Coffee & Your Digestion

What a Daily Cup of Coffee Does to Your Digestion

It’s true that many doctors today, including Manhattan GI doctors, discourage their patients from drinking coffee. Is it because of the caffeine? Is decaffeinated coffee healthier? Can that daily cup of coffee (or two or three) really affect your digestion?

The Proven Effects of Coffee

Coffee, whether it’s caffeinated or decaffeinated, does impact your body. Some of the effects are subtle; others are not so subtle:

  • Because of coffee’s acidity, it can adversely affect the lining of your stomach and intestines. If you drink a lot of coffee over an extended period, it will worsen any existing conditions you may have. In addition, it can lead to gastritis and ulcers.
  • Coffee acts as a laxative, stimulating your intestines to empty. If you aren’t suffering from constipation, too much coffee can produce loose bowel movements.
  • Coffee also can irritate your bladder and prostate gland. Decaffeinated coffee actually may exacerbate these conditions. If you suffer from bladder or prostate problems, avoid coffee.

Coffee’s Anecdotal Impact

Coffee has been known to cause other digestive issues, but these are not backed by scientific research. Instead, they are based on anecdotal or observed results.

  • An acidic beverage, coffee increases the acidity in your stomach, or so it has been reported. This condition can lead to heartburn, acid indigestion, and acid reflux, which are usually temporary, but can be painful. Some studies, however, show that coffee does not cause indigestion.
  • Some evidence suggests that coffee sometimes gets in the way of your stomach processes, allowing food to move into your small intestine before it’s completely digested. This can cause abdominal pain. Other evidence intimates that coffee slows down your digestion, causing the opposite effect.
  • The caffeine in coffee also is said to trigger insomnia, anxiety, and even an irregular heartbeat.  These reactions can affect your digestion by decreasing the amount of blood available. Since it’s caffeine that likely causes these conditions, drinking decaffeinated coffee should prevent the symptoms.

How to Limit Caffeine’s Effects

If it’s the caffeine that is affecting you, switching to a decaffeinated drink will certainly help. Remember, though, that decaffeinated coffee isn’t a cure-all. As mentioned above, it might make some digestive problems worse.

Caffeine does increase the stomach acidity in some people, which often leads to heartburn. If decaf coffee doesn’t stop your symptoms, limit your coffee consumption to one cup a day. If that works, see if two cups a day also can keep your symptoms at bay.

Pay attention to the way coffee affects your body. Try cutting down or finding a substitute. Even black tea is better for you than coffee. And if limiting yourself to one cup of coffee a day seems like going cold turkey, you’re drinking way too much coffee. To benefit your health and your digestion, see a doctor or gastroenterologist in New York City for help cutting your habit down to size.

Finally, if you suffer from GI problems like Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or ulcerative colitis (UC), you should not drink coffee, period. It will exacerbate your symptoms. When in doubt, see your doctor.

For more information about how coffee affects your digestive system, contact NYC Gastroenterologist, Dr. Shawn Khodadadian.

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