Coffee has been linked to several things in our body, from increasing your awareness, alertness, and focus levels to having properties that help prevent some terminal illness. There have been numerous things that researchers have revealed about coffee, and different studies have associated coffee consumption with some other unique kinds of stuff.
Some of these things include the things we see, as usual, things we don’t even think about, like hunger, and some side effects, too, because it would be wrong to talk about the benefits without talking about what happens when you’ve taken too much.
Another look into coffee has revealed that it could have an impact on digestion in the body. With everything I’ve discovered about coffee, I’m not too quick to counter any of these claims when they come out because coffee has a wide range of chemical substances in it that we are yet to understand.
When they enter our body system, they react with hormones and then inhibit a change in the system’s normal functioning. One of these changes is what we are going to examine today.
Further research has been carried out about coffee and digestion, and their reports have been published on the effects of coffee on the body, and that’s what we would be discussing today. Does coffee help with digestion? First, what is digestion?
What is Digestion?
Digestion involves a series of processes in our body where the chemical substances in our body and other organs help us break down large food molecules into smaller bits that are easily absorbed by our body.
Some studies have revealed that coffee has some stimulating effect on the secretion of gastric juice and bile in the stomach, which plays a significant role in the digestion of food in our body.
Coffee as Everyone’s Beverage
Coffee is a beverage for everyone. Every social class takes coffee, and it is the most consumed beverage in the world.
Apart from being the most consumed beverage, it is also the most researched beverage in the world with different studies being carried out every year to know about the benefits, or side effects of coffee consumption and I must say this is why it is one of the popular drinks, and why there’s so much information about it.
Researchers have spared no effort in making sure they understand what coffee entails. From the study of coffee, we found out that it contains a variety of substances which includes:
- Caffeine is the most abundant substance in coffee.
- Polyphenols: These are a group of compounds that occur naturally in food substances. They include chlorogenic acids
- Cafestol and;
Yes, coffee has a great taste and a fantastic flavour because of some of these substances, but that’s not the only thing they do. They are also involved in the physiological changes that happen when you drink coffee.
Caffeine is the most abundant active substance in caffeine, and it acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system. Caffeine is the substance responsible for the sudden alertness and reduced fatigue you get when you drink coffee.
Although it serves many benefits when you’ve had too many cups of coffee, you are also consuming a great deal of caffeine which could lead to some side effects such as irregular sleeping patterns, anxiety, and sudden fatigue. It’s like over-consuming coffee and caffeine multiply the benefits until it becomes aggravated into side effects.
Because of these side effects, it is recommended that you shouldn’t exceed 400 mg of caffeine per day; this recommendation has been publicized by different organizations like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America, and now after a review of the effects of caffeine in the body the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). 400 mg of caffeine would translate to 4 or 5 cups of coffee, so that’s the amount you should watch out for every day to stay within the safe side. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not exceed 200 mg of caffeine per day.
The average cup of coffee you see around would always have between 75 to 100 mg of caffeine. This would give you an idea of how many cups you can afford to drink per day without exceeding the recommended amount.
Effect of Caffeine on the Stomach
The stomach is one of the essential parts of the digestion process. Typically, digestion starts from the mouth. Special enzymes start breaking certain foods down before they are sent into the stomach, which houses the small and large intestine with a host of other things like the pancreas, hormones, and chemical substances.
It is believed that the stomach is part of the upper gastrointestinal tract; there are several other enzymes here with hormones that are involved in digestion, and it is also involved in the secretion of some acids, which helps in getting rid of the microorganisms that we have ingested with the food that we ate.
Research studies have revealed that drinking coffee can influence and fuel the secretion of gastrin. Gastrin is a hormone secreted by the walls of the stomach and is responsible for triggering the secretion or production of gastric acid in the stomach.
Remember I said digestion starts from the mouth because enzymes break down specific food before getting into the stomach? Salivary gastrin can also be stimulated with coffee consumption.
In comparison, it has been suggested that coffee influences gastrin production, the roast of the coffee is a factor that would influence the rate at which it is secreted. Researchers indicated that dark roasted coffee has little effect in stimulating gastrin in the stomach.
Some have suggested that it is because the roasting could have gotten rid of some of the substances that influence gastrin stimulation. However, further research would be needed to prove this as these are just suggestions, and the hypothesis has not been tested.
Caffeine is the most abundant substance in coffee, has a great deal of influence on several chemical substances in our body; one such substance is adenosine, a unique compound involved in several things, including metabolism. It has, however, been established that coffee has a direct impact on adenosine receptors in the body.
The exciting thing about the adenosine receptors is that it is responsible for the alertness and performance boost we get when we drink coffee. But some scientists believe that the adenosine receptors can also regulate the secretion of gastric acid by acting in the stomach’s gastric mucosa.
