When we’re trying to keep up with the frantic pace of our Western World, it’s tempting, easy, and convenient for many of us to lean on that cup of coffee to keep our energy levels up until the end of the day. Coffee is a multi-billion pound business and seems to have become an integrated part of our modern lifestyle habits.
You might have heard a lot of conflicting information surrounding the health impacts of coffee. So what’s the truth of the matter, is coffee a good thing to drink? Read on to find out if coffee can cause bloating, along with tips to calm a bloated stomach.
Does coffee cause bloating?
There is no doubt that coffee’s bitter brew can be beneficial as a source of health-promoting antioxidants. Recent science suggests that a cup of coffee boosts brain function (probably the number one reason we drink it in the first place) and provides some protection against diabetes, the risk of a stroke, and coronary heart disease. Pour in the positive research to suggest that coffee can help with depression and prevent Alzheimer’s disease – you’d think your coffee cup is filled with good news.
However, as much as regular coffee drinking could be regarded as beneficial, like most things in life, other factors come into play, and any potential benefits gained are affected by a variety of other considerations, such as:
- the quality of coffee you drink,
- the way you take your coffee (what else are you adding in)
- how often you drink it,
- what time of the day you are drinking coffee,
- whether you have coffee with or without food.
All of your answers can make your use of coffee act as a medicine or a poison in your body. Coffee can indeed be ‘overused’ and cause disharmony in the body. For example, caffeine blocks the brain’s receptors for sleep-inducing hormones such as adenosine. Excessive caffeine use is often associated with a frazzled, overwhelmed nervous system, making it difficult to relax. Plus, it’s responsible for many an afternoon energy crash. Research also shows that coffee can increase the stress hormone ‘cortisol in both men and women. Hands up those of you who need to feel more stress right now? (1) [Source: Pubmed]
To drink, or not to drink
Coffee can often cause some undesired digestive side effects for people. Many clients at Homefield have said that a cup of coffee gets their bowels moving effectively and prevents constipation. Other clients state it is quite common that coffee gives them acid reflux (heartburn), which is no fun for anyone. Frequently our guests say that coffee can cause them a great deal of bloating. If you regularly experience belly bloat and drink two or more coffees a day, this popular drink might be the main offender. So why does this happen?
In Women’s Health, the popular ladies magazine quotes Dr. Roger Gehard, an eminent gastroenterologist stating, “coffee can overexcite the digestive tract and may stimulate spasms in the bowel that cause bloating.” Also, remember that taken on an empty stomach, coffee may have a negative effect on the digestive system by reducing the production of hydrochloric acid in your gut, so you can’t break your food down properly. Black coffee is an ‘acidic drink’ that can create immediate swelling and irritation in the stomach lining. Let’s not forget that coffee is a diuretic, which can cause dehydration in the cells, consequently leading to fluid retention, which in itself can cause bloating. (2) [Source: NCBI]
So, generally, can we say that coffee is good for you? The question you need to ask yourself is, “how does my stomach feel after consuming coffee?” If each time you drink a cup, your tummy feels unwell, then it is pretty certain that you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
Milk, cream, and sugar, Madam?
If a cup of coffee seems to be the cause of your bloating and digestive discomfort, take a careful look at what else you are adding to your mug. What about that splash of cow’s milk or full-fat cream? If you regularly enjoy your coffee with added dairy products, which is followed by bloating, then you may have a ‘food intolerance’ or a ‘sensitivity’ to dairy, which will undoubtedly create uncomfortable belly bloat. The same goes for artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame. Your body does not recognise these chemically created products and struggles to digest them; hence you get the bloat. Research indicates that artificial sweeteners may aggravate bowel issues such as IBS. (2) [Source: NCBI]
A note to dieters
Some dieters say that the jump-start of energy coffee gives them prevents them from turning to high calorific foods and reduces their immediate hunger. However, if your goal is to maintain a lifelong healthy weight, then beware of drinking too much coffee. Caffeine will only empty the contents of any food in your stomach quicker than it should, making your hunger return sooner. Plus, the result of food leaving the stomach without being properly broken down can result in undigested foods arriving in the colon, guaranteeing that bloated, uncomfortable feeling.
What can you do to help a bloated stomach?
Sadly, we live in a world that is packed with processed, de-natured foods full of salt, sugar, wheat, and gluten. Layer on top of that our stress levels and our tendency to overeat, plus eating ‘on the go,’ our poor digestive system is fighting a losing battle. No wonder we get consequences. Follow some of these tips that may offer immediate relief:
1. Cut down on sugary, starchy foods that destroy the good flora in your gut.
2. Alcohol contains plenty of sugar that creates a lot of bloat. Avoid alcohol for a couple of months, along with dairy, fizzy drinks, wheat, and gluten, and see how you feel.
3. Eat slowly and mindfully. Practice the ‘slow down diet’ and chew your food well. Finish the food that is in your mouth before loading up your fork. Your gut will thank you for it!
4. Stay hydrated. Aim for a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day, preferably away from food.
5. Eat lightly, having small quantities of food in one sitting.
6. Consume the majority of your calories between 6am and 6pm. Your digestive enzymes begin to go to sleep after 6pm. If you have to eat late, try a simple vegetable meal or soup.
7. Enjoy a soak in a warm Epsom Salt bath.
8. Ensure that you are moving regularly. A brisk 15 minute walk a day, a few yoga poses, or dance round the coffee table (pardon the pun). Movement is essential to help the digestive system work efficiently.
9. Try getting your caffeine hit from a delicious Green or Jasmine tea, both of which have been found more effective at reducing stress levels and are kinder drinks for the gut to process. (3) [Source: Pubmed]
Like most things in life, in moderation and on its own, coffee is generally regarded as a healthy beverage. However, the more you add to it and the more frequent its use, the higher the chance of belly bloat and unwanted belly fat.
Although coffee causes bloating in many people, coffee doesn’t seem to create bloating in everyone. If you frequently suffer from belly bloat, we would highly suggest that you spend some time with a qualified Nutritionist to get to the root of the problem. Coffee may not be the real or only cause of bloating. A good healthy digestive system should cope with anything some of the time. Any regular symptoms of discomfort such as bloating only shows that you need to give your gut some much-needed time, care, and attention. (4) [Source: Bant.org.uk]
- Cortisol response to Mental Stress, Exercise & Meals following Caffeine intake in Men and Women. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16631247/
- Artificial Sweeteners: A Systematic Review and Primer for Gastroenterologists
- Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep Quality Caused by Green Tea Are Associated with a Reduced Caffeine Content
- The British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine https://bant.org.uk