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    How to Still Enjoy Coffee If You Have Colitis, IBS, IBD, and Crohn's

    How to Still Enjoy Coffee If You Have Colitis, IBS, IBD, and Crohn's

    by Alex Brecher August 18, 2022

    If you have irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, or a type of irritable bowel disease, or IBD, you may be on a restricted diet. Many foods may irritate you, so you may need to adjust your diet. You may even be worried that you have to give up coffee to prevent symptoms. 

    If you’re a coffee lover, giving up coffee is not an option if you want to stay happy. But what can you do if you still want to enjoy coffee with IBS or IBD? Most patients can usually find a way to keep coffee in their lives. Switching to a reduced acid brand, such as Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee, is one strategy. It’s important to remember that every patient is different, and you should talk to your doctor about managing your symptoms and about any health concerns you have.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

    Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a condition of the large intestine. Symptoms can become severe, but most people are able to manage their symptoms with changes to diet and lifestyle. Stress can also be a factor in triggering symptoms of IBS. 

    There’s no specific diagnostic test for IBS. Your doctor might diagnose you based on having symptoms for a while. Your healthcare provider might also do additional tests to rule out other possible causes of symptoms. For example, you might get tests for lactose intolerance, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, or stool tests.

    These are some symptoms of IBS. You might have a few or many of them.

    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Signs of malnutrition, such as Iron-deficiency anemia or weight loss
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Stomach pain
    • Rectal bleeding

    Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any of these symptoms. 

    Are you at high risk for IBS? These are some risk factors for developing it.

    • Being female
    • Being under 50 years old
    • Having a family member with IBS
    • Having stress, anxiety, or depression

    Your healthcare provider might suggest dietary changes to manage IBS. Other strategies include managing stress, taking fiber supplements or laxatives to combat constipation, or taking antidiarrheal medications to reduce diarrhea.

    Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s Disease, and Ulcerative Colitis

    Irritable bowel disease, or IBD, includes chronic conditions with inflammation of the digestive tract. The most common ones are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Symptoms of these two conditions can be similar to each other and to the symptoms of IBS.

    These are some symptoms of IBD.

    • Diarrhea
    • Fatigue and weight loss due to poor absorption of nutrients from food
    • Blood in the stool resulting from bleeding ulcers
    • Abdominal pain
    • Sores in the mouth

    As with symptoms of IBS, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms of IBD. Diagnosis can happen after investigation, such as a colonoscopy or endoscopy, or a CT scan or MRI.

    Who gets IBS? These are some risk factors.

    • Being a smoker
    • Having a family history
    • Being under age 35

    Anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids, can be used to reduce inflammation. There are some other medications that can help, too. Your doctor may advise exercise, quitting smoking, managing stress better, and drinking plenty of fluids. You may also need vitamin or mineral supplements if you are experiencing malabsorption.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) Diets

    If you have IBS or one of the IBDs, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, what you eat could affect whether you have flare-ups and how severe symptoms may be. Your doctor may ask you to try avoiding certain groups of foods for a while to see if it helps prevent symptoms.

    These are some possible food groups to avoid.

    • Sources of lactose, such as milk, ice cream, and yogurt.
    • Gluten-containing foods, such as bread, wheat cereals, baked goods made with wheat flour, and pasta.
    • FODMAPs, or foods with Fructose, Oligosaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Examples include processed foods sweetened with sugar or fructose, beans, fruit, and sugar-free products sweetened with sugar alcohols.

    The great news for coffee lovers is that coffee is lactose-free, gluten-free, and fair game on a FODMAP diet. 

    It can also be helpful to increase fiber intake, but only gradually, especially if you have symptoms. It’s also good, if you have IBD, to choose easier-to-digest foods. These are some examples.

    • Cooked vegetables instead of raw.
    • Peeled, very ripe fruit instead of crunchy fruit or fruit with peel.
    • Lower-fat proteins, such as egg whites, seafood, chicken, and tofu, instead of fatty meats.
    • Cooked oatmeal, potatoes, and cornbread if you’re on a gluten-free diet.

    Whether you have IBS or IBD, the specific triggers for your own case are individual. It may be hard to figure out what your personal triggers are, and the foods or beverages that trigger symptoms for you may not trigger symptoms for someone else. You and your healthcare provider may have to do some detective work to figure out your own food triggers, if there are any. 

    For IBS and IBD, it’s especially important to choose nutrient-rich foods. That’s because these conditions can cause nutrient malabsorption, leaving you at risk for deficiencies for protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

    Effects of Drinking Coffee with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) 

    And now…how can you enjoy coffee with IBS or an IBD such as Crohn’s disease or colitis? That’s a great question, because coffee has many potential health benefits that relate to certain cancers, blood sugar control, heart health, and brain health. 

    There is also a specific potential benefit of drinking coffee when you have IBS or IBD. It’s very important to stay hydrated to prevent constipation and maintain energy, and coffee can help. If drinking coffee helps you drink more fluid, then coffee may be helpful for IBS or IBD.

