Does Coffee Help With Digestion? (Let’s Find Out)

Coffee may help with our digestive system. However, there is a mixed debate about how coffee affects your stomach. 

Coffee does stimulate motility (movement of muscle contraction) in the digestive tract, which improves the overall digestion system. However, doctors won’t recommend coffee for bad digestion because of inconclusive evidence and searches.

Some coffee lovers swear that coffee helps them with digestion. A study conducted in Italy supports the argument that coffee does improve the digestive system. However, this study says the opposite. 

You might be confused by the conflicting opinion of coffee’s effects on your digestive tract. Don’t worry, I have found all the nitty-gritty between coffee and the digestion system. Also, its positive and negative effects, to end the debate once and for all.

Let’s dig in!

Does Coffee Stimulate Digestion? 

Coffee does help stimulate colonic motor activity that helps the digestive system. A study showed that a moderate amount of coffee causes the stomach to produce gastrin and gastric acid, which improves the digestive system.

Some studies found coffee benefits as it protects against pancreatitis and gallstones. Institute for Scientific Information survey on coffee supports the argument. 

Evidence shows that coffee can be a protective agent against many causes of gastrointestinal disease, said Carlo La Vecchia, author of the research paper. 

Coffee’s effect on digestion is an evolving area of research. Study results show the benefit of coffee against common digestive issues and complaints, such as:

  • Chronic liver disease 
  • Constipation
  • Non- alcoholic fatty liver disease NAFLD
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallstones 

10 to 15 percent of US citizens are affected by gallstones. The above study refers to other reports suggesting that daily caffeine consumption can reduce gallstones and gallstones disease.

This study shows that coffee helps people fix their digestive function back on track after abdominal surgery. 

So, it does turn out coffee causes bowel movements which help with the digestive tract and excretion. However, coffee does not affect small bowel transit or emptying gastric. Bowel transit is when the food you chewed takes time to travel, move in the stomach, and get mixed with digestive enzymes. Further, it travels to the small intestine, where your body absorbs nutrients. Coffee doesn’t affect the whole process of small Bowel transit, according to studies. 

How Does Coffee Affect Digestion?

cup of coffee at the edge of a table

Coffee affects digestion by stimulating the colon and promoting movement in your stomach which can result in fecal excretion or sometimes diarrhea.

Here are different ways coffee can affect digestion:

Increased Peristalsis

Caffeine acts as a laxative that increases peristalsis, a muscle contraction that pushes food through the digestive tract. Coffee reaches its peak level in your body in an hour and its effects start to show up soon after you have a cup of coffee. That’s why many people prefer having coffee first thing in the morning to assist them with bowel regulation.

Risen Diuresis 

Caffee can act as a diuretic, which increases the blood flow to the kidney. Increased blood flow can cause increased urine that leads to dehydration and can turn into constipation. 

If you are experiencing the same effects, increase your water intake. Drinking a lot of water can help prevent the dehydration that causing you constipation.

Bowl Stimulating Effects 

There is a study published in Gut in which 29 volunteers participated. They all agreed that drinking coffee stimulates their need to poop. The scientific research results showed they had some effect of regular and decaffeinated coffee on their lower bowl. 

Indigestion 

Caffeine helps with digestion and also increases the composition of stress hormones. Cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenaline stress hormones make your heart beat faster and increase your energy level. It also decreases the blood supply to the intestines, which causes slow digestion.

Gastric Secretions 

Coffee release gastric secretions, which increases the stomach’s acidity. You might feel irritation in the intestinal lining, which leads to an upset stomach. 

A high caffeine intake can cause gastritis and ulcers; the symptoms can worsen with caffeine if you have gastrointestinal problems.

To summarize the effects of caffeine on your digestive system, I would say drinking a moderate amount of 3-4 cups of coffee is safe for healthy people. People with upset stomachs or gallstones should discuss with their doctor to know how much caffeine is safe for their stomach and digestive system. 

FDA also recommends 400mg of caffeine as a safe intake per day. 

Is Coffee Bad for Your Gallbladder?

hand holding a cup

Coffee isn’t necessarily bad for your gallbladder, in fact, it has been found to protect men from gallbladder disease according to this study. Coffee can also stimulate contractions in the gallbladder regardless of whether you’re taking regular coffee or decaf.

However, if you already have gallstones, the drink won’t be of any help.

