The Science-Backed Secret Ingredient Every Coffee Lover Needs to Try for Better Gut Health
For Better Gut Health, This is What Gastro Docs Add to Their Coffee
Many find that their morning coffee doubles as a natural digestive nudge. While it’s become a beloved routine for some, understanding the full relationship between coffee and gut health is a budding science domain.
Emerging studies and leading gut specialists are now spotlighting the remarkable potential of coffee in supporting a healthy digestive system.
Dr. Joseph Salhab, a Florida-based gastroenterologist, highlights the power of coffee’s polyphenols.
“The polyphenols in coffee can feed beneficial gut bacteria, promoting growth and activity,” and “can also help limit the growth of ‘bad’ bacteria,” notes the expert.
Coffee and Cocoa: A Digestive Duo
Sure, coffee is known for its energizing kick, but there’s more beneath the surface. Coffee, especially when paired with cocoa, brings some impressive digestive advantages.
A Powerhouse of Antioxidants
Dr. Sarah Robbins, a gastroenterologist and the brains behind Well Sunday, states, “Coffee consumption has been a topic of interest in nutritional and medical research for many years, although its effects on gut health and the microbiome are a relatively recent area of research.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine points out that coffee’s abundant antioxidants are known to combat inflammation and fend off various health concerns.
“Coffee’s antioxidant properties are protective against oxidative stress, which can contribute to GI issues,” adds Dr. Robbins.
Mixing in cocoa only amplifies these gains. Dr. Salhab notes, “Cocoa powder is high in polyphenols, much like coffee. When you combine the two, you’re essentially adding more antioxidant power to your beverage.”
Oxidative stress and microbial imbalance in the gut have been associated with conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, manifesting symptoms such as discomfort, bloody stools, and fatigue, as highlighted by the CDC.
A 2023 study in Antioxidants underscores how polyphenols could counter these adverse effects and bolster gut bacterial diversity and immunity.
A Dose of Dietary Fiber
A significant chunk of Americans fall short in their daily fiber intake, according to the American Society for Nutrition. Sprinkling a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder into your morning coffee is a simple way to bridge this gap — with each tablespoon providing 2 grams of fiber, according to USDA figures.
This fiber is indispensable for fostering a thriving gut environment, as emphasized in a 2022 “Microorganisms” journal review.
Dr. Robbins explains, “Beneficial bacteria ferment prebiotic fibers to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as acetate, propionate and butyrate — and these SCFAs play several roles in gut health.”
Beyond supporting the gut barrier and reducing inflammation, dietary fiber aids in enhancing stool consistency and volume, making bowel movements more regular, as the Mayo Clinic points out.
Making the Ideal Gut-Boosting Coffee
Coffee can be both a friend and foe to the gut, contingent on how it’s consumed.
Dr. Michelle Pearlman, gastroenterologist and Prime Institute’s CEO, offers some insights:
- Choosing the Right Roast: “When we talk about coffee, its purest form, which is black coffee, is arguably the most beneficial way to drink it. Interestingly, light roasts often retain more of their antioxidant properties,” mentions Dr. Salhab. However, he suggests darker roasts for those with a sensitive palate since they tend to be gentler and less acidic.
- Picking the Brewing Technique: For those prone to acid reflux with hot coffee, cold brew could be the savior. “The process of cold brewing makes coffee less acidic compared with hot brewing methods. This can be gentler on the stomach and may be a good option for those who experience digestive discomfort with regular coffee,” Dr. Robbins notes.
- Timing Matters: Drinking coffee post a small meal can counteract the potential acid boost in your stomach. However, those seeking relief from constipation might benefit from coffee on an empty stomach.
- Being Mindful of Additives: Dr. Pearlman warns against additives that might irk the digestive system. The expert suggests being cautious with sugars, certain artificial sweeteners, and dairy for the lactose-sensitive. Dr. Salhab also recommends leaner creamer alternatives to stave off potential reflux issues.
In a nutshell, while coffee can be a delightful ritual, understanding its influence on gut health and leveraging it effectively can make it a valuable component of one’s wellness journey.