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Coffee and digestion — the good and the bad of it
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Coffee and digestion — the good and the bad of it

Coffee has a lot of health benefits on our mind and body but can too much of it also be too good?

 

Coffee and digestion
Representational image | Canva

A hot cup of coffee can make our mornings – and evenings – come alive. While coffee is hailed for providing health benefits ranging from alertness and vigour to reducing inflammation, drinking too much of it can lead to digestive discomfort.

Nutritionists and doctors say the key is moderate consumption. “Beyond just the caffeine boost, coffee contains antioxidant polyphenols and flavonoids that prevent oxidative damage to cells,” says Dr Srabani Mukherjee, nutritionist at Fortis Hospital, Kolkata.

Its anti-inflammatory property can lower the risk of conditions such as cancer, heart disease and autoimmune issues.

However, Dr Mukherjee points out that coffee is also a stimulant that can adversely affect our body systems. It is the caffeine that induces a bowel movement in many people after they have their morning coffee.

Dr Abhijit B R, a consultant gastroenterologist at Aster Hospital in Bengaluru, explains that coffee contains compounds that can increase colonic movement. “Studies show that decaffeinated coffee, too, has the ability to increase colon movement, but the exact cause is still not known,” says Dr Abhijit.

A common belief is that drinking coffee makes the stomach acidic – but Dr Abhijit disagrees with this. “Many people believe that coffee causes increased stomach acidity and even peptic ulcers, but there is still no proof of this,” he says.

While coffee does induce some gastric secretions, studies reveal it does not actually change gastric pH levels or the overall intragastric acidity. Concerns about coffee causing stomach acidity or triggering ulcers in healthy individuals have not been scientifically proven.

For conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), where the acid in the stomach flows back into the food pipe and mouth causing a burning sensation, coffee lovers are advised to reduce their intake.

Dr Abhijit notes that people with functional dyspepsia, which involves recurring indigestion with no identifiable cause, should reduce coffee intake as it can exacerbate their digestive symptoms.

“In the case of individuals with kidney or liver failure we advise them not to have excessive amount of coffee. Excess caffeine increases the risk of developing renal stones,” says Mukherjee.

People who are prone to anxiety or have trouble falling asleep are advised to drink less coffee.

These issues apart, Dr Abhijit says it is safe to consume one to four cups of coffee a day.

Brain gains

Research is clear that coffee provides a variety of significant cognitive gains by stimulating important neurotransmitters and protecting areas of the brain that are vulnerable to degeneration later in life.

“Coffee is known to decrease the incidence of certain cancers like colon cancer. The risk of developing neurological conditions Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinsons is lower in coffee drinkers versus non-coffee drinkers,” says Dr Abhijit.

The key to gaining from coffee is to ensure a regular, moderate intake; this can bestow maximum neurological benefits in the long run.

    Key takeaways:

  • If you experience increased acidity or digestive discomfort after drinking coffee, avoid or limit its intake. Coffee can exacerbate reflux and digestive issues in some individuals.
  • People diagnosed with functional dyspepsia or other chronic stomach conditions should watch and limit their coffee intake as it may aggravate the symptoms.
  • Two or three cups of black coffee (i.e. consumed without adding milk or sugar) per day is considered a reasonable amount for most healthy adults. Up to four cups may be allowed if it does not cause negative effects.
  • Those with anxiety, hypertension, sleep problems, or on certain medications may need to reduce their coffee intake based on individual symptoms and doctor’s recommendations.
  • For any discomfort suspected to be due to coffee, always consult your doctor if you have ongoing digestive issues, high blood pressure, pregnancy-related complications or medication concerns.

 

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