! Now, when it comes to coffee and gut health, there is tons of debate on whether you should or shouldn’t continue sipping that cup o’ joe in the morning. 

For many of us, our morning coffee offers a source of comfort. It eases us into the day. It’s like a warm hug first thing! But is it helping or hurting our existing gut issues? Maybe you’re stomach always feels kind of “off,” or perhaps you’re finding you tolerate fewer and fewer foods. 

So, does coffee help or hurt gut health? What about decaf coffee and your gut? Below, we dive into everything you should know regarding coffee and gut health.



Does Coffee Help or Hurt Gut Health?

Alright, so this actually all depends on a case-by-case basis.

In fact, coffee is actually associated with a range of health benefits, including a reduced risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease

On top of this, it’s thought to have various antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits. Thus, in many ways, coffee could help reduce inflammation, including in the gut, in healthy individuals.

Studies further show how coffee improves gut health post-surgery, leading to improved recovery. It’s also a well-known fact that if you’re having trouble taking a number two, well, coffee can help get things moving along! 

And there’s more…

Coffee is even shown to increase “good” bacteria in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria. And all research on gut health indicates that having balance and versatility of gut bacteria is a really good thing. 

So, can coffee increase gut health issues? The answer: Unfortunately, yes.

If you have gut problems, such as IBS, heartburn, or a leaky gut, coffee could make your symptoms worse. Research even shows that coffee drinkers have a 44% higher chance of developing IBS than non-coffee drinkers.

Does this mean coffee is bad? Well, not exactly. If you’re having gut issues, it’s probably a good idea to cut out coffee, at least temporarily, while you heal your gut first. This is because caffeine can have a stimulatory effect on the gastrointestinal tract, causing irritation and dysregulation. 

However, if you’ve got a relatively healthy gut, you probably don't have too much to worry about when it comes to your morning cup of coffee. 


Is Coffee a Prebiotic? 

Coffee can act as a prebiotic, boosting probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut. The major theory behind this attributes coffee’s high amounts of polyphenols, a type of plant compound, for this beneficial effect. Again, for healthy individuals, coffee and gut health usually have a positive relationship, helping keep your gut healthy and your bowel movements regular (yeah, we just went there!).



Decaf Coffee and Gut Health

With decaf coffee, gut health is less likely to be impacted. This is mostly because caffeine is usually the cause of adverse and unwanted gastrointestinal effects. In fact, like other kinds of coffee, decaf coffee can also have a prebiotic effect, boosting good gut health overall.

On top of this, it’s worth mentioning that decaf coffee won’t interfere with your sleep, whereas regular coffee could, depending on when you drink it. Taking this a step further, a poor sleep can have detrimental impacts on your gut health.

Related Article: 18 Tips For Better Sleep At Night



Tea and Gut Health

Yet, there are more options besides decaf or regular coffee. Tea is another option that gives way to various health benefits, including potentially enhancing your gut function! Some individuals even claim that tea feels better on their stomachs than coffee. This may be due to the fact that many teas come with less caffeine potency than regular coffee.

For instance, ginger tea usually doesn’t contain caffeine. As many people might know, ginger has soothing effects on the gut, meaning it actually relieves gastrointestinal discomfort and upset stomachs. Other types of teas that are thought to be good for the gut and digestion include peppermint tea, gentian tea, fennel tea, angelica root tea, dandelion tea, and senna tea.



Tips to Improve Your Gut Health

Alright, so we’ve talked about coffee and gut health. But what are some general tips that can help enhance your gut, especially if you’re having a rough time with it? Here are a few:

  • Eat enough fiber. This might mean incorporating more veggies, fruits, and whole grains into your diet.
  • Reduce stress. Surprisingly, stress plays a huge part in gut health! The gut-brain axis is no joke and is more intricately lined than you might realize. Practicing meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, and more can help you actively find ways to relax and de-stress.
  • Reduce or limit your alcohol intake.
  • Don’t forget to participate in regular exercise! This can, especially, help with the movement of your food through your digestive tract.
  • Eat probiotics. (Hint: Greek yogurt is great for this!)
  • Include fermented foods in your regular diet.
  • Limit or avoid highly processed foods.

Related Article: A Life of Less Stress: 7 Thoughtful Things for You to Consider



Lastly, Seek Medical Advice When Needed

Having gut issues can really throw a wrench into your daily life. It can leave you in pain and feeling frustrated and tired. If you’re unsure what’s causing your gut problems, but you feel as though you’re doing everything right (maybe you’ve even cut out coffee to improve gut health!), it might be time to consult with an expert. Consider booking an appointment with your doctor.

Furthermore, educate yourself on the gut! Author Kris Carr even once said, “Gut health is key for overall health.” Thus, getting your gut health in order could improve your life in various ways!

Coffee and gut health, inevitably, have a complex relationship, meaning they can be good and bad. If you’re unsure if coffee is causing any problems for you, track it! Measure and find out. That way, you can finally know for sure whether your morning cup o’ joe is causing you more angst than help.

Read Next: Have You Ever Wondered How Much Your Diet Affects Your Mental Health?

Photo by Chevanon Photography


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