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  • Writer's pictureNarelle

Coffee - Harmony or Havoc on your digestive system?

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Coffee for many of us is the highlight of our day. We jump out of bed….or stumble out of bed… and pop the kettle on or in my case, start the stove top espresso pot, and away we go. Coffee is the energy booster we all know (or hope) will give us that pep in our step. As I used to say to my kids, “It makes Mummy nicer.” (and it really does).

But have you noticed coffee is impacting your digestion?

Does coffee wake up your brain and your bowels?

For many people a cup of coffee is often interrupted with a quick trip to the toilet to decorate the oval office, or have a bowel motion.

So why does it make you poop?

Firstly it increases gastrin, a digestive hormones that kicks off your digestive system to contract. This peristalsis (the official term for the muscles squeezing things along) moves the food and liquid through the intestines, propelling the poo along the gastrointestinal tract.

It also may relax the anal sphincter. The anal sphincter is like the gatekeeper for letting the torpedoes out. Whilst the research isn’t great here, if caffeine does indeed relax it, then the gate is open for whatever needs to exit to leave - departure is imminent!

Coffee can create digestive harmony…

Coffee stimulates the digestive system in a number of other ways and not just in elimination.

First of all it gets your digestive juices flowing. It’s bitterness (without the milk and sugar) stimulates the release of salvia, hydrochloric acid (stomach acid), pepsin, gastrin, pancreatic enzymes and bile - everything you need to keep things moving and absorb nutrients.

Coffee may also keep your gall bladder healthy. Now the jury is still out here as there is minimal research done, but one study showed that people who drink 2 cups of coffee per day don’t have as many problems with their gall bladder or gallstones. And just in case you forgot, the gallbladder helps your body breakdown foods high in fat.

Plus it can also feed the good bacteria in your gut, especially the anti inflammatory ones.

But it can also create chaos...

Just as some people find caffeine is a joyous experience for their digestion, for others it can wreak absolute havoc.

Firstly it can stimulate a little too much and cause areas to be overactive that are not necessarily helpful when they are overactive - the muscles of your digestive tract. Coffee can have the unfortunate side effect on your bowels triggering stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

And all the digestive stimulation is fabulous unless you already have issues with heartburn, indigestion or reflux. Because by stimulating all the digestive process it can also exacerbate these symptoms and make them unbearably worse. It is also quite acidic so along with stimulating the stomach acid it can make an already existing problem worse.

So coffee can really be a healthy joyous harmonious digestive experience, or a disastrous painful urgent one.

The bottom line is if coffee helps get you going in more ways than one, then enjoy. If not… avoid!

And should you drink coffee to help you poop? No!…Maybe see your Naturopath instead.

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