40% of people drink coffee every day (us included). There’s nothing like that first sip to wake us up in the morning. But some say their AM caffeine fix often leaves them feeling buzzed but bloated, with uncomfortable cramps and gas that last long after the caffeine kick has worn off.
So, the question is: can coffee cause bloating? And do we really have to kick our coffee habit for the good of our health?
We’ve done the science. Scroll for the pros and cons of everyone’s favourite caffeinated drink to decide for yourself.
PRO: It boosts energy + mood
For those of us who struggle to get out of bed in the morning (so, everyone) caffeine is our fuel. There’s a reason for that. After drinking, coffee is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it travels to the brain to wake up mood-boosting neurons. According to a recent study, caffeine activates noradrenaline neurons, known to affect dopamine (the happy hormone) release for improved mood, energy and cognitive function.
CON: It’s a diuretic
Sounds more complicated than it is. A diuretic drink is any beverage that promotes diuresis, a.k.a. the increased production of urine in the body. This process makes the body become dehydrated faster by flushing water out of our systems, which can lead to constipation, slow digestion and feeling sluggish. To counteract its diuretic effect, keep sipping water in between cups of coffee to maintain sufficient water levels for whole-body hydration.
PRO: It could support long-term health
Coffee is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that reduce inflammation, free radicals and illness-causing pathogens. Some studies have shown that drinking a moderate amount of caffeine each day (up to 3 cups - we’d be bouncing off the walls…) lowered the risk of people developing type 2 diabetes by helping to balance blood sugar levels. Others suggest that coffee could even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer.
CON: It can impact hormone production
If your morning cup of coffee always ‘gets things moving’ in the morning, it’s because coffee stimulates the secretion of gastrin, a hormone responsible for gastric motility, i.e. helping food move through the digestive system. Coffee stimulates stomach acid secretion to support well-functioning digestion, but drinking too much can produce excess stomach acid and cause heartburn and cramps. Coffee also stimulates cortisol (the stress hormone) production, which is why too much of it can make us feel wired and anxious. So, like everything, moderation is key with caffeine.
PRO: It’s good for the gut microbiome
A recent study showed that coffee drinkers have a more diverse gut microbiome than non-caffeine fans. Responses showed a higher number of “good” bacteria, and lower levels of the pathogenic, illness-causing bacteria.
CON: It’s acidic
Coffee is an acidic drink, which can irritate the digestive tract and stimulate peristalsis, a series of muscle contractions in the colon. This can lead to bloating and spasms, causing uncomfortable cramps in the gut. Dark roasts and espresso beans tend to be less acidic as they contain fewer compounds that cause the stomach to produce acid. A touch of milk or plant-based mylk can also help reduce natural acidity.
Have it both ways
We don’t want to give up the good stuff either. Here are a few ways to strike the balance and stop the post-caffeine bloat.
PRE + PROBIOTIC
Get your gut health in good condition to prevent bloating, cramps and gas and support all-round health.
Make a Debloat Latte
Swap coffee for a Debloat Latte every once in a while with our go-to recipe, featuring prebiotics and anti-inflammatories ginger and turmeric.
Rethink your usual order
A caramel macchiato might hit the spot when you fancy something sweet, but the blend of sugars and flavourings can irritate the gut. Try sipping coffee sans sugar or with a dash of plant-based mylk to help keep the gut happy.
Drinking coffee on an empty stomach causes more hydrochloric acid production, the acid which helps to break down food during digestion. This means there is more stomach acid floating around in the gut than needed, which can throw off your good gut bacteria and lead to acid reflux and heartburn. Try our Functional Oats overnight oats recipe for a quick breakfast on the go.