If you're like most people, a cup or two of morning coffee is a ritual, primarily due to its caffeine content. For some people, however, drinking coffee can cause flatulence. The caffeine in the coffee could be the culprit, but it could also be something added to the coffee, such as milk, that's to blame. Drinking coffee could also be exacerbating an underlying digestive disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome, which can have gas as a symptom.
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Flatulence, or passing gas, is one way the body gets rid of excess gas. It is a natural part of the digestive process, but it can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing if it occurs persistently. Getting rid of flatulence requires reducing the amount of gas in your intestine. Gas is usually caused by swallowing air, such as when you eat too fast, or by foods or drinks that don't digest well in your digestive tract. Although coffee is not a common cause of gas, it can sometimes cause abdominal bloating and gas, according to Drugs.com, as can some sugars and dairy products that are commonly added to coffee.
The caffeine in coffee increases the level of acid in the intestines. This can stimulate your digestive tract, potentially leading to abdominal bloating and gas, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Even if you are drinking decaffeinated coffee, some caffeine is still present. For example, according to Drugs.com, 1 cup of decaffeinated coffee still contains around 3 milligrams to 5 milligrams of caffeine. Although it is not very much caffeine when compared to regular coffee -- the average cup has about 40 milligrams to 180 milligrams -- it can add up if you drink several cups and may lead to gas and flatulence, particularly if you are sensitive to caffeine.
Adding dairy products, such as milk or cream, to your coffee can lead to gas and flatulence if you are lactose-intolerant. Lactose-intolerant people lack the enzyme that digests the sugar -- known as lactose -- present in dairy products. Additionally, some sugar substitutes, such as sorbitol, can cause gas. If you have an underlying medical disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome, coffee or something you are adding to the coffee may be exacerbating the problem and causing symptoms to flare up, leading to flatulence.
Drinking black coffee may help eliminate flatulence. Using a nondairy creamer or taking supplementary lactase -- the enzyme that breaks down lactose -- might work, too, if you are lactose-intolerant. If the flatulence continues, however, switching to decaffeinated coffee might offer some relief, particularly if you limit your consumption. Switching to an herbal alternative, such as chicory, may also help. Taking a supplement, such as activated charcoal, that reduces gas in your intestines may also help reduce flatulence. It's best to avoid coffee altogether if you have a digestive disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome.
- Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift: The Influence of Coffee and Caffeine on Gastrin and Acid Secretion in Man
- Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: Gas in the Digestive Tract
- University of Michigan Health System: Helpful Hints for Controlling Gas (Flatus)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- National Health Center: Flatulence -- Treatment
- Drugs.com: Caffeine (Oral route, Parenteral route)
- MedlinePlus: Caffeine
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Lactose Intolerance