Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder that can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms in the belly and affect your digestion.
There’s no cure for IBS, so it’s about managing the symptoms. People with IBS are careful about everything from what they eat to handling stress to what they drink. For some, coffee and IBS don’t mix.
Is coffee bad for IBS? Coffee can be bad for IBS in some patients because of the effects of caffeine on the body. While some IBS sufferers can tolerate coffee depending on their symptoms, others find that they need to cut caffeine out completely. Drinking a coffee low in acid may help lessen any symptoms.
Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Statistics say that between 10-15% of people in the U.S. deal with the effects of IBS, and 50% of Americans drink coffee daily. Clearly, many people are wondering about caffeine and IBS.
What are the symptoms of IBS? The symptoms of IBS most often include abdominal pain and a range of gastrointestinal issues. People with IBS commonly report:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
- Changes in bowel movements
- Gas and bloating
- Triggers with certain food groups
Symptoms triggered by certain food groups likely mean dietary and lifestyle changes. Some IBS sufferers find success on a low FODMAP diet. High FODMAP foods like carbohydrates, dairy, and certain beans aren’t absorbed well by the small intestine, making IBS symptoms worse for some.
Caffeine can be a problem for some IBS patients due to its stimulating effect on the body.
How Caffeine Affects IBS Symptoms
IBS primarily affects the intestines and digestive tract.
Diet is a crucial component in managing IBS symptoms. Unfortunately, caffeine, gluten, fructose, and foods with added sorbitol can exacerbate those symptoms. When it comes to caffeine, energy drinks and caffeinated teas can trigger flare-ups, too.
However, all hope is not lost. Some IBS sufferers may tolerate some caffeine. For those with IBS-C, for example, the type that involves constipation, limited caffeine could actually help move things along in the gut.
Caffeine can affect IBS in several ways:
- Caffeine has a stimulating effect. That’s a good thing when it comes to the energy boost you get, but can be harmful when it’s stimulating your intestine. Caffeine increases motility in your gut, so what you’re consuming may move faster through your gastrointestinal tract.
- Caffeine can speed up bowel movements. Some people like that coffee keeps them regular. For those with IBS symptoms that include frequent diarrhea, it’s an unwelcome side effect.
- Caffeine can increase stomach acid in the body. Some studies show too much caffeine can lead to more stomach acid production in your gut. This could trigger IBS flare-ups, heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux.
- Caffeine can increase stress. Stress is something you want less of with IBS. It can aggravate your symptoms. While caffeine has been linked to a mood boost, too much caffeine can lead to jitters and increased anxiety.
How much caffeine is OK for IBS? Moderate caffeine intake is OK for some IBS sufferers. The best types of coffee for IBS depend on your symptoms. You may be able to handle a cup or 2 a day or half-strength coffee in the morning. On the other hand, your symptoms may require cutting caffeine altogether.
You’ll need to work with your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine safe levels of food groups that may be triggers for IBS, including caffeine.
Should IBS patients have coffee?
IBS patients should be careful when drinking coffee. The caffeine in coffee can cause discomfort in some, including diarrhea and abdominal pain.
If that describes you, you can look into coffee alternatives or try decaf coffee if you’re looking to wean yourself off the daily coffee habit.
Some people with IBS can tolerate coffee in moderation. It really depends on you and your gut. If you do decide to try, try the following tips for healthy coffee with fewer side effects.
Tips For Drinking Healthier Coffee
Moderate coffee consumption is acceptable for most adults, and caffeine boasts some health properties not found in decaffeinated coffee.
Whether you’re looking to sip coffee in moderation to keep IBS symptoms at bay or just want a healthier cup of coffee, there are ways to make your morning habit an even better one.
To make a healthier cup of coffee that’s easier on the body:
- Watch what you’re adding
- Have a cutoff time
- Choose quality coffee
- Sip in moderation
- Brew with a paper filter
- Choose low-acid coffee
Watch What You’re Adding
Added sugars and heavy creamers can turn a healthy cup of coffee into a potential problem. Skip refined sugars and flavored additives.
