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How Drinking Coffee Can Help Intestinal Health

March 28th, 2009

coffee-intestinal-health.jpgThis article by Kristie Leong has good news for coffee drinkers. Apparently some recent studies found that coffee can increase the number of “good gut bacteria” that normally work to maintain intestinal health and prevent certain types of diseases. Yogurt and some fermented foods were reported to have a similar effect.

When you enjoy that cup of joe in the morning, you may actually be doing something healthy for your body, at least when it comes to your gut. A new study suggests that drinking several cups of instant coffee each day may increase the number of good gut bacteria that live peacefully in your intestines and help to keep your intestinal tract healthy and free of disease.

You’re probably already familiar with the health benefits of probiotics, good gut bacteria that help to maintain intestinal health while potentially reducing the risk of certain diseases. Probiotics not only help to protect the intestines but are thought to be important for maintenance of a healthy immune system. They also appear to relieve some of the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, two common intestinal conditions. There’s even limited evidence that probiotics reduce the risk of colon cancer as well as the risk of infectious diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea. Although studies are still ongoing, many experts are recommending that people eat more probiotic rich foods such as yogurt and fermented foods. Now you may be able to add coffee to the list of foods that increase the quantity of good gut bacteria.

According to this current study, published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, drinking three cups of instant coffee each day increases the number of good gut bacteria. Study volunteers who drank three cups of instant coffee over a three week period were found to have higher numbers of a species of good gut bacteria known as Bifidobacterium than they did before starting the experiment. This was determined by taking fecal samples at the beginning and the completion of the study.

The researchers aren’t sure why the number of good gut bacteria increased after the study volunteers drank coffee for three weeks. Coffee is a good source of arabinogalactan proteins which some types of good gut bacteria use as a nutrient source. It appears that the good gut bacteria are able to feed upon and thrive on some component found in instant coffee. Nevertheless, it adds to the list of benefits of drinking coffee which also include a reduced risk of gallstones, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

If you’re tempted to make a few extra trips to Starbucks on the basis of this study, keep in mind that coffee has caffeine which can elevate blood pressure, increase anxiety, worsen insomnia, and increase heart rate. It’s unclear as to whether decaffeinated coffee would have the same effects on good gut bacteria as caffeinated although it seems likely that it would.

Not a coffee drinker? You can still increase the number of good gut bacteria in your intestines by eating yogurt and fermented foods such as miso without the side effects of caffeine.

One Response to “How Drinking Coffee Can Help Intestinal Health”

  1. comment number 1 by: Hank

    Good, I needed a reason to drink more coffee. Thanks.

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