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That first savory mug, before you’ve barely opened your eyes…
A mid-morning coffee break at your desk…
An iced latte or cold brew on a hot and sunny afternoon…
If so, it’s no surprise. Because Americans drink over 400 million cups of coffee each day.
No doubt about it, we love our coffee.
But does it love us back?
Let’s take a look at how your favorite beverage affects your overall health and well-being.
We’ll also look at the link between coffee and gut health in particular. As people become increasingly aware and concerned about supporting their gut microbiomes (and for good reason!), they want to know if their favorite foods and beverages are helpful or harmful.
This begs the question: is coffee good for gut health? Let’s find out!
How Coffee Affects Your Health
Before we look at how coffee affects your gut, let’s look at how it affects your overall health. It may surprise you!
Because when you think of healthy drinks, your mind probably doesn’t go straight to coffee. Instead, you probably think of kombucha, green tea, vegetable juice… and of course, the gold standard: water.
In fact, ask most people to name the benefits of coffee, and you’ll likely receive variations of the same answer: the mental and physical stimulation they get from the caffeine.
But studies show that your preferred elixir does much more than just jump-start your day. Coffee is actually loaded with beneficial properties that can positively impact your physical, emotional, and mental health.
Drinking a moderate amount of coffee can reduce your risk of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Colorectal cancer
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Another possible benefit is that drinking coffee may help you process sugar, especially glucose, more effectively. While the research is ongoing, the fact that coffee drinkers are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes does seem to support this theory.
And, coffee is rich in antioxidants, shielding your body from potential damage caused by free radicals. This is due to its phenols, a plant-based substance that protects your body from oxidative stress and inflammation.
But how does coffee affect your gut?
Coffee and Gut Health
So, now you know that coffee is loaded with properties that can boost your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. But what about your gut? Can coffee directly impact your gut health?
Let’s take a closer look at the connection between coffee and gut health.
Your body is home to trillions of bacteria. Some of these are beneficial (good) bacteria, and others are pathogenic (bad) bacteria. Both types of bacteria coexist in your gut microbiome.
However, the space available in your gut is limited.
Ideally, you’ll have more good bacteria than bad. As the colonies of beneficial bacteria flourish, they crowd out bad bacteria and reward you with optimal health.
Unfortunately, the opposite is a more likely scenario. The pathogenic bacteria are present in larger numbers, reducing the colonies of good bacteria and wreaking havoc on your overall health. The resulting imbalance is known as dysbiosis, and it’s surprisingly common.
Since almost everything you eat or drink makes its way to your gut, what you consume plays a huge role in either supporting or undermining your gut health. And that includes your steaming mug of morning coffee—or your afternoon iced latte!
That said… is coffee good for gut health?
Not surprisingly, given its other health benefits, the answer is yes.
Let’s look at some of the ways your gut can benefit from your coffee habit.
Increases Beneficial Bacteria
One study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, shows that drinking 2 or more daily cups of coffee promotes a healthy bacterial balance.
More specifically, this study found higher levels of beneficial bacteria, such as anti-inflammatory bacteria, and lower levels of pathogenic bacteria.
Another study showed that some of the substances found in coffee, particularly phenols and fiber, can act as “food’ for beneficial bacteria. This can help build up their strength and their numbers, and maintain the right balance within your gut microbiome.
Prebiotics for a Healthy Gut… and a Healthy You!
Promotes Bacterial Diversity
A study in Nutrition Research Reviews linked chlorogenic acid, a component of coffee, to increased microbial diversity.
Why is this important?
A rich, diverse gut microbiome is generally considered to be healthier and more resilient, able to cope more effectively with different illnesses, viruses, infections, and anything else that threatens your health. It also reduces the risk of developing a chronic illness.
As most coffee drinkers will attest, the next stop after the coffee machine is usually the bathroom.
Caffeine and other components of coffee trigger contractions in your digestive tract and encourage the production of stomach acids, which speeds up digestion and eliminates toxins and waste more quickly.
How Much Coffee Should You Drink?
Are you excited about the possible gut-boosting benefits of coffee?
Before you brew another mug, keep in mind that the benefits we discussed are from drinking moderate amounts of coffee.
So how much is considered moderate, or generally safe to drink?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most adults can safely consume 400mg of caffeine per day. Since one 8-ounce cup contains around 95 mg of caffeine, this means you can probably drink about 4 cups of coffee per day.
This number can vary, however, from person to person. Certain conditions and medications can make you more susceptible to the side effects of caffeine.
Here are some signs that you might want to cut back on your coffee drinking.
