Does coffee cause gas?

Digesting Coffee

Why does it seem that the things that bring us so much joy in life can also bring us so much pain? This sentiment can apply to a lot of situations, including that morning cup of Joe.

That’s right, it’s true. The answer to whether or not coffee can cause gas is a resounding yes. Now, this isn’t the case for everyone, but there are some poor unfortunate souls for whom coffee causes more discomfort than joy.

Could your coffee consumption be the reason behind your mysterious gas? If you suffer from frequent bloating, it could be worth exploring. I’ll cover the reasons why coffee causes gas for some people, ways to prevent it from causing discomfort, and some alternative options.

Why does drinking coffee cause gas?

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, shall we? There are actually a few reasons your cup of coffee could be causing you abdominal discomfort in the form of gas, bloating, and constipation.

Caffeine sensitivity

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can really get things moving through your gastrointestinal tract. But for those who are especially sensitive to caffeine, this can just irritate your bowels and cause overall GI discomfort.

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach

While coffee is acidic itself, it can actually reduce the amount of hydrochloric acid in your system when consumed on an empty stomach. Hydrochloric acid is crucial to digestion and helps break down proteins in the foods we eat. 

Without it, your breakfast or subsequent meal won’t move through your gut as smoothly as it should. This causes things to slow down through your GI tract and can feel awfully uncomfortable.

Add-ons to your coffee

Coffee and milk or cream go together like peanut butter and jelly, and most of us add a splash of lactose to our morning brew in one form or another. Instead of the coffee causing gastrointestinal distress, it could be coming from the milk or creamer instead. 

You don’t have to be lactose-intolerant to suffer from gas or bloating after consuming milk. Even if you just have a sensitivity to lactose, it could be the culprit. It’s also possible you’ve been dealt a double whammy and are sensitive to both the caffeine and the milk.

You might be surprised to learn that even the sweetener in your coffee can be the reason behind your gas. Sorbitol and aspartame are common ingredients in zero-sugar or zero-calorie sweeteners, but they can also cause gas and bloating for folks who don’t tolerate them very well. Ironically, by keeping a watchful eye on your waistline, you could be causing yourself to become bloated from the artificial sweeteners instead.

Can certain conditions make gas from coffee worse?

There are, unfortunately, some chronic health conditions that can be exacerbated by drinking coffee. Those living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease may notice symptoms flare up after drinking coffee, as it can trigger inflammation that can worsen such bowel disorders.

If you are especially prone to heartburn, acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), coffee can wreak havoc on your sphincters. When left unchecked, these conditions can even lead to ulcers, which cause even further abdominal discomfort.

How to prevent gas from drinking coffee

There are a few things you can try to stop gas in its tracks after drinking a cup of coffee.

Eat before drinking

Remember when I mentioned that drinking coffee on an empty stomach can strip your system of all those good hydrochloric acids it needs to digest your foods? Well, the solution to your gas problem may be as simple as having a bite to eat before drinking your coffee. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal, but if there’s already food in your stomach, the coffee won’t be as effective at reducing the good acids your gut needs.

Follow it up with a glass of water with lemon

Try drinking a glass of water with a lemon wedge in it after you drink that coffee beverage. It is known to help relieve abdominal discomfort and can help replenish your hydration.

Opt for decaf

If your abdominal discomfort is the result of caffeine sensitivity, it may help to choose decaf instead of caffeinated coffee. This suggestion isn’t for everyone, however. The acidity in decaf coffee can cause the same issues as the caffeine itself, so if that’s the case, switching to decaf will be of no use. Alternatively, if you can’t imagine functioning without caffeine, then this will not work for obvious reasons.

Choose a dark roast coffee

Interestingly enough, the lighter the coffee, the more stomach acid it will produce. Without getting into a full-blown chemistry lesson, this is because different roasts contain different amounts of chemical compounds that can either lead to or decrease the production of gastric juices that can cause abdominal discomfort.

Add a splash of milk

I know, I know, didn’t I just say that milk could be what’s causing your gas and bloating in the first place? While it is possible, this isn’t the case for everyone. If you’re sure you don’t have a sensitivity or intolerance to lactose, adding milk to your coffee can help neutralize your gut and prevent it from producing too much stomach acid which can ultimately lead to gas or other gastrointestinal issues.

Give green tea a try

While it does have caffeine, and theoretically could cause the same bloating and discomfort because of it, green tea has much lower levels than coffee and is actually widely used to combat gas and bloating. If all else fails, try switching to tea and see if your symptoms improve.

Coffee doesn’t have to mean gas

If you can confidently attribute drinking coffee to your gas, bloating, and other digestive issues, you don’t have to despair. There are plenty of simple tricks you can try to make your coffee-drinking experience far less uncomfortable and much more enjoyable! The good news is, you shouldn’t have to give up your cup of Joe.