A Gut-Friendly Guide to Drinking Coffee With IBS

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Drinking coffee may exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms, but just the right amount of coffee may actually reduce the risk for IBS, according to new research.

Is there a cure for IBS? There is no conventional cure for IBS-D (diarrhea-predominant) or IBS-C (constipation-predominant), meaning there’s not a pill or injection that will reverse it immediately. However, if you successfully identify the root causes of your IBS and remove those triggers from your life, you can prevent IBS flare-ups, curing the condition permanently.

If coffee, coffee additives, or caffeine is an IBS trigger for you, avoiding those triggers should prevent IBS symptoms. 

Tens of millions of Americans experience IBS symptoms, such as gas, indigestion, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and constipation. Over a hundred million Americans drink coffee every day.

Let’s discuss how IBS patients can identify triggers, including whether coffee is the culprit.

Are you looking for an individualized judgment-free IBS protocol that relies on natural dietary and lifestyle changes instead of pharmaceuticals that cause more problems? At PrimeHealth integrative clinic in Denver, Colorado, our gut health experts emphasize all-natural remedies based on science and past experience. Schedule your free consultation today!

Disclaimer: We may receive a small commission from products you purchase via links in this article.

What’s in coffee?

Coffee affects the human body in different ways. Primarily, the caffeine in coffee is what causes the most positive and negative side effects of coffee. Caffeine gives you more energy and alertness, but it also increases your risk of developing IBS symptoms.

Here’s what’s in an 8 oz cup of black coffee:

  • 6-8 oz water
  • 2 calories
  • 0.3 g protein
  • 5 mg sodium
  • 5 mg calcium
  • 7 mg magnesium
  • 7 mg phosphorus
  • 116 mg potassium
  • 95 mg caffeine

How Does Coffee Impact IBS Symptoms?

Caffeine boosts energy levels and offers other health benefits but may increase the risk of IBS symptoms.

What is the connection between caffeine and IBS? Caffeine increases the risk or severity of IBS due to several biological factors, such as increased stomach acid, increased gastrointestinal motility, and increased stress response.

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Stomach Acid

The caffeine in coffee increases stomach acid production by releasing the hormone gastrin. Many drink a morning cup of joe to aid digestion, but too much coffee may result in too much stomach acid (gastric acid) — leading to acid reflux, heartburn, and IBS symptoms like diarrhea.

Gut Motility

Gastrointestinal motility is the ability of your digestive system to move food through your stomach, intestines, and colon.

Decaffeinated coffee somewhat increases your gut motility, but caffeinated coffee significantly increases motility. This effect may decrease constipation but increase the risk of diarrhea.

If coffee causes too much digestive tract motility, your large intestine won’t have enough time to remove the water from your waste before it evacuates from your colon. In this way, coffee typically accelerates your bowel movements.

Stress Response

Caffeine increases cortisol levels during times of stress. High cortisol levels increase your risk of IBS symptoms, as well as increase symptom severity.

Caffeine consumption has also been associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety. Stress, anxiety, and depression can trigger and worsen IBS symptoms. Worsening IBS symptoms can, in turn, trigger more stress, anxiety, and depression. It can become a vicious cycle. 

Environmental Triggers

Coffee is usually grown and harvested in climates that propagate mold growth and other mycotoxins. There is an increasing awareness of mold overgrowth that can be detected through a urine panel such as a mycotoxin test. 

When buying coffee, ensure that the mycotoxin count has been taken into account. 

To avoid environmental triggers like mold, we always recommend purchasing organic, mold-free coffee that’s third-party tested, like Purity Coffee. Use code PRIMEHEALTH for 20% off your 1st order of Purity Coffee. 

Read more: Can Stress Cause Diarrhea?


Coffee is high in salicylates. Some individuals are sensitive to salicylates and may react with allergy symptoms, such as hives, breathing problems, or stomach pain.

How do you know if caffeine is an IBS trigger?

An elimination diet is usually the best way to test for IBS triggers. In this case, eliminate all caffeine from your diet for 2 weeks and see if your IBS symptoms resolve.

Caffeine can be found in:

  • Regular coffee
  • Decaf coffee (about 3% of regular coffee’s caffeine content)
  • Snacks containing coffee beans
  • True tea (black, green, or oolong; not herbal tea)
  • Yerba mate
  • Energy drinks
  • Soft drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Guarana
  • Caffeinated supplements

Caffeine can result in health benefits, especially if you consume low amounts and don’t become dependent.

If caffeine isn’t the culprit, consider what you put in your coffee. Dairy creamers may cause IBS in individuals with lactose intolerance — meaning their bodies don’t produce the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose (milk sugar).

Can Coffee Lower Your Risk of IBS?

For some people, certain amounts of daily coffee consumption can actually lower their risk of IBS.

If you experience IBS-C (constipation-predominant IBS), coffee can increase your colic motility, which has a laxative effect and reduces constipation. Coffee intake may increase motility too much, but if constipation is your primary IBS symptom, coffee may help with that.

A new 12-year study shows that drinking 1-4 cups of coffee or tea per day decreases your risk of IBS. Those who drank instant or ground coffee experienced the lowest risk of IBS.

Can I Drink Coffee if I Have IBS?

Individuals with IBS-D, who are prone to diarrhea, sometimes find that coffee worsens their IBS symptoms. The caffeine content in coffee can lead to more stomach acid, faster gut motility, and increased risk of diarrhea.

