Coffee, due to its caffeine content, can have adverse effects on people with sensitive stomachs, particularly those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). “It stimulates the gut to function more rapidly, increasing gut motility,” gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, MD, FACP, DABIM, explains. This is why doctors frequently advise patients with irritable bowel syndrome not to drink coffee, as it can result in diarrhoea and stomach pain.
“Coffee induces the release of two hormones: gastrin, which is produced in the stomach, and cholecystokinin, which is produced in the small intestine “Kate Scarlata, RDN, LDN, a specialist in FODMAPs and irritable bowel syndrome, previously told Well+Good. “Gastrin stimulates colonic movement, while cholecystokinin initiates the digestive process by releasing bile and digestive enzymes.”
As a result, Scarlata notes that approximately 30% of people report that drinking coffee causes them to poop. And now that we’ve piqued your interest, there are a few things you should know about coffee for IBS that can affect how the stimulant affects your GI tract, beginning with how the type of IBS you have can affect your tolerance for a cup of joe.
Coffee can be particularly aggravating for people with IBS-D.
“In terms of IBS, coffee can be a friend or a foe,” Dr. Sonpal explains, adding that the first step is to consult a physician to determine: If you do have IBS, determine whether you have IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-M. “Coffee can be problematic for those with IBS-D because their gut motility is already faster than it should be,” he explains.
Whatever type of IBS you have, Dr. Sonpal recommends temporarily abstaining from coffee to see if it improves your symptoms. (It’s worth noting that elimination diets typically take three to six weeks to produce the best feedback and results.) Then, if you notice an improvement, either continue to abstain from coffee or gradually reintroduce it to determine how much your body can tolerate, he suggests.
Decaf or light-roast coffee may be beneficial for IBS sufferers.
“Stronger coffees or those with a high caffeine content may exacerbate symptoms because the natural chemicals in the coffee are present in greater concentrations; however, no studies have been conducted to demonstrate this effect 100 percent, and we must extrapolate this data from what we know about patients who drink regular coffee,” Dr. Sonpal says.
Given this, if you suffer from IBS, decaffeinated coffee or lighter roasts may be worth a try. Simply keep in mind that “there is a great deal of conflicting data regarding which type of bean, roast, and milk (if yes or no) will affect your IBS, but the best advice I can give my patients is to be mindful of what they are drinking and to experiment slowly with new types of coffee to determine what works for them and what does not,” says Dr. Sonpal.