If you really can’t sip your coffee black, reach for natural coffee sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit over artificial sweeteners or sugars. Choose healthier creamer substitutes, like organic milk or lactose-free milks such as oat or almond milk. Dairy-free milk is one of the best drinks for IBS!
Consider adding natural flavoring to your cup of joe. Coffee, turmeric, and cocoa each have their own health benefits, so sprinkling a little of each will make that healthy cup even healthier.
For example, Golden Ratio makes a crowd-pleasing low-acid Vanilla Coconut Gold Coffee packed with natural flavor and a smooth taste. It’s designed to be easier on digestion, too.
Have a Cutoff Time
The caffeine in coffee is why many reach for that morning cup in the first place. They like that energy bump mid-morning, the best time to drink coffee.
If you’re a habitual coffee drinker throughout the day, though, your caffeine intake could be causing some restless sleep. Stop drinking coffee by 2pm to prevent issues with sleep that night.
Choose High-Quality Coffee
Quality matters when you’re drinking coffee. Choose brands that source their beans from organic farmers to avoid contamination with potential pesticides. Avoid highly-processed instant coffee. To keep a healthy planet, buy coffee that is ethically sourced.
Read labels and comparison-shop based on quality, not price. (We buy all of our coffee beans from sustainable, fair trade, organic sources.)
Sip in Moderation
Good coffee has a lot going for it, but even good things are best enjoyed in moderation. Stick to about 400 mg of coffee per day, the recommended caffeine dosage for healthy adults. That comes out to about 4 daily cups, plenty for most.
What’s more, you’re putting yourself at risk for sleep issues and stomach problems. You’re also setting yourself up for caffeine withdrawal if you decide to quit your habit.
Brew With a Paper Filter
Using a paper filter when brewing your coffee, particularly espresso and instant coffees, removes some of the cafestol found inside.
Cafestol is a compound that has been linked to higher cholesterol.
Choose Low-Acid Coffee
The acid in many traditional coffee roasts can cause stomach pain and trigger symptoms even in individuals without IBS. Our founder, Clark, experienced digestive discomfort but couldn’t bear to give up his coffee cravings. That’s how Golden Ratio was born.
We design coffee that turns water into gold, producing smooth, delicious, low-acid coffee that’s easy on the digestive tract. Try our variety pack to find your favorite!
The Best Coffee For IBS
While there isn’t a perfect coffee bean for IBS or upset stomachs, a low-acid coffee is gentler on your digestive system, potentially causing less distress and a smoother cup overall.
Note: Consult with your doctor before drinking coffee with a digestive issue.
What is the best way to make coffee for IBS? The best way to make coffee for IBS is to remove any potential triggers in your coffee. That can mean avoiding dairy products, limiting the amount of coffee, and choosing high-quality brands that contain fewer additives.
Keep the taste, skip the discomfort.
Moderate levels of caffeine can be good for most people, but a low-acid coffee is even better.
Golden Ratio is a high-quality, low-acid coffee brand for anyone seeking a coffee alternative that’s gentler on your gut. Our unique gold coffee retains the benefits of coffee without any unwanted bitterness.
- Low-FODMAP Diet Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Meta-Analysis
- The Role of Diet in the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review
- Dietary sorbitol and mannitol: food content and distinct absorption patterns between healthy individuals and patients with irritable bowel syndrome
- Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Adults
- Caffeine induces gastric acid secretion via bitter taste signaling in gastric parietal cells
- Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep Quality Caused by Green Tea Are Associated with a Reduced Caffeine Content
- The Impact of Coffee on Health
- Role of alimentation in irritable bowel syndrome
- Cafestol, the cholesterol-raising factor in boiled coffee, suppresses bile acid synthesis by downregulation of cholesterol 7 alpha-hydroxylase and sterol 27-hydroxylase in rat hepatocytes