pulsecaffeine and ibs

Can caffeine cause IBS symptoms?

Every morning do you need to drink your cup of Joe ? This daily habit may be the trigger for some IBS symptoms. Yes, caffeine may not only wake you up, but could also be the call IBS needs to start showing off. 

When caffeine starts operating on the Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it is usually by stimulating the intestines in a way that starts diarrhea episodes. 

So the wonderful smell of freshly roasted coffee beans could be the reason for IBS symptoms, but not necessarily ! Let’s check how caffeine works in your gut.

Are all IBS patients sensitive to caffeine ?

Let’s put it this way : IBS patients are not equal when it comes to caffeine. The stimulant can have a different effect and each person will experience it in various ways.

If you suffer from IBS-D (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with diarrhea), you are then the target of caffeine triggered symptoms. Not all cases of IBS require you to stop caffeine.

Patients who suffer from caffeine induced IBS represent 26 % to 40 % of those complaining of the condition.

Let’s remember that coffee, the way most people consummate caffeine, is a low FODMAP drink. FODMAP are a kind of chain of carbohydrates that are absorbed with difficulties in the small intestine, thus giving IBS.

The significance of this low level of FODMAP in coffee means that for other kinds of IBS, caffeine could actually be a good thing.

In the case of IBS-C (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with constipation), drinking coffee could improve bowel movement by helping the gut to function more effectively. But there is a limit to this. For anyone suffering from IBS-C, drinking gallons of coffee is not the solution as too much caffeine will still lead to cramps.

So getting rid of coffee altogether without checking first the kind of IBS you have could be a waste, especially if you are on a low FODMAP diet.

Why does caffeine increase IBS symptoms in certain cases ?

First, we need to understand how caffeine affects the intestines. Caffeine, as a stimulant, helps the gut to function in a much faster way. Thus, for those with IBS-D, drinking any kind of caffeine-based beverage is very risky. It will certainly cause a worsening of their condition that already implies a faster than usual intestine activity called gastrointestinal motility.

Another factor that explains why caffeine increases IBS symptoms is directly linked to another condition : caffeine-induced anxiety disorder.

Anxiety can also be a reason for IBS symptoms to be triggered. If by drinking coffee or any caffeine-based soda, anxiety episodes occur, this could lead IBS to get worse.


Should caffeine be off the menu for IBS patients?

From what studies have shown, the kind of IBS a patient has is a key factor in caffeine consumption. For those who want to keep it in their daily habit, the amount of caffeine absorbed should not exceed 400 mg per day. Still, the evidence around the effects of caffeine on IBS need to be taken with a grain of salt, and it will be a case by case situation. Check how caffeine works for you, as you will be the best judge.


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