This would often occur when the adenosine suppresses the release of gastrin and recall that the gastrin is in charge of triggering the secretion of gastric acid, so it ultimately means, when the adenosine suppresses the gastrin, the gastric acid wouldn’t be produced, and this could lead to several things.
When it is taken moderately, the effects are always different from overconsuming it because some scientists also think that caffeine can disrupt this receptor and stimulate the secretion of gastric acid. But like I said earlier, we need more research on these things to establish these claims.
We can’t say that caffeine has any effect on the stomach other than the disruption of the adenosine receptors in secreting gastric acid because the stomach contents are continuously going into the small intestine.
What is Indigestion?
Indigestion would mean gastrointestinal problems preventing your food from digesting – being broken down for it to be absorbed. But scientifically, talking about indigestion, we would be bringing every other thing that comes with it, such as the symptoms, which are:
- Discomfort in the upper abdomen
- Abdominal pains
- Bloating or a feeling of being full
- Passing gas or belching
These symptoms are the things that have been used to describe indigestion scientifically, and sometimes it can only be caused by drinking and overeating. There are other symptoms associated with indigestion that we’ll talk about subsequent – heartburn and GORD, an abbreviation for Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease.
Heartburn and GORD
Heartburn is a condition where there’s a burning sensation in your chest area, which is always uncomfortable. Sometimes it can travel up from your neck and the throat.
GORD or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease is a condition when there’s a leak in the acid in your stomach and which travels up to your throat.
They are both digestive conditions, and looking at these definitions closely, it is easy to mistake the two as the same thing, and although they are related, there’s a significant difference between them.
Heartburn is one of the symptoms of acid reflux in the stomach leading into the oesophagus, and it can typically range from mild to being severe. It doesn’t only cause discomfort in the chest alone; it also causes pains and discomfort in the abdomen.
Acid reflux is a digestive system disease where the acid in the stomach or bile irritates the food pipe-lining. I know it’s some scientific vocabulary, but it just means the acid in the gut leaving their position and upsetting every part of the digestive tract. When it goes from the stomach to the chest and causes pains and discomfort, it is called heartburn.
On the other hand, GORD is more severe and chronic acid reflux where the acids move into the oesophagus from the stomach. The symptoms of this condition are where the difference between heartburn and GORD is confirmed because heartburn is one of the symptoms of GORD. The other symptoms of GORD include:
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Severe and recurring heartburns
- Regurgitation of anything ingested, both food and drinks.
Effects of Coffee on Heartburn and GORD
There has been a lot of speculation about whether coffee affects heartburn and GORD. One of the exciting things about coffee is the amount of research that has understood its benefit and side effects on the body. Still, sometimes this research can be detrimental because they have conflicting results and conclusions.
Most studies about this topic concluded that consuming coffee doesn’t have an effect on heartburn and GORD but taking coffee; it is the same with another study conducted on the people of Taiwan, which revealed that there’s no significant effect of coffee or tea on the stomach acid reflux and its symptoms irrespective of the things added to it whether milk or sugar or both.
Even as various other studies have said there’s no visible relationship between coffee and acid reflux, there are other ones that have established a connection between both.
Like most things around, various factors influence the impact or effect of a substance in the body. In the case of the relationship between coffee, heartburn, and GORD, multiple things could affect the effect of coffee on heartburn and GORD. This is the factor that determines the impact of coffee on heartburn and GORD.
Method of coffee preparation: the different ways of preparing the coffee beans play a role in their impact. Highly caffeinated grounds of coffee resulted in an increased rate of acid stimulation in the stomach than decaffeinated coffee.
Instant coffee didn’t show any difference in the secretion of stomach acid. However, caffeinated coffee and decaffeinated coffee increased the rate at which gastrin is secreted in the stomach. This means that gastric juice would be produced abundantly.
There have different other food substances that could lead to heartburn and GORD, most especially. Food substances such as chocolate and spicy foods. It is also found in drinks such as wine, beer, and carbonated beverages.
It has also been linked with obesity in individuals as well. All of this clarifies that GORD is a complex situation that anything could trigger in the body, so it is challenging to isolate a problem as the sole cause in the body to understand its effect fully, but it is not difficult. The world of science is advancing, and in a few years, we should get a concrete answer.
After a review of the different research studies, the overall conclusion is that there’s no relationship between coffee consumption in the body and developing GORD. Still, a few variables have been linked to that effect, such as the rate at which the coffee bean is roasted regarding the amount of roasting time, the degree, and the intensity of roasting.
Is There a Relationship between Coffee and Duodenal or Gastric Ulcers?
A gastric ulcer is a condition that arises in the stomach lining. In contrast, the duodenal ulcer is a condition that develops in the first part of the small intestine, which is known as the duodenum. Some of the things that can happen when someone has an ulcer include the following:
- Abdominal pains
- Nausea and;
- A feeling of being full.
Ulcers generally have been linked with some cases, such as the use of some medications or due to the activities of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium in the stomach.