Coffee stimulates the release of Cholecystokinin (CCK.). This particular hormone can be good and bad for gallbladders patients. CCK triggers the contraction and relaxes the Oddi (the medical condition that causes the inability of the sphincter to relax in the usual way), which stimulates the release of bile into the intestines.

For people with gallstones, the healthy amount of coffee is 3-4 cups per day and they should try to avoid processed food and dairy products. 

Does Drinking Coffee After a Meal Help With Digestion?

Drinking coffee after a meal might help with your overall digestive process and keep your system “flowing.”

Interestingly, coffee traditionally knows as a beverage that purportedly helps digestion when drink after a meal. 

Caffeine helps the digestive system in helping release stomach acid, according to the National Academy of Sciences. However, there is not enough proof that coffee helps to break down food effectively.

To know more about coffee and digestion, you may watch this video by CoffeandHealth:

Can I Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach?

You can drink coffee on an empty stomach, but it is definitely not advisable. This is because coffee promotes the production of stomach acid, which is responsible for breaking down the food and splitting up the proteins.

If you drink coffee on an empty stomach, there might not be anything for the stomach to break down, which might lead to several problems like bloating, irritation of the bowel, or irritation of the colon.

If you feel like after drinking coffee, you experience digestive problems, then you should take your coffee after your meal. 

People who cannot handle the caffeine effect should need to eat something before they take their coffee. 

For most people who drink coffee after a meal, it does not create any digestive issues. If you can handle the caffeine effect on an empty stomach and don’t feel any problem with the digestive system, then you don’t need to worry about it.

Here are few tips for people with sensitive stomachs:

  1. Drink your morning coffee on a full stomach. Taking coffee after a meal does not disturb your GI tract. The acidic content can be more diluted when non-acidic food already gets digested by your body.
  2. People with upset stomachs should take L-glutamine powder supplements daily. They have amino acids which build protein and repair tissues especially cells, same as your intestines.
  3. Add bone broth into your diet as it helps to produce glutamine and collagen nutrients that help repair tissues.

Consuming too much coffee has its side effects, no evidence taking a moderate amount of coffee on an empty stomach can cause any issue. 

Will Drinking Coffee Help with Weight Loss?

tape measurer wrapped around a jar of coffee beans spilt on the ground

Coffee can be helpful with your weight loss journey. Coffee contains several nutrients like potassium, niacin, and antioxidants. Plus caffeine has been shown to help with lipid metabolism and accelerate the digestion process.

That said, coffee alone won’t make you lose weight. You still need to maintain a healthy diet and exercise frequently.

Coffee has nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, niacin, and many other antioxidants. These nutrients help with the digestive system, aid muscle function, and can improve heart health. 

Caffeine can help you to lose weight. However, there is no evidence that coffee alone can make you lose weight. 

Many teens and adults use powdered coffee for weight loss purposes without knowing the side effects of too much caffeine. Parents need to keep an eye on their children and should limit their caffeine consumption.

You can also opt for other healthy drink options that can help with maintaining weight and stimulating the digestive system.

Drink Type Benefit
Acidophilus MilkPromote stool regularity and prevent diarrhea
Potato SoupReducing the risk of scoffing-induced heartburn and provide vitamines
Ginger TeaCalming inflammation 
WaterHelps to regulate bowel movements.
Drinks to help the digestive system

Final Thoughts

Coffee can be effective for the digestion process as it relieves constipation and reduces sugar absorption. However, it would be best to be careful with your daily intake, as coffee can also be detrimental to your digestive system and overall health.

Coffee can cause stomach aches, boost fluid loss and even make food move fast through the digestive tract. However, as always, coffee has many health benefits that beat the side effects so, a moderate amount of coffee should be part of your diet.  

The drink can also aid in weight loss, so long as it is accompanied by a well-balanced diet and frequent exercise.

The main takeaway is, as long as your caffeine consumption is moderate or within your limit, coffee shouldn’t be a problem for you. It can accelerate the digestion process, promote weight loss, and prevent several diseases like gallstone disease.

That said, when you overdo your coffee intake and end up going above the FDA’s set limit, you might experience negative effects. Just be mindful of how much coffee you’re drinking and you should be good!

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Matt Marshall

As I learn more and more about coffee and coffee products I want to share all my learnings with you here on this website. I hope you find my articles useful and entertaining to read.

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