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A Brief Guide to How Coffee Affects Digestion|coffee and digestion|coffee and digestion|coffee and digestion|

Health & Wellness

How Coffee Affects Digestion

Coffee is a tasty beverage, and a lot of people cannot imagine starting their day without a nice warming cup of strong, bitter coffee. The reason that people like it so much is because it is a stimulant. It promotes wakefulness and increases alertness, and it can help boost focus during a boring day at work or if you’re running on not quite enough sleep.

coffee and digestion What Caffeine Does to the Body


Caffeine is a stimulant that is present in tea, coffee, chocolate, and even a lot of soda products. It is also a diuretic, and it is often used to enhance performance in sports by improving aerobic performance and reaction times. 1

Caffeine can be used in addition to other substances to help with pain relief —it is often added to cold remedies alongside paracetamol, for example—and it is also used to help with low blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, and many other conditions. 2

Coffee and Digestion


As you can see, caffeine is a versatile substance and one that can do a lot of good. For most people, the cup of coffee in the morning is a ritual, habit, and something that helps them wake up and get started for the day ahead.

The stimulant in the coffee is important, yes, but other elements of coffee help people wake up as well. For instnace, the smell of the coffee triggers anticipation before you even start drinking, and on a cold morning, it is nice to have something warm in your hands.

While all of those aspects are good, coffee can have a negative impact on digestion, so if you're not feeling great or you’re particularly sensitive to it, then you should tread carefully. Caffeine is a diuretic, and this means that if you aren't used to the effects of it, then you could become dehydrated. However, people who drink coffee regularly and who are not sensitive to caffeine can usually cope just fine with drinking coffee on an occasional basis and should not find it overly dehydrating. 3

When you drink one cup of coffee, you’ll find that it starts having an effect on your body within 20 minutes. People who are not used to drinking coffee may find that their blood pressure increases and that because of this increase in blood pressure, their heart rate slows down. 4

Further coffee consumption can cause your heart rate to increase, however. This is not normally a problem for people who drink a moderate amount of coffee, but it can be an issue for those with a heart condition or who consume excessive amounts of other caffeinated beverages.

Additionally, caffeine can both help and hinder your digestive system. On one hand, caffeine can stimulate peristalsis in your intestines. Peristalsis is the reflexive contraction of muscles, and it is what helps waste move through the body. 5

In addition to this, coffee is thought to induce the release of cholecystokinin and to contribute to gallbladder contraction. So, drinking coffee can be a good thing if you are constipated, but it may not be wise if you have symptomatic gallstones.

This faster peristalsis can have some interesting side effects, especially when combied with the fact that chlorogenic acid is present in coffee. The more rapid peristalsis means that some foods move through the intestines so quickly that nutrients are not fully absorbed.

Normally, this would be thought of as a bad thing, but there are times that it can have some benefit. People who are diabetic or prediabetic may benefit from the reduced absorption of glucose, and the chlorogenic acid, which is an antioxidant, helps glucose and lipid metabolism as well. Some recent studies performed on mice show that chlorogenic acid can lower the levels of fasting plasma glucose and helps improve kidney fibrosis for those with late diabetes. 6

There are some downsides to drinking coffee too much coffee, though. People who have indigestion and heartburn may want to avoid coffee. While studies suggest that coffee does not usually cause those conditions, it can make the symptoms of them worse.

Drinks with a lot of caffeine in them could make your stomach produce more acid, which will make acid reflux feel worse in some cases. Dark roast coffee contains acid-reducing substances, though, so it may be the best choice if you love coffee and don't want to give it up but do suffer from gastric issues.

How Much Coffee Should You Really Drink? coffee and digestion


The benefits of coffee are clear, but too much of it can cause issues. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it can disrupt your sleep if you take too much of it or consume it too late in the day. The challenge is that how much is “too much” depends on how sensitive you are to caffeine, and that is both a body size question and a question of how often you drink coffee in general. 7

There is evidence to show that consuming caffeine on a regular basis can help improve the memory of older adults, especially those who specifically struggle at certain times of day (e.g. those who are “not a morning person”). 8 Those who add coffee to their morning routine to help bowel regularity or just to wake up are probably doing the right thing.

There have been many studies conducted on the safety of coffee and the risks associated with excessive coffee consumption. It is recommended that older adults limit themselves to two to three cups per day and make sure that they are getting enough calcium and Vitamin D, in order to limit their risk of osteoporosis. 9

For younger adults, moderate coffee consumption is considered to be both safe, and in many ways wise, because of the benefits coffee consumption has demonstrated in moderation. 10 However, those who have, or are at risk of, a heart condition should tread carefully when it comes to coffee consumption because large doses of caffeine can be risky in those cases.

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Given the information highlighted above, it seems like low to moderate coffee consumption has the potential to provide a wide range of health benefits without negatively affecting any significant bodily functions, specifically digestion. If you don’t currently drink coffee or don’t think you like it, try introducing this favorite beverage into your daily routine once more and see how you like it.

PhotoCredits: TeroVesalainen/shutterstock.com, UfaBizPhoto/shutterstock.com, EvgenyKarandaev/shutterstock.com, JoannaDorota/shutterstock.com, funnyangel/shutterstock.com

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