Does Coffee Consumption Improve Gut Health?

A new study shows that coffee consumption may improve overall gut health and lower the risk of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A comprehensive study, involving hundreds of thousands of people, indicates that those who drink coffee could have a lower chance of getting IBS.1Lee JY, Yau CY, Loh CYL, Lim WS, Teoh SE, Yau CE, Ong C, Thumboo J, Namasivayam VSO, Ng QX. Examining the Association between Coffee Intake and the Risk of Developing Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2023; 15(22):4745.

It’s good timing, too. I’ve recently posted a few times about how I’ve stopped drinking coffee, which has led some people to believe that I don’t think it’s good for you. That’s not at all the case.

The reality is, I just lost my taste for, and interest in drinking it since I started drinking Happy Juice in the morning. I wasn’t at all thinking I’d stop drinking my morning coffee, but between the two, my Happy Juice supplements are certainly better for my body and brain. But I digress. Let’s get back to the gut health benefits of coffee.

The Complexity of Coffee

Coffee isn’t just a simple drink. It’s made up of over a hundred different components, and how it’s prepared can really change what’s in your cup. A study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows that the type of bean, how it’s roasted, and even the way you brew it can affect the chemicals in your coffee.2Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2020, Vol. 68, pp. 3995-4005 This study explores how different types of coffee beans and brewing methods affect the chemical composition of coffee.

This could explain why some studies see a link between coffee and a lower risk of IBS, while others don’t. For example, the UK Biobank study found that people drinking certain types of coffee, like instant or ground, had a lower risk of IBS. This is probably because these types of coffee have different compounds that could affect the gut in good ways.3Nutrition Journal, 2021, Vol. 20, Article 21″: Research from the UK Biobank study discussing the impact of different types of coffee on the risk of IBS.

Coffee Preparation: More Than Just Taste

The way you make your coffee matters more than you might think. Different brewing methods change the levels of helpful stuff like antioxidants in coffee.4European Journal of Nutrition, 2019, Vol. 58, pp. 1-9″: A study analyzing how various brewing methods alter the antioxidant levels in coffee. 

For example, espresso has different chemicals in it compared to a drip coffee. This means that not just the type of coffee, but also how you make it, can influence its health benefits.

The Protective Effects of Coffee on IBS

The potential benefits of coffee in preventing IBS are gaining attention, backed by research pointing to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. For example, components in coffee, such as polyphenols and diterpenes, might protect against IBS. These compounds are known for their positive effects on gut health, including maintaining the intestinal barrier and reducing inflammation.5American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2018, Vol. 107, pp. 120-129″: Discusses the role of coffee components in protecting against IBS through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Interestingly, research published in Gastroenterology Research and Practice shows that substances in coffee can positively affect the gut microbiota. This is crucial since a healthy gut microbiome is key to preventing conditions like IBS.6Gastroenterology Research and Practice, 2019, Vol. 2019, Article ID 4346391″: Explores how coffee influences gut microbiota and its potential benefits for IBS prevention. 

Coffee’s ability to influence gut bacteria and protect the intestinal lining could be one of the ways it helps lower the risk of IBS.

A Balancing Act: Coffee’s Diverse Effects

While some studies highlight coffee’s protective effects, it’s crucial to note that not all findings are in agreement. For example, research in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that excessive coffee consumption could be linked to increased IBS symptoms in some people.7International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2017, Vol. 68, No. 6, pp. 682-686″: Highlights the possible negative effects of excessive coffee consumption on IBS symptoms.

Read also: Health Benefits of Coffee: Why it’s good for you.

Additional Health Benefits of Coffee: Beyond IBS

Coffee is more than just a popular beverage; it’s also linked to various health benefits, supported by a growing body of research.

  1. Heart Health: Moderate coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of heart failure. Researchers noted that drinking one to two cups of coffee a day seems to be beneficial for heart health.8Circulation, 2021, Vol. 143, pp. 374-384″: Highlights the relationship between coffee consumption and reduced risk of heart failure.
  2. Longevity: Coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk of all-cause mortality. This suggests that coffee drinkers might have a longer lifespan compared to non-drinkers.9European Journal of Epidemiology, 2019, Vol. 34, pp. 731-752″: Discusses the link between coffee drinking and lower all-cause mortality.
  3. Type 2 Diabetes: Regular coffee drinking is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This protective effect is thought to be due to coffee’s ability to preserve pancreatic beta-cell function and its anti-inflammatory properties.10Journal of Nutrition, 2020, Vol. 150, No. 1, pp. 31-50″: Reviews the inverse association between coffee and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  4. Mental Health: Studies have also suggested that coffee consumption may have a positive impact on mental health. A paper in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that coffee intake was inversely associated with the risk of developing depression.11Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 2016, Vol. 50, No. 9, pp. 899-910″: Explores the potential benefits of coffee on reducing the risk of depression.
  5. Cognitive Function: Coffee consumption may lower the risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The compounds in coffee, including caffeine, are believed to offer neuroprotective benefits.12Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2017, Vol. 57, No. 4, pp. 941-959″: Suggests a protective effect of coffee on cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.

Final Thoughts

While this article focused on coffee and IBS, it’s clear that coffee offers a range of other health benefits. From improving heart health and longevity to potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases and supporting mental health, coffee’s role in overall well-being is significant. As with any dietary component, moderation and personal tolerance are key. Continuing research will undoubtedly provide deeper insights into these fascinating links between coffee and health.