[Updated 2/20/24] For many of us, coffee is an absolute requirement to begin the day. Unfortunately, for those with sensitive stomachs or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), coffee is a double-edged sword. Coffee’s naturally acidic qualities commonly trigger symptoms of IBS. In this article, we cover a number of things you should know and lastly go over a list of our top picks for the best coffee for those who suffer from stomach issues. If you’re not interested in learning more about the science behind the relationship between coffee and IBS and just want our top recommendation, check out our pick below (you and your stomach will thank us later).
Coffee has been shown to aggravate (and sometimes cause) various stomach and digestive issues. Many factors could be creating this agitation, including excessive acidity in coffee, the use of artificial sweeteners, and the use of dairy products. I’ve gone through the process of troubleshooting health issues before and it’s truly amazing how much of an effect sugar and dairy can have on your health.
Fortunately, this problem has been recognized, and several roasters have created exquisitely-tailored coffees that are gentle on the gut but strong on the taste buds. I’ll admit, as a coffee lover first, I was initially skeptical of low acid coffee. But in my experience, low acid coffee is by no means “low flavor coffee”. In fact, I believe the flavor is improved by the removal of the acidity. This article will showcase the greatest coffees on the market that are designed exclusively for those with sensitive stomachs.
- Why Coffee Upsets Your Stomach
- Best Low-Acid Coffees for Sensitive Stomachs
- How Black or Decaf Coffee May Help
- Coffee and IBS: Other Tips for Easing Your Stomach
- Can Coffee Help with IBS?
- General Tips for Managing IBS Symptoms
- Final Thoughts on Coffee and IBS
Why Coffee Upsets Your Stomach
Coffee can sometimes exacerbate symptoms including cramps, stomach pain, and diarrhea in someone who is experiencing IBS or other gastrointestinal issues.
The reality is that while coffee and IBS have tenuous relationship, coffee lovers who suffer from stomach issues don’t necessarily have to give up their favorite morning brew. Before recommending the best coffee for IBS, it’s helpful understand how and why different coffee can have negative effects on digestion.
That steaming cup of coffee in the morning might perk you up mentally, but what about your stomach? While a typical cup packs around 95 – 100mg of caffeine, research suggests it can also get things moving further down the gastrointestinal line.
Studies show caffeine works like a mini-workout for your gut, boosting contractions by 23% compared to decaf and a whopping 60% more than water. This increased activity primarily happens in your lower gut, the colon Source.
Caffeine stimulates colon motor activities. These motor functions are responsible for how rapidly your colon releases waste. Coffee triggers the release of two hormones. The first is called gastrin which is released in the stomach. The second is called cholecystokinin which is released in the small intestines.
This means that some people’s bowel movements may become accelerated, forcing them to rush to the bathroom after just a few sips of coffee.
Related Article: Why Does Coffee Make You Poop?
Remember: These effects can vary depending on individual sensitivity and other factors. So, listen to your body and if coffee bothers your gut, explore alternative options or enjoy it in moderation.
We just pointed to caffeine as potentially the main culprit to triggering IBS and stomach issues. But the culprit might be more complex. Studies suggest coffee acids, like chlorogenic and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide, could also be at play. These guys can increase stomach acid production, which aids digestion as food travels through your gut Source.
Furthermore, highly acidic coffee can wreak havoc on those who suffer from acid reflux disorders such as heartburn and Gerd (Gerd is a severe form of Acid Reflux Disease)..
Note: Being that caffeine can trigger stomach issues, it’s best to stick with Arabica coffee as opposed to Robusta. Robusta coffee typically will have double the caffeine of Arabica.
Drinks to Avoid if You Have IBS
Other caffeinated drinks such as tea, soda, energy drinks, as well as dark chocolate should be avoided by those who suffer from IBS. Such drinks are either highly acidic, highly caffeinated, or both. On the food side of things, breads, cereals, chips, cookies, and anything with dairy (especially) cheese should be avoided too.
Best Low-Acid Coffees for Sensitive Stomachs
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Lifeboost is our top pick for best coffee for IBS for a variety of reasons. They not only specialize in producing low acid coffee, but these beans are also among the healthiest and purest available in our opinion. Our Lifeboost Coffee review details our experience with this low acid brew in more detail.
These beans are single-origin 100% Arabica. They are handpicked by locally sourced farmers who specialize in sustainable farming, and at no point during the process are pesticides applied.
After being rinsed in natural spring water and then are sun dried.
Additionally, Lifeboost employs a third-party testing to ensure not only that the pH levels are low, but also that there are no mycotoxins or heavy metals present.
