Does coffee cause leaky gut and should I stop drinking it? As an avid coffee lover, neither of us are going to like what I’m about to write…
Coffee is how I used to start every glorious day. Notice that past tense? Yeah, unfortunately I’m a recovering coffeeholic.
Instead of drinking a rich creamy cup of coffee every morning, I sip on some lightly brewed Yerba mate. It might not sound like the stuff of dreams, but guess what?
My gut is in rude health. No more stomach pains, no heartburn and little to no chronic systemic intestinal inflammation. The knock on, and ironic, effect is that my energy is supercharged compared to the days when I drank coffee.
Best of all, Yerba mate delivers a much steadier buzz and type of clarity than coffee ever did. I’m happy.
P.S. for all my ideas on saying goodbye to leaky gut, download my FREE leaky gut ebook here.
Here’s my story of dropping coffee, recovering my leaky gut and exactly how you can do it too
Starting the morning with coffee was the most natural habit in the world. It was also a great trigger. I would pour my coffee and almost instantly start work. Within 20 minutes I’d have knocked out all my emails and be on the way to ticking off my first task for the day.
Better yet, I used to make a ‘Bulletproof’ style cup of coffee every morning. This involved brewing high quality beans (mold free), then blending it with grass fed butter, coconut oil and chocolate protein powder.
It produced the frothiest, tastiest coffee you could imagine. I jumped out of bed every morning for it!
So when it came time for me to drop my pimped up cup o’ joe, it was tough. That’s why I get it if you’ve reached this article after first debating for hours whether to kick the habit and then Googling around for things like “does coffee really cause leaky gut”.
In fact, you might be thinking…
“Hang on, isn’t coffee meant to be good for you?”.
Well, yes. There are countless studies pointing to the benefits of coffee. From lowering people’s chances of cancer, stroke and diabetes, to even helping to ward off the risk of Parkinson’s.
Plus the antioxidants and polyphenols found in coffee work wonders – leaving many studies to conclude coffee helps extend your longevity, outright.
But here’s the thing…
…You can find those benefits from drinking Yerba mate or green tea, or better yet, green shakes (think kale, broccoli, avocado, cucumber etc!).
More importantly, coffee is actually bad for you if you’re gut is in poor health. Ie the net health result for people with leaky gut is negative.
I’ll explain why in a minute.
But before you get too depressed you should know that it is possible to pick coffee back up again in a few months when you heal your leaky gut. There is hope!
For example, every now and then when I have a big deadline I might brew one of my butter, coconut oil, protein powder super coffees. And I will love it and wonder why I ever tuned my back on my preciooous.
You see, now that my gut is healed it can handle this occasional use. Perhaps what I like most about this occasional use is that it feels like a real treat and the benefits of the caffeine surge are immense.
5 reasons I stopped drinking coffee
- Coffee is like wheat, kinda. If you’ve done even a cup of coffee’s worth of reading about leaky gut, you’ll know wheat, and grains in general, are our enemy. That’s due to the fact that they are seeds, and in order to survive, they are designed to avoid being digested – and instead be pooped out intact so they can replant and reproduce. Well, coffee, like wheat, is also a seed as it’s made from the pit of the coffee fruit. That said coffee is not as strong a fighter / anti-nutrient as something like wheat. But still, it’s bad enough for those of us suffering with a leaky gut to avoid.
- Coffee is like gluten, at least that’s what our bodies might think. If you have gluten sensitivity, then you should approach coffee with the kind of caution you would a big steaming bowl of pasta. You see, it turns out coffee is one of the most common cross-reactive foods. In other words, the body can mistaken coffee proteins for gluten. And that means, just like it would produce antibodies to attack gluten (thereby causing inflammation) it might do the same with coffee. Although I am not very far down the gluten sensitivity scale, it’s enough of a risk to say goodbye to coffee.
- Inflammation is its middle name. Regular coffee consumption – more than half a cup a day – has been shown to increase circulating white blood cells and key inflammatory cytokines. What that means is when you regularly drink coffee you end up with these inflammation-causing cells spreading throughout your body. That leads to chronic systemic inflammation, albeit low. But even at low levels, more inflammation is exactly the kind of thing us leaky gut sufferers want to avoid.
