Caffeine For Gut Health - Yay or Nay?

Caffeine which is most commonly consumed via coffee is the world’s most overused drug (and yes it is considered a drug as it’s a psychoactive substance which can impact brain function). Coffee is a part of many people’s morning and daily routines and it’s often used a vice to see people through the day. However, is it really good for supporting our gut health? Let’s dig a little deeper…

The Benefits of Coffee
Coffee can help to support mental alertness as it inhibits the production of adenosine (a neurotransmitter which is associated with increasing tiredness). Consequently, when adenosine is not in action we’re likely to feel more wired and alert.
Coffee may also have some potential prebiotic compounds as it contains a wide variety of plant chemicals specifically known as polyphenols which when metabolised produce beneficial polyphenol metabolites. These metabolites can help to feed and nourish the beneficial bacteria in the gut which in turn cultivates a beneficial and healthy gut microbiome. These polyphenols are not only helpful in supporting our gut bacteria but they also contain antioxidant properties which can help to limit free radicals and their impact on oxidative stress.

Furthermore, additional evidence has shown that coffee can have to anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative effects on the gut lining. For some people consuming coffee can also stimulate bowel movement which can help to support excretion and reduce constipation. However, problems can occur when you’re solely relying on coffee to stimulate bowel movements. In such cases this could mask an underlying condition.

The benefits of coffee have been shown to be impacted by the amount you’re consuming. For example consuming a moderate amount of coffee was shown to have more beneficial affects on the gut bacteria than consuming little or no coffee. More interestingly is that it’s commonly believed that caffeine is having these benefits when in reality it appears to be the components of the coffee beans themselves rather than the caffeine alone.

The Cons of Coffee

Evidently for some people there really are some great benefits to consuming a modest amount of coffee. The term modest is important as much like anything we should consume too much. The recommendations for the average individual are to consume no more than 400mg of caffeine per day. This is equivalent to around 4 cups of instant coffee or 2-3 barista made coffees.
Naturally coffee also contains high levels of caffeine and consuming too much caffeine can have negative affects on stress and anxiety. Caffeine contributes to the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Consequently this can heighten feelings of stress and anxiety in those who are prone.

Furthermore, it’s common to become immune to the cognitive effects of caffeinated coffee and require more to feel the same hit. Overtime, this can lead to constant exhaustion and an increased need and reliance on coffee.
If you’re feeling drained regularly and you rely on coffee for a burst of energy I would recommend significantly reducing your coffee or cutting it out slowly. You may find your energy again. If however you’re experiencing chronic low energy please speak to your GP.

Aravind, S. M., Wichienchot, S., Tsao, R., Ramakrishnan, S., & Chakkaravarthi, S. (2021). Role of dietary polyphenols on gut microbiota, their metabolites and health benefits. Food Research International142, 110189.

Iriondo-DeHond, A., Uranga, J. A., Del Castillo, M. D., & Abalo, R. (2020). Effects of coffee and its components on the gastrointestinal tract and the brain–gut axis. Nutrients13(1), 88.