    Low-Acid Coffee for IBS and IBD

    There’s been talk that coffee can be an irritant if your gastrointestinal tract is already inflamed or has lesions on it. Coffee is an acidic beverage, and you can certainly imagine that putting acid on a wound would hurt! 

    If you worry that drinking coffee leads to flare-ups, or your healthcare provider has put you on a low-acid diet, you might want to try a reduced-acid brand of coffee. Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee has less acid than the average of some top national brands. Choosing this type of coffee has a side benefit of having a smoother taste without the sour notes that come from acid.

    Caffeine and IBS and IBD

    But what about the elephant in the room? Does caffeine in coffee have an effect on IBS or IBD? It might. Caffeine stimulates the large intestine and can make diarrhea worse if that is one of your symptoms. On the other hand, it could help if you are dealing with constipation. 

    Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee comes in Regular, Half Caff, and Decaf versions. Try noticing whether caffeine is a trigger for you, or ask your doctor whether caffeine is a good idea for you, and how much you should have. 

    Making Your Own Coffee with IBS or IBD

    A benefit of using Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee is that you can make your own coffee each time. When you brew it yourself, you don’t just get to know that it’s fresh or to decide exactly how strong to make it. You also get to know exactly what’s in it. That’s not always the case when you go to a coffee shop - and you don’t always know the acid content of the coffee at a coffee shop, either.

    If you have IBD or IBS, you might want to keep these modifications in mind when you mix up your coffee beverages.

    • If sugar is a trigger for you, add a sugar substitute if you want sweeter coffee. Stevia and monk fruit are natural options.
    • There are many brands of sugar-free syrup to flavor your coffee if you are trying to avoid sugar.
    • Almond, coconut, or soy milk may be easier on your stomach, and just as creamy, as regular dairy milk.

    You can also decide on the exact amount of caffeine you want. You could opt for Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee in Regular, Half Caff, or Decaf. You can even make your own blend, such making a cup of coffee with ⅓ the amount of caffeine by using 2 parts Decaf to 1 part Caffeinated beans.

    More Ways to Enjoy Coffee for Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Disease, and Crohn’s Disease

    Standard black coffee or espresso, or coffee with almond-based creamer, sugar-free syrup, or coconut-based whipped topping can all be possibilities to try on a diet for IBD or IBS. There may be some other ways to enjoy your coffee, too.

    Iced Coffee could feel better than a piping hot beverage in your gastrointestinal tract. To make it fun, you can make ice cubes from coffee or almond milk.

    Cold Brew is a form of coffee that’s a little lower in acid than regular brew. It could be easier on your gastrointestinal tract than hot brew. Plus, you can make it ahead of time so there’s always some coffee ready when you need it.

    Caffeinated Morning Shake can wake you up in the morning and give you a boost of nutrition. That’s important if you’re experiencing malnutrition due to malabsorption with IBD or IBS. Smooth peanut butter, ripe banana, and protein powder are a few possible ingredients to blend with ice and coffee. Use Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee for a reduced acid shake.

    Gluten-Free Baked Goodscan give you a delicious taste without flaring up. Something like mocha brownies could be perfect if you make them with rice flour, almond milk, and dutched cocoa, which is lower in acid than regular cocoa powder.

    More Tips for Enjoying Coffee with IBS or IBD

    These are a few more tips for enjoying coffee when you have IBS or IBD.

    • If you find that hot beverages bother your stomach, consider having your coffee warm or cold instead of hot. You can add ice or mix it with cold almond milk.
    • If you get symptoms after drinking coffee, don’t automatically assume that is was the coffee that caused the symptoms. For example, if you had coffee after a meal of spaghetti and meatballs, it’s possible that symptoms were triggered by gluten in spaghetti or fatty ground beef in meatballs.
    • If you think acid may be causing symptoms, try a low-acid brand of coffee that has information on its acid content compared to other brands. Alex’s Low-Acid Organic Coffee has a lower acid content compared to many national brands.
    • Try Half-Caff or Decaf versions of coffee if caffeine may be a trigger for symptoms.
    • Caffeine and coffee can interfere with nutrient absorption, and you may already be at risk for nutrient deficiencies with IBD or IBS. You might want to take your vitamins at a separate time from when you drink your coffee.
    • If large cups of coffee bother you, a smaller cup may be fine. 

    With just a bit of care and some modifications, it’s possible that you can keep coffee in your life even if you have IBS or an IBD such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Keeping an eye on acid content and caffeine consumption may help, and Alex’s Acid Free Coffee is a low-acid brand that comes in Regular, Half Caff, and Decaf versions. Also be sure to talk to your doctor about the best diet and coffee for any digestive or other health issues you may have.

    *The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. Alex’s Acid Free Coffee are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Anyone with a medical condition should seek the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. Individual results may vary.


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