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Fabula Coffee has been a fan favorite of ours here at Best Quality Coffee and for more than one reason. In addition to being organic, fair trade certified, mold free, and single origin, this coffee is the epitome of smoothness. It’s very gentle on the stomach while boasting a flavor that will satisfy the taste buds of even the most uncompromising coffee lover. While all of their offerings are impressive, we specifically recommend going with their dark roast which sources specialty-grade coffee from Peru.
It offers delightful notes of roasted nuts and brown sugar making for a brew that’s as inviting as it is smooth.
We recently published a Fabula Coffee review which we recommend that you read if you want to learn more about this low acid coffee brand.
Purity Coffee is a brand specifically focused on the health-conscious and uncompromising coffee lover. Their organic dark roast in particular was crafted for easy digestion while sourcing specialty-grade Arabica coffee beans. The flavor is incredibly clean and robust. A cup of Purity Coffee is chocked-full of prebiotic benefits to support gut health and antioxidants to boost overall wellness. Additionally, it’s lower in acidity which is ideal for those with sensitive stomachs. For additional details about this IBS-friendly coffee, check out our full review. We absolutely loved how pure the coffee tasted. It’s true to its namesake.
- USDA Organic Certified
- Demeter Certified Biodynamic
- Smithsonian Bird Friendly
- Rainforest Alliance Certified
Komodo Dragon Coffee is truly unique in that, despite its low acidity, the flavor retains fruity and aromatic undertones.
This medium roasted single-origin coffee is full-bodied and well-balanced, with chocolate and tobacco notes intertwined with a flowery profile. Grown in volcanic soil at elevations of 8,000 feet, these coffee beans more than live up to their reputation as an exotic and energetic variety.
Volcancia guarantees that their beans, which already have a low PH level, are roasted for longer periods of time to ensure that they are as low in acidity as possible.
Up next on this list of best coffee for IBS, we have Pureroast coffee. These beans, similar to Lifeboost coffee, provide many additional health benefits.
Pureroast not only contains 70% less acidity than regular coffee, but it also has 5% more antioxidants than your standard cup of joe. It has a deep, savory flavor with an exceptionally smooth aftertaste.
Following roasting, these beans are tested by scientists to ensure a low PH balance. The roasters and farmers clearly take pride in their job, and we believe the results truly speak for themselves. This coffee has also garnered very impressive reviews within the coffee community.
These single-origin 100% Arabica coffee beans strike the perfect combination of robust and vibrant flavors, followed by a smooth and pleasant aftertaste. Dark roasted to perfection, this organic coffee is another great choice for those who want a great-tasting coffee that’s easy on the stomach.
Because of its aromatic notes, it has nutty undertones with traces of rich chocolate that don’t overpower its profile.
These beans are sourced locally and promote environmental sustainability. They are grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides and are non-GMO certified.
Kona Peaberry is our second selection from Volcancia. What distinguishes this is that it is made entirely of 100% Kona coffee, which is only farmed in remote areas of Hawaii’s big island.
Because Kona coffee beans are so exclusive, the Department of Agriculture in Hawaii has certified them, ensuring their purity. In fact, these beans are so rare that they account for only 5% of the total crop yield when selected by hand.
Because of their rarity, these coffee beans are a little more expensive than your ordinary cup of coffee, but the flavor and quality are worth every penny.
Kona Peaberry has a distinctive flavor profile. It has a slightly floral taste, with bright and fruity notes, but it also has a slightly nutty presence that sips extremely smooth.
The coffee beans used already have a lower acidity, which aids in further reducing the acidity during processing. Use our exclusive Volcanica Coffee discount code and coupon to get you 12% off your entire purchase. Code: BESTQ12
How Black or Decaf Coffee May Help
While we have a number of recommendations for specific coffees and brands for folks with different stomach ailments, there are a few universal truths regarding different ways to drink coffee and how it may affect your stomach.
Drink Black Coffee for IBS
The best coffee for IBS isn’t always about the beans themselves. It’s also about how you take your coffee. Are you loading your morning brew with copious amounts of milk, cream, and sugar? If so, you should start drinking your coffee black.
When sugar is consumed in excess, it can become trapped in the intestines, where it ferments and causes gases to build up.
Some artificial sweeteners contain compounds called “polyols,” which have a similar effect in the stomach by getting absorbed and releasing gas through fermentation.
Finally, every coffee contains some acidity, some more than others. It’s how lighter roast coffees gain their bright and aromatic flavors. Darker roasts will typically be lower in acidity and are likely to be gentler on the stomach because of this.
Unfortunately, these acidic elements stimulate the stomach to create its own acid, which irritates any heartburn or reflux issues. The more acidic the coffee, the more severe this side effect will be.