However, no research has established a connection between coffee and ulcers in the body and whether drinking coffee has an effect on the stomach developing ulcers in both coffee drinkers and non-drinkers who have had no prior history of ulcers before.
Not necessary, though, but people who already have the symptoms of an ulcer may reduce their coffee consumption because symptoms like heartburn can be aggravated with coffee drinking. But overall, for ulcers, nothing concrete has been established linking it with coffee.
Does Coffee Help the Functions of the Gallbladder or Pancreas?
One of the essential things needed for digestion is the bile. The bile is secreted occasionally from the gallbladder and then sent into the small intestine, where it is used to digest ingested fats. The gallbladder is a unique organ that helps receive the secreted bile and store it until it is needed in the small intestine for digestion.
Most times, the human body is like a computer system where when you press a button, something happens; it is like this for most of the functions in our body. You eat (a button), the digestion process starts (what happens).
This is the same thing with the bile in our stomach, whose secretion is stimulated and triggered by a hormone, the cholecystokinin (CCK). Cholecystokinin is a hormone that triggers bile secretion along with some other digestive enzymes in the stomach.
Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee has been associated with stimulating the secretion of this hormone; this effect of coffee has been established in both decaffeinated coffee and regular coffee. It can result in the contraction of the gallbladder and a significant increase in plasma cholecystokinin.
The cholecystokinin (CCK) has some other functions in the body and most especially in the stomach. It can also stimulate the secretion of several substances in the pancreas, which includes the enzymes that help in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids. More extensive research into this has revealed that coffee consumption could reduce the risk of developing pancreatitis, an inflammation in the pancreas.
Research into the effects of coffee and the gallbladder revealed that drinking coffee could reduce the risk of developing gallstones. Initially, this effect was first recorded for women, but further research showed that it is also possible in men. The more coffee consumed, the less the risk is, which means this effect depends on the doses consumed.
Because of the effect of coffee in reducing the risk of developing gallstones and how it depends on the dose, researchers suspect that this might be one of the other benefits of caffeine in coffee.
This notion is fueled by the absence of this benefit in decaffeinated coffee. Although the way it works is still a myth, the contraction of the gallbladder is a stimulation that is triggered by caffeine, and this is one of the things that contribute to how the risk of developing gall stones is reduced.
Coffee is associated with reducing the risks of developing problems of the gallbladder like gallstones and other gallbladder diseases and reducing the risk of developing inflammation in the pancreas – pancreatitis.
This much effect of coffee on the gallbladder and the pancreas has been established, but it has not been confirmed yet if caffeine plays a role in this effect, and so further research is needed in this area.
Does Drinking Coffee affect the Lower Part of the Digestive Tract?
The parts of the stomach that make up the lower digestive tract are the large intestine and the anus. However, the large intestine has an extended part called the colon, which is tasked with removing water from the food that has been digested its re-absorption.
The colon is also involved in eliminating the waste products, which is the function of the large intestine. This colon is also where the microorganisms of the gut, such as bacteria, are mostly found, which has made it an important place to study the health of the gut or stomach.
To ensure that waste is quickly passed out of the body without any complications, there must be a balance in colonic motility. When the balance is not maintained, it could lead to diarrhoea and constipation.
Even though the effect varies from one person to another, it is suspected that coffee can stimulate the motility of the colon more than water and decaffeinated coffee could, which would mean that caffeine has a role it is playing here.
Advanced research has revealed that decaffeinated coffee also has the same effect on the colon but doesn’t stimulate it as much as the regular coffee that hasn’t been decaffeinated would.
Research is still ongoing about this topic, but it has been revealed that this coffee can kick in as early as the first five minutes of drinking coffee, but this has been addressed as a reaction of hormones to a meal rather than the effects of coffee as initially thought.
Coffee doesn’t affect constipation, whether mild or chronic, as a type of bowel habit. Some advanced research, however, has revealed that drinking could reduce the risk of getting constipated.
Some other benefits of coffee are in how it helps people who have undergone an operation or surgery. Coffee helps such people recover their gastrointestinal functions and boost their tolerance of solid foods, which is part of the recovery of gastrointestinal functions. The way coffee helps in this regard has not been established and needs further research.
Other Coffee Related Research Areas.
Many funds have gone into understanding coffee and its effects on the body, but it seems with every research, there are more questions to be answered, which is a good thing, right? I’d say yes because it would make sure we are ready for anything that arises from drinking coffee.
Another area that seems to be calling for research is the role that coffee plays in gut health relating to the effect of coffee on the microflora or the microorganisms in the gut. One thing is known, and it is the fact that some of these microorganisms are important in the health of the gut, so it would be nice to see the effect of coffee on these microorganisms.
There’s no conclusion regarding coffee because its research is extensive; you can only look through to see what it does, what it doesn’t do, and how it helps you and your health, and weighing both up, its benefits seem to have an edge.