A man and woman sitting on the couch drinking coffee

Does Drinking Coffee Prevent IBS?

Does Drinking Coffee Prevent IBS?

By Megan Grant
Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

We see you eyeing the office coffee pot. We know the feeling of passing a Starbucks and shedding a single tear. Coffee drinking sometimes gets a bad rap, but we have good news: Your daily cup (or two) of java could work wonders for your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and even help fend off the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Says who?

A recent meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrients looked at eight separate studies involving more than 400,000 individuals. Five of these studies found that regular consumption of a cup of joe helped to protect the participants from IBS. While there are more variables at play and additional research is needed, these findings could point to a possible route for people who are struggling with irritable bowel syndrome or are concerned it could be in their future.

Needless to say, if you want to improve your digestive health, coffee could be a good addition to your diet.

How does coffee drinking impact my gastrointestinal health?

Of the eight studies evaluated in the meta-analysis, the researchers concluded that coffee drinkers are 16% less likely than those who avoid coffee to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. This applied to participants who drank any amount of java regularly.

Furthermore, the results appear to be long-lasting. Other research tells us that a notably reduced risk was still found after 12 years. Participants who consumed 0.5 to one, two to three, or greater than four cups of coffee a day saw a 7%, 9%, and 19% reduction in their risk of developing IBS, respectively. Interestingly, instant and ground coffee seemed to have an even greater impact. While the meta-analysis concluded that coffee for IBS protection may not apply to everyone, the drink still may be beneficial for a certain number of people.

How might coffee help prevent irritable bowel syndrome?

What is it about coffee that makes it beneficial for your health and could help to prevent or ease irritable bowel flare-ups?

It could have something to do with the bioactive molecules it contains, such as polyphenols and diterpenes. These molecules might be beneficial for the gut by reducing inflammation. Coffee intake might also positively affect the gut microbiome and gastrointestinal motility. (Gastrointestinal motility, or gut motility, is a fancy way of talking about how food moves through the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and finally, out of the body.)

Additionally, intake of caffeine from beverages, foods, and supplements has been associated with reduced likelihood of constipation.

That being said, there are a lot of variables here! For instance, if your coffee drink is loaded with sweetener, chocolate chunks, and a mountain of whipped cream, the drawbacks could likely outweigh the benefits and even trigger new health issues. You should also consider the type and quality of coffee you drink. Unroasted green coffee offers certain benefits, for instance.

What is IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome is an umbrella term for several symptoms that often happen together, including abdominal pain, changes in bowel movements (like diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of the two), and bloating.

Note that irritable bowel syndrome is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which leads to swelling and inflammation of the intestinal tract. IBS, on the other hand, can have symptoms without any visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract.

It's also worth noting that experiencing these symptoms doesn't automatically mean you have IBS. Your healthcare provider will be able to give you more insight!

Pro tip: If you're experiencing gastrointestinal issues and you're not sure what the problem is, learn more with a stool analysis lab test.

Gut & Intestinal Health Lab Test

Can I drink coffee with IBS?

Perhaps. It will depend on the specific IBS symptoms you're experiencing since it can manifest differently from individual to individual.

For instance, if you're dealing with constipation more than diarrhea, coffee might help because caffeine can stimulate bowel movements and give the body's elimination process a little nudge. There could be a ripple effect here, too. Because irritable bowel syndrome often exists alongside gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), those symptoms (like acid reflux) might also improve.

On the flip side, if you frequently experience diarrhea—which is called diarrhea-predominant IBS—you might want to cut back on your caffeine intake or even remove it from your diet entirely because it could increase your odds of IBS and trigger those symptoms, like stomach pain.

The best thing you can do is consult with your doctor—preferably a gastrointestinal specialist—about how you can adjust your nutrition to lessen your IBS symptoms. For example, people with irritable bowel syndrome often find relief by following a low FODMAP diet, which involves a three-step elimination process.

Other health benefits of drinking coffee

It's not only your GI tract that might be thanking you if you enjoy a nice cup of coffee. You might experience other health benefits, too!

One meta-analysis found that drinking coffee was associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of major diseases in the US. Namely, researchers found a 10% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, a 10% decrease in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a 15% drop in endometrial cancer risk, an 11% decrease in melanoma risk, an 8% reduction in nonmelanoma skin cancer risk, and a 7% reduction in hepatocellular carcinoma risk.

And if you've heard that coffee is bad for your heart, not so fast! One study found that consuming two to three cups per day was linked to a 10% to 15% drop in the risk of developing a heart condition, like coronary heart disease.

Even in a second study where participants had some sort of cardiovascular disease, the results were similar: Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk of dying of a heart condition, compared to non-coffee drinkers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Drinking coffee might also reduce your chance of developing Parkinson's disease, or if you've already been diagnosed, it could help you better control your movements.

It could support your liver health (even if you're drinking decaffeinated coffee!). It even has the potential to help make your DNA stronger by decreasing breakage in DNA strands. While this is something that happens naturally over time, if your cells don't repair those strands, it could lead to cancer or tumors.

No two bodies are exactly alike, and similarly, there are a myriad of ways to consume coffee. A conversation with your healthcare provider is in order before you make any changes to your diet! However, the research suggests that sipping on a caffeinated beverage could impact your gastrointestinal health for the better.



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The Life Extension Health News team delivers accurate information about vitamins, nutrition and aging. Our stories rely on multiple, authoritative sources and experts. We keep our content accurate and trustworthy, by submitting it to a medical reviewer.