A cup of joe and gut health: Is coffee bad for the probiotics in your gut? By Zoey Sky for Food Science
When you take a probiotic supplement, it’s normal to want to maximize its benefits on your body. But does that mean you have to stop drinking coffee every morning?
Here are some things to consider if you need a cup of joe every morning but are also worried about your gut health.
What are probiotics?
Dr. Lea Ann Chen, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine and pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, defines probiotics as “living microbes that confer beneficial effects on their host.”
This means probiotics are “bacteria that support your gut health and function.” You can find probiotics in different things, from fermented foods to dietary supplements.
Probiotics can be important in various settings to help maintain a balanced gut microbiome. (Related: Study: People who drink coffee have lower risk of early death.)
Different factors can affect probiotics and gut health
Like other aspects of your health, lifestyle factors like your eating habits, stress reduction, good sleep habits, exercise habits and other factors can affect the composition of your gut microbiome. In turn, this can influence your well-being.
If you eat a lot of junk food or don’t get enough sleep, you may experience issues with the good probiotics in your gut.
To keep your gut health in check, eat a “diverse and healthy diet” that is plant-based and full of dietary fiber. You can also improve your gut health by avoiding overly processed foods full of added sugar and fat.
Is coffee bad for your gut health?
But is coffee bad for your gut health? The answer depends.
Dr. Zhaoping Li, a nutrition researcher, professor of medicine, and chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that drinking black coffee moderately may offer benefits for your gut health.
In a small study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers examined the gut microbiome samples taken during routine colonoscopies. The results revealed that those who consumed two or more cups of coffee daily throughout the previous year had better gut microbiome profiles than people who had less or no coffee.
Experts think that the chlorogenic acid in coffee may help increase the diversity in the gut microbiome. This may be one of the mechanisms “by which it can impact metabolism and provide health benefits.”
However, consuming too much coffee with a lot of added sugar and fat could be bad for your gut health. If you drink one or two cups of coffee regularly, make sure your beverage is low in sugar or has no sugar at all to maintain gut health.
As for coffee directly affecting the probiotics you consume, experts say it’s unlikely to cause an issue and that there is no sufficient data to suggest that coffee can harm the prebiotics in your gut.
Tips for promoting gut health
Fortunately, there are several ways to support a healthy gut. One of the best ways to have long-term sustainable equilibrium in your gut microbiome is to incorporate some important key lifestyle factors for your gut health program.
This includes following a diverse diet full of plant-based foods. Your intestines are home to hundreds of species of bacteria, each of which has a specific role in health and requires different nutrients for growth.
A diverse microbiome is generally considered a healthy one because the more species of bacteria you have, the more health benefits you may be able to contribute. If you eat different food types, you can help cultivate a more diverse microbiome.
But the typical Western diet is not very diverse and is full of fat and sugar. Data suggests that at least 75 percent of the world’s food is produced from only 12 plants and five animal species.
Yet, diets in certain rural regions are usually more diverse and richer in the different plant sources. Because of this, some studies have found that gut microbiome diversity is much greater in people who live in rural regions of Africa and South America compared to those from urban areas in Europe or America.
Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is also good for your gut health since produce is the best source of nutrients for a healthy microbiome.
Fruits and vegetables are full of dietary fiber, which your body can’t digest. But certain bacteria in your gut can digest fiber, and this stimulates their growth.
Beans and legumes are also full of fiber.