Switch to Decaf Coffee for IBS
As unpleasant as it may sound to regular coffee lovers, switching to decaf can relieve persons with IBS. Caffeine, as previously said, accelerates the colon, speeding up bowel motions. Keep in mind that there are many full-flavored decaf options out there. There was a time when decaf coffee was the equivalent of drinking diluted brown water. But you might be surprised by how far the decaffeination technology has come.
Below we’ve included a selection of some excellent decaf coffees that are also low-acid as well making them possible options for coffee drinkers dealing with IBS.
Switch to Half Caff Coffee
If you’re not ready to completely cut off your caffeine intake, then consider going half caff. Half caff is exactly like it sounds. It’s a 50/50 mix of caffeinated and decaffeinated beans. I’ve found it to be an ideal solution for those looking to slowly but surely reduce their caffeine consumption. They have quarter caf coffee for those looking for even less caffeine.
Related Article: Best Half Caff Coffee
For those who refuse to consider switching to decaf, we offer a number of effective solutions. The best coffee for IBS will typically be low acid coffee taken without sugar or cream. If you want the ultimate IBS friendly coffee, try drinking decaf low acid coffee black.
Is a Dark Roast better for IBS?
Dark roast coffees are typically less acidic than light and medium roast coffees (all things being equal). This is because many of the compounds responsible for triggering the production of acid in the stomach are burned off during the roasting process. In this regard, dark roasts are “technically” lower in acidity. However, there are still many within the IBS community who report the same issues when drinking dark roasts as light and medium roasts.
Everyone’s physiology and biology are different so it’s tough to definitively say whether a dark roast will be a better option for you.
Coffee and IBS: Other Tips for Easing Your Stomach
Beyond regulating your actual caffeine intake, there are other things you can do to help manage your IBS symptoms.
- Choosing low-acid coffee: Sumatra coffee beans are typically sourced for their smooth earthen flavor as well as their low acidity.
- Drinking coffee with food: Consuming coffee with food can help reduce the stimulatory effect of caffeine and slow down the absorption of the coffee in the gut. Instead of drinking your coffee before or during breakfast, try drinking it after breakfast to see if your body reacts differently.
- Use Baking Soda: By adding a small pinch of baking soda, you can turn your coffee alkaline. I’ve actually been using baking soda in my coffee for a while now. It adds a very slight salty flavor to your coffee that admittedly, I like. For more information, check out this video on turning your coffee alkaline.
Can Coffee Help with IBS?
Up to this point, we’ve discussed how coffee can trigger IBS symptoms in some people. However, we’re going to throw a proverbial “monkey wrench” into this article by citing a recent study that showed that drinking coffee at higher rates was associated with a lower risk of IBS (particularly for those who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day).
In March of 2023, the International Journal of Epidemiology published research that focused on individuals who did not initially have IBS at the beginning of the study. These participants were followed for an average of 12 years. The study found that those who consumed the highest amount of coffee, which equated to four or more cups a day based on intake survey data, had a notably reduced risk of developing the digestive disorder compared to those who abstained from caffeine. Source
So according to this study, your morning brew can help you prevent IBS provided you drink enough and the right type of coffee. Admittedly, those words are music to coffee lovers’ ears around the world.
General Tips for Managing IBS Symptoms
In addition to managing coffee consumption, there are several other tips for managing IBS symptoms, including:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet that’s high in fiber and low in refined carbs. Diet is directly correlated with gut health.
- Cut out soda and sugary drinks
- Drinking plenty of water
- Regular exercise
- Stress reduction techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises. The mind and body are undoubtedly connected so minimize stress triggers will help with IBS symptoms.
- Keeping a food and symptom diary to identify trigger foods
Final Thoughts on Coffee and IBS
As you can see, there are several coffee options available to you even if you suffer from stomach problems, such as IBS or acid reflux. Please note that this article is not to be considered medical advice and that you should consult your doctor if you’re experiencing stomach pains. If you’re doctor is telling you to cut out coffee altogether, ask him or her about some of the options listed in this article. Low acid decaf coffee with baking soda is one of the best options you can go with simply because it drastically negates the effects of caffeine and coffee’s natural acidity.
Maintaining good gut health is one of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle. Adjusting the quantity and type of coffee you drink can be a key factor to achieving such a goal. It’s a common assumption that those with IBS have to go cold turkey on their coffee habit. I’m thankful that the industry of low acid coffee has grown to the point that it has. This category of coffee has made many coffee lovers with sensitive stomachs rejoice.
Remember, different coffees will benefit and affect people in different ways depending on your palate and the severity of any gastrointestinal issues. However, the low acid and IBS-friendly coffees listed above are excellent places to begin your search for the perfect coffee for you…..and your stomach.