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Coffee and Digestion: How to Find a Healthy Balance

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By Rachel Welch

"Wake up and smell the coffee!"

Coffee is a delightful start to the morning and one that many of us enjoy. It is more than just a drink. Coffee is a source of energy, a trending consumable, and a foundation of social outings. Is it possible that coffee is also a hindrance to our nutrient absorption? Do coffee and digestion work well together? Is there a way to balance a healthy, caffeinated relationship? Let's explore.

Benefits of Coffee

Some of the most popular benefits of coffee are the taste and the energizing effects. Add the joy and comfort that it adds to a morning routine, and its popularity comes as no surprise. Additionally, coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Research suggests that these antioxidants may help to protect against some chronic diseases (1). Coffee and digestion are related as well, as coffee may help to relieve constipation and protect against gallstones.

The caffeine in coffee helps by providing increased energy, mental alertness, and better performance during exercise. Researchers have examined participants consuming caffeine paired with carbohydrates before exercising to the point of volitional fatigue. Volitional fatigue refers to the point at which a person’s muscles are so tired that they cannot perform another repetition, and cannot continue the exercise with correct form.

They found that consuming caffeine and carbohydrates led to muscle glycogen recovering more quickly after the exercise was completed. For those who did not have caffeine, their bodies took longer to rebuild the same fuel (2).

This all sounds great! What's the catch to coffee?

There is a flip side to coffee consumption. Caffeine can lead to the depletion of some micro-nutrients that our bodies need. Iron, potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium levels can all be negatively impacted by caffeine in the body. This can be problematic, considering many of us don't intake enough of these nutrients to begin with. Magnesium, in particular, is one of the most important nutrients for our bones, tissues, and muscles (3).

Coffee and digestion

In recent years, we have learned that coffee and digestion have a strong relationship. Coffee is a stimulant for our digestive systems. Coffee is known to stimulate activity in the colon, esophagus, and digestive system. For some this is helpful, but for others, it can be problematic. As part of these stimulating digestive effects, some people experience heartburn, digestive upset, or unpleasant GI symptoms (4).

Partly due to coffee's stimulant properties, we know that when you drink your coffee, matters. Research suggests that the timing of when you drink your coffee can impact the body's absorption of nutrients. It is recommended to avoid drinking coffee with your meal, for instance. This is because our digestive systems receive stimulation from our coffee. Because of the timing of our coffee and digestion, our body may rid itself of both the coffee and the vitamins in the meal that we just ate if timed too closely together. Therefore, it is recommended to drink coffee before a meal, versus during or after (5).

Coffee is also highly acidic, with an infamous reputation of causing stains on our pearly whites. This is not a health risk, but certainly is an unpleasant, cosmetic side-effect of the dark brown beverage. So, where does this leave us? Do we have to give up our beloved coffee?

How can my health and coffee coexist?

Coffee can be a part of a healthy routine! As we discussed, coffee has numerous benefits that many of us don't want to lose, and many of us would swear that our coffee is worth fighting for!

We know that caffeine can hinder our nutrient absorption and that when we drink our coffee may make a difference. We have also learned that coffee stimulates our digestive systems, which can be helpful or unpleasant. Finally, we mentioned that coffee may stain our teeth. Luckily, there are some simple solutions to allow your love of coffee and your health to live in happy harmony!

Consider supplementing vital nutrients

Too much coffee can hinder our absorption of iron, potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. One solution could be to supplement these nutrients! We all have different diets and health needs, so consult with your doctor to confirm that supplements are a good option for you. If so, there are plenty of high-quality products that can help. Health By Principle offers all-natural, organic, premium supplements free from GMOs, fillers, sweeteners, and additives. Everything you need -- nothing you don't. In addition to supplementing helpful nutrients and regulating the amount of coffee we consume, we can also change the time that we consume our cup of coffee.

Timing is everything

Planning your morning coffee before a meal, versus during or right after a meal can help. By considering coffee's stimulating effects on our digestive systems, we can work with that knowledge and adjust our timing accordingly. This may help ensure that our bodies can retain and absorb the nutrients from our food.

Drink, swish, and smile

To save those pearly whites from a yellowed fate, consider brushing your teeth immediately after drinking coffee. Or, if you enjoy your coffee on the go, swish some water in your mouth after finishing your coffee to help to prevent stains and discoloration. Additionally, you can drink your coffee through a straw, thus bypassing contact with your teeth altogether (6).

Coffee is powerful. It impacts our mornings, our digestion, our moods, our nutrients, and our teeth. Thankfully, we can continue enjoying our morning routine, with these considerations. Supplementing nutrients, timing our coffee consumption, and caring for our teeth are helpful steps. These ensure that we can not only wake up and smell the coffee but that we can enjoy it worry-free. 


 

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Sources

  1. 6 Reasons Coffee Is So Good for You. (n.d.). Retrieved from Health.com website: https://www.health.com/food/health-benefits-of-coffee
  2. Pedersen, D. J., Lessard, S. J., Coffey, V. G., Churchley, E. G., Wootton, A. M., Ng, T., … Hawley, J. A. (2008). High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is co-ingested with caffeine. Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md.: 1985), 105(1), 7–13. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.01121.2007
  3. Magnesium Supplements 101. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2021, from Health By Principle website: https://www.healthbyprinciple.com/blogs/news/magnesium-supplements-101
  4. J. Boekema, M. Samsom, G. P. van Be, P. (1999). Coffee and Gastrointestinal Function: Facts and Fiction: A Review. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology, 34(230), 35–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/003655299750025525
  5. Rees, T. (2020, November 25). Coffee Depletes Vitamins & Minerals, But is This a Cause For Concern? Retrieved April 7, 2021, from Medium website: https://medium.com/beingwell/coffee-depletes-vital-micronutrients-659cefc408da
  6. How To Enjoy Coffee Without Staining Your Teeth. (2019, September 9). Retrieved April 7, 2021, from Burlingame Dental Arts website: https://burlingamedentalarts.com/how-to-enjoy-coffee-without-staining-your-teeth/ 

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