Is Coffee Good for Your Gut?
We have some good news: Coffee may be really good for your gut health. The quality of your cup of joe absolutely matters here—to your taste buds, yes, but also to your gut's microbiome. But here's the rub: Everyone has a very different microbiome, which makes it nearly impossible to say that coffee is good for everyone. It does, however, have some clear benefits that go beyond adding an energy boost to your morning routine. Ahead, Dr. Marvin Singh, Integrative Gastroenterologist and founder of Precisione Clinic, answers some of your most-pressing gut-related questions about coffee.
Does coffee have health benefits?
"A high quality, clean, organic, mold-free, toxin-free coffee could offer some health benefits," says Dr. Singh, who was a recent guest on The Coffee, Health, and Science Podcast. "We have a fair amount of evidence showing that coffee can influence diabetes, cholesterol levels, fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, and other inflammatory conditions. It's thought that coffee—and components of coffee—may influence the gut microbiome, and this could be the reason why these positive impacts occur in our health." Chloragenic acid, which is found in coffee, is an ingredient to watch, he says. "[It] has been shown to be one of the most significant compounds in coffee that can impact the gut microbiome and contribute to positive changes in the gut microbiome."
Why does coffee sometimes cause an upset stomach?
According to Dr. Singh, this is different for everyone, and the factors causing upset stomach may vary. Sometimes it's the coffee, or its quality, but it's likely more to do with what's added to it, or the (large) quantity consumed. For others, caffeine acts as an irritant to the gut, "causing gastrointestinal upset as a result," he notes. "Some people might have a higher risk of acid reflux if they pair coffee with certain heartburn provoking foods such as high-fat foods, citrus, tomato-based foods, or chocolate."
For people dealing with inflammation, is it best to avoid coffee because of its acidity?
The opposite is true, says Dr. Singh. "In fact, there is data showing that coffee can be helpful in inflammatory conditions," says Dr. Singh. "Fermented coffee brews can also help with the production of short chain fatty acids in the gut, which can reduce inflammation. Coffee consumption could be inversely associated with type 2 diabetes, which is an inflammatory condition; and one of the mechanisms could be related to influences on the gut microbiome."
When in doubt, opt for a less acidic coffee, like darker roasts and cold brews—and always select a higher quality, organic coffee, says Dr. Singh. But overall, coffee's acidity shouldn't concern you: "There are many factors that influence acidity of coffee, but it's important to remember that the coffee you drink is not likely to be more acidic than the pH of a normal stomach."