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Coffee and Gut Health: Friends or Foes? 

September 15, 2021 4 min read

Coffee and Gut Health: Friends or Foes? 

If you can’t start your day without a cup of coffee, you’re not alone. Plenty of us count on that jolt of caffeine to get us out of bed in the morning and stay alert through afternoon meetings. 

While people have relied on the brain-boosting powers of caffeine for centuries, doctors have long debated whether coffee has positive or negative effects on the rest of the body. In particular, researchers have questioned the relationship between coffee and gut health and the ways in which this popular beverage impacts digestion. 


The good news is thatrecent research suggests a link between consuming caffeine and developing a healthy gut microbiome. Not only does coffee stimulate the colon muscles, helping with bowel regularity, but it also boosts the number and type of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Studies indicate that a healthy gut microbiome mayboost immunity and reduce your risk of developing various illnesses.


Fortunately for all of us, there’s evidence to suggest a positive link between coffee and digestion, as well as general well-being. However, some caffeine enthusiasts still have questions about the relationship between coffee and gut health, along with how much coffee they should be drinking each day. 


Keep reading to learn more about coffee and digestion to find out what steps you can take to preserve the health of your microbiome in the coming years. 

The relationship between coffee and gut health

While experts are still determining the exact relationship between coffee and gut health, arecent report suggests that drinking coffee may lead to a healthier microbiome. 


In the study, scientists took microbiome samples directly from the colons of participants. Not only did the participants who drank at least two cups of coffee a day display more abundant bacterial species, but their gut microbiomes also had more anti-inflammatory properties than the control group. Additionally, the coffee drinkers were less likely to haveErysipelatoclostridium, a bacterium associated with obesity and other metabolic issues. 


Along with encouraging the growth of good bacteria, coffee may have a positive effect on bowel regularity. According to a2019 study, drinking coffee can help reduce constipation by improving the ability of the muscles in the small intestines to contract. It’s worth noting that these results occurred with both regular and decaf coffee. 


More research is needed to determine exactly how coffee and other dietary components impact the microbiome. However, according to Dr. Hana Kahleova, research director at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, coffee containspolyphenols and other antioxidants that contribute to a healthier microbiome. 

a white mug tipped over, spilling coffee beans

Understanding the microbiome

So, what is a microbiome, anyway? The gut microbiome is the term for all the microbes that live in your intestines. Although some bacterial species in the microbiome are harmful, others may help protect you from a range of adverse health conditions.. 


It’s worth noting that the gut microbiome changes over time. As you get older, your gut microbiome diversifies, or evolves to include new microbial species. While your microbiome is partly the result of genetics, the foods you eat can also make an impact. In particular, drinking coffee may significantly boost your microbiome and overall health. 


Studies show that coffee can increase the good bacteria in your gut. According to research oncoffee and gut health, people who consume large quantities of caffeine have more beneficial bacterial species likeFaecalibacteriumandRoseburia, both of which offer anti-inflammatory properties. 

How much coffee is too much?

In the U.S., more than60% of people drink at least one cup of coffee a day, with the average member of that group taking in about three cups. While there’s no one right answer to how much coffee you should drink every day, 400 milligrams of caffeine (around four cups) is generally considered to be a safe quantity. 


According to researchers with theFDA, consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine could lead to overstimulation, sleep disturbances, and other negative outcomes. 


The good news is that consuming a moderate amount of coffee comes with few harmful side effects. Moreover, if you’re suffering from anxiety or insomnia and think your coffee consumption could be to blame, switching to decaf may provide you with the same benefits for gut health and digestion. 


Looking to cut down on the amount of coffee you’re drinking? Thesecoffee alternatives may help you stay awake while providing other benefits for health and wellness. 

A man sits at a kitchen table with a cup of coffee, reading a book

Supporting Overall Health

If you drink coffee regularly, it’s not just your gut health and bowel regularity that stand to benefit. Various studies have shown that coffee canimprove overall bodily health. Besides helping your microbiome, coffee may reduce your odds of developing certain chronic illnesses. 


In particular, there’s a positive association between coffee and heart health. Consuming even a moderate amount of coffee may reduce your risk ofheart failure


Additionally, coffee may be beneficial in preventing certain neurodegenerative conditions. For example, studies have shown that regular coffee drinkers have a32-60% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s than those who don’t consume coffee. It’s noteworthy that subjects who drank decaf coffee did not see the same effects

In summary

An increasing amount of research reveals that a person’s gut microbiome has a significant effect on their overall health and wellness. Moreover, lacking the right abundance and diversity of gut bacteria may lead to an array of health complications. The good news is that consuming a moderate amount of coffee may positively impact your digestion and overall wellness. 


There are several reasons for the positive association between coffee and gut health. Not only has coffee been shown to help treat constipation, but it also increases the rate of smooth muscle contraction in the colon. Additionally, coffee contains ingredients that stimulate the production of beneficial gut bacteria. Overall, individuals who drank a moderate amount of coffee had bacterial species that boasted more anti-inflammatory properties.


Whether you already drink coffee or are considering adding it into your morning routine, it’s important to consume a safe amount. Experts recommend limiting caffeine intake to 400 milligrams, or around four cups of coffee per day to help prevent some of the less desirable side effects of coffee consumption, such as overstimulation, jitteriness, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. 


In some cases, switching to decaffeinated coffee may provide you with some of the same benefits without the negative effects. Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or have another health condition to find out what’s a safe amount of coffee for you. 


April Maguire, MPW - Contributing Writer, Physician’s Choice


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