Microsoft word - effects of coffee on the gastrointestinal tract.doc

D r . J u l i a G o n e n , N . D .
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Effects of Coffee and/or Caffeine on the Gastrointestinal Tract
1. Coffee stimulates GI tract resulting in over activity
Coffee produces laxative effects as soon as 4 minutes after drinking in susceptible individuals Decaffeinated coffee has similar effect therefore the laxative effect is not due to caffeine1,2 2. Coffee elevates stress hormones
Caffeine elevates stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norephinepherine.3,4,5 These hormones are responsible for increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and activates the body’s fight or flight response. Blood is shunted away from digestive system thus causing indigestion. Neural control of GI tract is affected by stress (fight or flight) and emotions.6,7,8 3. Acidity of coffee irritates the intestines
Both coffee and caffeine can stimulate the hypersecretion of gastric acids. Decaffeinated coffee is found to be even more acidic than caffeinated coffee.9 Coffee tends to speed up the process of gastric emptying, which may result in highly acidic stomach contents being dumped into the small intestine too soon. This may lead to injury of intestinal tissue.10 4. Caffeine Decreases Magnesium Absorption
Adequate magnesium in the body is important in maintaining bowel regularity.11 Magnesium is also a crucial mineral which takes part in many essential roles in the body. 5. Coffee acts as a diuretic
The diuretic effect of coffee causes excretion of fluid through the kidneys, which may lead to dehydration. Dehydration due to excess coffee may produce hard stools that are difficult to pass which may lead to constipation.12 6. Caffeine interferes with GABA metabolism
GABA is a neurotransmitter that is naturally produced in the brain and GI tract. It plays an important role in mood and stress management and exerts a calming effect on the GI tract. Caffeine interferes with the binding of GABA to GABA receptors, thus preventing it from performing its calming effects.11 Withdrawal symptoms from coffee/caffeine may include any of the following: headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness dysphoric mood including depression and irritability difficulty concentrating; fogginess/not clearheaded *Caffeine is considered an addictive substance and must be slowly decreased over days (or weeks if heavy user) to decrease the effects of caffeine withdrawal. D r . J u l i a G o n e n , N . D .
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Coffee substitutes:
1. Chicory – contains inulin, a soluble fiber which helps support healthy GI microflora. It has been used to
treat abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. (slightly bitter)
2. Carob – a herb traditionally used for diarrhea
3. Roasted barley (=MugiCha in Japanese) – has soothing effect on GI tract used to treat diarrhea, gastritis and
inflammatory bowel disorders. In traditional Chinese medicine barley is used to decrease disorders of dampness & phlegm. 4. Roasted Dandelion – supports healthy liver function.

*All of the above may be found in commercial coffee substitute products (i.e. Bambu, Teecchino…) or may be drank
alone if preferred.
Suggestions for simple teas to soothe the GI tract:

5. Chamomile tea – soothes GI due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It also has mild sedative properties to
aid in calming an overactive system. (Caution: if ragweed allergy) 6. Marshmallow or Slippery Elm tea – soothes inflamed GI due to its mucilaginous properties. These herbs also
Compute your caffeine - want to know just how much caffeine you are ingesting on a daily basis? go to 1. Strain, E.C., G.K. Mumford, K. Silverman, and R.R. Griffiths. 1994. Caffeine dependence syndrome. Journal of the American Medical Association, 272:1043-1048. 2. Brown S.R., P.A. Cann, and N.W. Read. 1990. Effect of Coffee on Distal Colon Function. Gut, Apr;31(4):450-3. 3. Boekema, P.J., Samsom, M., van Berge Henegouwen, G.P. and A.J. Smout. 1999. Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction. A review. Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology. Supplement. 230:35-9. 4. Robertson, D., Frolich, J.C., Carr, R.K., Watson, J.T., Hollifield, J.W., Shand, D.G. and J.A. Oates. 1978. Effects of caffeine on plasma renin activity, catecholamines and blood pressure. New England Journal of Medicine. 298(4):181-6. 5. Lane, J.D., Adcock, R.A., Williams, R.B. and C.M. Kuhn. 1990. Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption. Psychosomatic Medicine. 52(3):320-36. 6. Lane, J.D. 1994. Neuroendrocine Responses to Caffeine in the Work Environment. Psychosomatic Medicine. 546:267-70. 7. Dapoigny, M., R.W. Stockbrugger, F. Azpiroz, S. Collins, G. Coremans, S. Muller-Lissner, A. Oberndorff, F. Pace, A. Smout, M. Vatn, and P. Whorwell. 2003. Role of Alimentation on Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Digestion, 67(4):225-33. 8. Simren, M., A. Mansson, A.M. Langkilde, J. Svedlund, H. Abrahamsson, U. Bengtsson, and E.S. Bjornsson. 2001. Food-related gastrointestinal symptoms in the irritable bowel syndrome. Digestion, 63(2):108-15. 9. Mulak, A. and B. Bonaz. 2004. Irritable bowel syndrome: a model of the brain-gut interactions. Medical Science Monitor : International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research 10(4):RA55-62. 10. Cohen, S. and Booth, G.H. Jr. 1975. Gastric acid secretion and lower-esophageal-sphincter pressure in response to coffee and caffeine. New England Journal of 11. H. Glatzel and K. Hackenberg, Effects of Caffeine Containing and Decaffeinated Coffee on the Digestive Functions: X-ray Studies of the Secretion and Peristalsis of Stomach, Intestines and Gallbladder. Medizinische Klinik, April 21, 1967;62(16):625-28. 12. Vaxman, F., Olender, S., Lambert, A., Nisand, G. and Grenier, J.F. 1996. Can the wound healing process be improved by vitamin supplementation? Experimental study on humans. European Surgical Research. 28(4): 306-14. 13. Julliano LM and RR 2004. A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features.


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