Coffee additives, such as dairy creamer or artificial sweeteners, may also be an IBS trigger for sensitive individuals.

It’s good to ensure the coffee you’re drinking is organic, mold-free, and pesticide-free, like Purity Coffee (use code PRIMEHEALTH for 20% off). Otherwise, you risk health problems beyond just IBS.

Coffee is more likely to worsen IBS symptoms if you drink it on an empty stomach. Adding healthy fats to your coffee, such as ghee or coconut oil, can also offset these issues.

Can I Drink Coffee on a Low-FODMAP Diet?

Yes, black coffee by itself is a low-FODMAP food. Adding dairy or sugar makes it high-FODMAP.

The purpose of the low FODMAP diet is to help individuals with IBS and SIBO. If you’re still experiencing IBS symptoms when drinking coffee, talk to your healthcare provider about limiting caffeine to prevent IBS symptoms.

Coffee Additives

To prevent IBS symptoms, be sure to add only the extras that are unlikely to trigger symptoms.

What to Add

  • Non-dairy creamers
  • Lactose-free milk
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Peppermint
  • Adaptogens, such as turkey tail mushroom
  • IBS supplement powder, such as probiotics or psyllium)
  • Honey (in small amounts)

What to Avoid

  • Dairy products, including real creamer
  • Alcohol
  • Excess sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame or sucralose)
  • Artificial flavoring
  • Artificial colors
  • Preservatives

How can I drink coffee without triggering IBS? You can drink coffee without triggering IBS by drinking lower-caffeine coffee options, avoiding IBS-triggering additives, and using healthy coffee additives that decrease your IBS risk.

Use Thrive Market’s online grocery store to avoid unhealthy preservatives and artificial additives found throughout the big grocery chains.

Caffeine Content and Recommendations

Here’s how much caffeine is in a typical serving of coffee based on the preparation method:

  • Cold brew (24 hours): 280 mg
  • French press: 223 mg
  • Pour-over filter: 185 mg
  • Chemex: 172 mg
  • Drip coffee maker: 170 mg
  • Average cup of coffee: 95 mg
  • Espresso: 68 mg

Note: These numbers vary widely. While coffee drinkers are used to an “average cup” containing around 95 milligrams of caffeine, the preparation method makes a significant difference in reality. We used the data from Coffeeness’ detailed study on how coffee preparation methods affect caffeine content.

Coffee Alternatives

If you’re hoping to switch out your coffee with a similar alternative that is kinder to your gut, below is a helpful list of delicious coffee alternatives:

  • Green tea contains caffeine but much less than coffee. Green tea also confers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits for your integrative health.
  • Yerba mate is a natural tea-like drink with some caffeine, but not as much as coffee. It’s less bitter and more floral. Yerba mate may actually lead to holistic health benefits.
  • Mushroom coffee typically uses adaptogen mushrooms, a little caffeine, and earthy spices to provide a healthier alternative to coffee that doesn’t trigger IBS due to caffeine. Note that many mushrooms contain FODMAPs. Try Everyday Dose mushroom coffee today! (Use code Prime10 for 10% off)
  • Golden milk is when you heat milk and mix in a health-focused combo of calming spices, such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, and black pepper. Make sure to use a dairy milk alternative like nut or oat milk if you’re lactose-intolerant.
  • Herbal tea does not naturally contain caffeine. Strong, non-caffeinated herbal tea is often much kinder to your gut, teeth, and whole body health than coffee.
  • Low-acid coffee is a low-roast (or gold-roast) type of coffee that reduces teeth staining and may reduce stomach acid production compared to black coffee. However, its low roast results in higher caffeine content, so it still needs to be consumed in moderation.

How to Cut Back on Caffeine

Cutting back on caffeine consumption may be necessary to avoid IBS symptoms or caffeine addiction. Below are the best tips for how to cut back on caffeine:

  • Identify sources of caffeine. If you don’t know what has caffeine in it, how will you know what to cut back on? Common caffeine sources include coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, soft drinks, workout supplements, and true teas (not herbal). Identify not just the presence, but also the precise amount of caffeine in each food or drink.
  • Keep a caffeine diary. It’s difficult to track your caffeine consumption based on memory alone. Do yourself a favor and keep a journal of every milligram of caffeine you consume in a day. Your caffeine diary can be pen and paper, a cute leather diary, or simply a note on your phone.
  • Gradually reduce caffeine consumption. Instead of cutting all caffeine right away, you can avoid withdrawal symptoms such as chronic headaches by reducing your caffeine intake a little bit at a time. Drink one fewer caffeinated drink than usual on day one. The next day, drink two fewer caffeine drinks than usual. And so on. Also, consider opting for half-caf coffee.
  • Drink more water. Staying hydrated is great for your overall health. Drinking more water can also partially replace the ritual of drinking coffee or other caffeine drinks, making it a little easier to cut back on caffeine.

Ready to take control of your IBS?

Conventional doctors say there’s no cure for IBS and you must live with the symptoms for the rest of your life. Most don’t even recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce risk of IBS flare-ups.

But there is a cure to IBS — identifying and addressing the underlying cause.

At PrimeHealth’s integrative clinic in Denver, Colorado, we’ve helped hundreds of IBS sufferers like you overcome their IBS symptoms with natural treatments, only using targeted medication when necessary. Set up your free phone consultation today!

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