- Heartburn, oh glorious heartburn. One cup of coffee was never enough to give me heartburn. It was only on the long work days when one cup quickly became three or four, that I felt heartburn come racing up. It makes sense too given that coffee, including the innocent looking decaf, can cause excessive secretion of gastric acid and speed up gastric peristalsis.
- Us autoimmune (AI) folks, and anyone suffering adrenal fatigue in general, don’t play well with coffee / high caffeine intake. I have asthma and I’ve read several studies that say coffee helps breathing. Unfortunately, I have read even more that say coffee hurts the gut, which in turn flares up AI disease, including asthma. Overall, I think it is better to abstain from coffee if you have asthma, and this carries over to other AI diseases even more so. You see, AI diseases stress our bodies out significantly, pushing us towards adrenal fatigue – and when you add coffee on top of that things just get worse.
How to stop drinking coffee for 30 days (without suffering a crash)
In order to help your leaky gut repair itself, I recommend first giving up coffee completely for 30 days. Then on day 31 you can try coffee again and see how your substantially-healed gut responds to it.
When I first realized I would have to go off coffee I imagined it would be like a scene out of Trainspotting. Goodbye coffee, hello Glasgow pub restroom!
And that is why I spent hours working out the perfect way to wean myself off coffee without experiencing withdrawal, in both physical and psychological senses.
Here’s the plan I used to easily do it…
- Switch to green or black tea – something with caffeine – for the first 7 days. It contains just enough caffeine to make life bearable. You won’t crash and burn at work, and you’ll enjoy the steady buzz these teas give compared to the highs and lows of coffee.
- Alternatively, supplement with caffeine tablets during these 7 days. Start with 100mg and taper off throughout the week. If going this route, I recommend taking a caffeine + L-theanine (green tea extract) supplement, eg Smart Caffeine. The L-theanine works very effectively to smooth out the energy of caffeine, so you never experience the crashing feeling.
- During this first week, feel free to drink 1 cup of decaf coffee a day if you really miss the smell and taste of coffee. But understand that decaf is just as bad as normal coffee for leaky gut. I would recommend a quality decaf like Swiss Water but to be honest there’s really no point buying it, given you’re only going to indulge in decaf for one week.
- Now it’s week 2. This is the time to really give your gut a rest. That means no caffeine (so no green/black teas) or decaf coffee. Although eventually with a healthy gut you can enjoy these, right now we want to heal your gut fast. At this point I recommend you switch up to herbal teas, especially those that are good for digestion, like ginger. Where possible make these teas yourself, eg instead of an actual ginger teabag or leaves, simply slice up some ginger and add to hot water with a squeeze of lemon. (I remember this simple drink slotted in perfectly into my morning routine. It’s also a heck of a lot more enjoyable than starting the morning off with a steaming cup of bone broth – one alternative to coffee I’m just not game for in the AM).
- Stay the course. Seriously. It’s only 3 weeks of no coffee and no caffeine.
Coffee, leaky gut and the long term – or why I gave up for 90 days and am still going strong (kind of)
After your month without, you can reintroduce coffee and see how you react. But that’s only if you now feel in good health and haven’t had any issues over the last 4 weeks. Ie if you are pretty much healed.
When I went off coffee I was still not completely healthy within 30 days – most people with an autoimmune condition, adrenal fatigue, IBS, IBD, celiac etc, will probably be in the same boat.
So I waited roughly 3 months to try coffee again. I found it sat fine with me by this time.
But I realized it wasn’t a habit I wanted to get back into for fear it would inflame my intestines again, however minor, and tip my gut back onto the leaky side.
Also, interestingly I discovered my taste for coffee had dissipated significantly. I still loved the smell – wandering into a coffee shop will generally send me off into la la land. But overall, it didn’t have the allure it once did.
At this 3 month mark I also added Yerba mate tea back into my life. This I kept. It is my new morning routine and a wonderful provider of smooth and light energy. It gives a certain clarity and focus to my work that coffee rarely did.
Of course I do dip into the coffee jar now and then. In the last month I’ve had one ‘Bulletproof’ style coffee and it was great. But that’s just about my monthly quota. And this setup works perfect. I hope it does for you too.
P.S. if you want to get your gut back to health so you can also drink the occasional coffee then I recommend you checkout my FREE leaky gut ebook here. (PDF download)