- Dysphoria (a feeling of unhappiness)
- Elevated heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Upset Stomach
When calculating your caffeine intake, keep in mind that caffeine can be found in other food and drinks. Even decaffeinated coffee contains 2-15 mg of caffeine per cup!
So if you’re consuming other caffeinated products throughout your day, you may want to hold off on that refill.
Making Your Coffee More Gut-Friendly
We discussed the need for moderation in your coffee consumption, mainly due to the side effects of over-caffeination.
But other than cutting back, what else can you do to maximize coffee’s gut benefits?
The secret to making sure your coffee is as healthy and gut-friendly as possible is partly about the quality of your coffee and partly about what you add to it after brewing.
Skip the Artificial Sweeteners and Flavors
Cream, artificial sweeteners, and shots of caramel or other flavors all load your coffee with calories, sugar, dyes, chemicals, and other harmful substances. They also fuel the pathogenic bacteria in your microbiome, throwing off your gut health and negating coffee’s health benefits.
The less of these you add to your coffee, the healthier it will be!
If you want to add flavor to your coffee while keeping it as healthy as possible, here are some other options to try. (Some of these also have the added benefit of adding sweetness too if that’s how you prefer your coffee.)
- Maple syrup
- Vanilla extract (the real stuff!)
These natural alternatives will give your coffee the flavor boost you’re looking for, without adding unnecessary sugars and chemicals—and their harmful side effects.
Choose a High-Quality Coffee
There’s no doubt about it, not all coffee is created equal. Many lower quality coffee brands come from GMOs and are grown with harmful chemicals, like pesticides and herbicides.
A well-known herbicide, glyphosate, is particularly harmful to the gut microbiome. Recent studies show that, in the human body, glyphosates act as an antibiotic.
Even worse, glyphosate actually targets the beneficial bacteria in your gut, while leaving the pathogenic organisms alone. This gives these harmful bacteria the opportunity to gain a foothold and wreak havoc on your gut microbial balance, leading to dysbiosis and its associated health issues.
Scientists have also found that glyphosates can affect the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems, and contribute to the development of neurological disorders such as ADD/ADHD, autism, Parkinson’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s.
To protect your gut health while enjoying your favorite morning beverage, choose organic, non-GMO coffee brands whenever possible. Our favorite is Lifeboost Coffee. Not only is it non-GMO, organic, and pesticide free, it is also single origin, free of mycotoxins, and low acid (so it’s easy on your stomach).
Other Ways to Boost Gut Health
Drinking coffee is one effective, and delicious, way to improve your gut health.
But if you want to make sure your gut microbiome is robust and active, here are a few other things you can do.
Eat Healthy Foods
Load up your plate with organic produce and whole grains, foods rich in antioxidants and nutrients, and lean proteins. Even the occasional square or two of dark chocolate can be good for your health!
Another good option is eating more fermented foods such as pickles, miso, tempeh, kombucha, and probiotic yogurts. These foods are considered to be probiotic-friendly, which means that they’ll boost the number of good bacteria in your gut.
Cut out alcohol and skip pre-packaged, over-processed foods, which promote the growth of bad bacteria.
As much as possible, reduce sugar—the food of choice for pathogenic bacteria. Remember, if you like your coffee on the sweet side, there are better choices than artificial sweeteners or spoonfuls of sugar!
Studies show that regular exercise can boost the diversity of your gut microbiome. Try moderate exercise such as walking or swimming, for 30-45 minutes, 3-5 times per week.
Physical activity also helps you sleep better at night, which in turn can promote bacterial diversity and a healthier gut.
A healthy mind equals a healthy gut!
Due to the close connection between your gut and your brain, what’s going on in one area can affect the other. Feeling stressed out and anxious can have a negative affect on your gut microbiome.
Add a Probiotic Supplement
Probiotics are similar or identical to the beneficial bacteria already living in your gut microbiome.
When they get to your gut, they add strength and numbers to the colonies of good bacteria, helping them thrive and push out the colonies of pathogenic bacteria.
We mentioned probiotic-friendly foods earlier, but a supplement is easier to take and much more effective, with a known amount of CFUs (Colony Forming Units).
We recommend Just Thrive Probiotic. Due to its protective endospore shell, it’s guaranteed to arrive 100% alive in your gut microbiome, ready to get to work boosting your gut health.
Clearly, it’s okay, and even advisable, to keep enjoying your morning—or afternoon—cup of java.
Drinking coffee regularly can result in a healthier, more diverse gut microbiome. And it can promote your overall health and well-being, too.
But to keep it gut-friendly, make sure you drink it in moderation, skip the harmful additives, and choose an organic, non-GMO brand.
Then sip and say ahhhh!
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