If, like Lorelai Gilmore, coffee is your co-pilot, the thought of giving it up for any reason might seem incomprehensible. But if you have a leaky gut, perhaps you’ve wondered if coffee affects your gut health. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. “Because of coffee’s acidity, it can adversely affect the lining of your stomach and intestines. If you drink a lot of coffee over an extended period, it will worsen any existing conditions you may have. In addition, it can lead to gastritis and ulcers,” New York City-based Gastroenterologist Dr. Shawn Khodadadian said on the Manhattan Gastroenterology website. Basically, if you already have gut problems, coffee isn’t doing you any favors.
“If you suffer from GI problems like Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, you should not drink coffee, period. It will exacerbate your symptoms,” Dr. Khodadadian noted. Ugh. I’ll give you a second to mourn the loss of your caffeine BAE.
But wait! Not so fast. Other evidence suggests that coffee is actually good for gut bacteria. A 2016 study found that people who regularly drink wine and coffee have more diverse gut microbiome, which is a good thing, Medical Daily reported. So is coffee good or bad? It actually depends on your individual gut health. And based on gut health, one person’s fuel is another person’s kryptonite.
While an all-coffee diet is definitely bad, if your gut is healthy and coffee is part of a diverse array of food and drink you’re putting in your body, your coffee habit is probably totally fine. “Disease often occurs as the result of many factors,” Geneticist Cisca Wijmenga said in a press release about the study. “Most of these factors, like your genes or your age, are not things you can change. But you can change the diversity of your microbiome through adapting your diet or medication. When we understand how this works, it will open up new possibilities.”
It also depends on your personal experience. Marketing specialist Caroline Høgh Groth wrote on her website that because she has a sensitive gut, giving up coffee was the right thing to do for her. She cited things like GERD, excess stomach acid, food rotting, and inflammation as ways coffee can upset the balance of a sensitive gut.
Like everything in life, gut health is an individual thing. If coffee makes your gut feel bad, it’s probably best to stop drinking it. If you’re not sure whether or not coffee is causing your gut distress, conduct a little experiment to see if you feel better going java free. A month after giving up coffee, Groth noted that she saw myriad benefits, including:
“Far fewer days with reflux, less bloating and upset stomach, better and deeper sleep, less fatigue and tiredness — I have high energy into the early evening, better and more regular bowel movements, better and clearer skin — my skin is glowing, my eyes are white, clear and not itchy, my mood has improved, and I don’t have as many mood-swings and depressive moments.”
Because everyone is different, there’s no guarantee kicking coffee to the curb will totally transform your gut or your life. However, if you’ve tried everything else to get your gut health in check, putting the cup down for 30 days certainly can’t hurt.