Coffee and IBS

Coffee and IBS

Many people – not just those of us with IBS – experience a need to defecate after drinking coffee. Coffee, as well as other caffeinated beverages, can stimulate the body’s intestines, increasing the movement of food through the digestive tract.

Why does coffee trigger IBS symptoms?

If you haven’t seen it, watch this cute video on “Why Does Coffee Make You Poop?”

For people with IBS, caffeine can be a trigger that causes a flare in symptoms, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. Some people with IBS also are sensitive to dairy products, so adding milk or cream to your morning cup of Joe may also be increasing your IBS symptoms. Of course, not everyone has the same sensitivities, and some people are more susceptible to coffee or dairy as triggers. However, if you are experiencing worse symptoms of IBS early in the day and you drink coffee in the morning, consider that coffee may be a critical factor.

Alternatives to coffee

Many of us – myself included! – enjoy the taste and ritual of morning coffee. Some of us non-morning people desperately need that morning coffee to get moving. But dealing with intense and painful IBS symptoms gets frustrating, so you may be willing to try some alternatives, such as:

Reduce your coffee intake

If you drink multiple cups of coffee, try lessening your intake. I’ve found keeping my coffee habit to one cup a day helps my body stay happy and productive without too much impact on my IBS symptoms.

Choose a different brand

Farming practices vary by product, so switch to a coffee brand that is organic to see if that helps.

Try decaffeinated

Switching to decaf may help, although some people also get triggered by decaffeinated coffee, suggesting there may be other components in coffee that are the actual trigger. Triggers are unique to the individual, so you don’t know what triggers you until you try it (or try eliminating it).

Switch to tea

There are a variety of tea options that can make a nice morning beverage. Some teas have caffeine, so again, it may take some experimentation to discover if caffeine or coffee (or both) are personal triggers for you.

Try dairy alternatives

I’m lactose intolerant, so I stopped drinking milk and other dairy products a couple years ago. There are several varieties of non-dairy milk, including soy, hemp, coconut, and almond. (Unsweetened coconut milk is my personal favorite)

Change up your sweetener

Artificial sweeteners may also be a trigger for some people. If you use artificial sweeteners in your coffee, try a different one or use sugar, honey, or agave instead.

Eliminate it altogether

If you’ve determined through trial and error that coffee is a serious trigger for you, you may decide that eliminating it altogether is best for your health and well-being.

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