For a nation of increasing coffee-lovers, The Gut Choice reveals the secrets to a gut-friendly brew free from digestive discomfort
Whether you need that energy boost first thing in a morning or are joining in with the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning on 27 September, coffee consumption has boomed across the UK and is the most popular drink worldwide. According to the British Coffee Association (BCA), Brits now consume approximately 95 million cups of coffee per day. While we are still proud tea-drinkers, enjoying coffee is not far behind. In fact, the BCA claim, 80% of us who visit coffee shops do so at least once a week.
But, for some, coffee and a sensitive stomach aren’t a good match. While you may be a coffee-lover, coffee does not necessarily love our digestive system. Despite evidence suggesting coffee provides health benefits, coffee can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as heartburn, acid indigestion and reflux. Leading online health resource verywellhealth claim this is due to an increase in stomach acid which coffee causes.
These days, coffee can come in all shapes and sizes, so it can be difficult to know what to choose. Great news — we don’t have to fear this dilemma anymore. Here are some tips so you can have your coffee and drink it!
Lower that acid
It is unclear whether the acid in coffee actually disrupts or aids digestion. Coffee itself is not highly acidic, containing less acid content than orange juice, so it is unlikely that this is the cause of stomach upset; however, Health and wellness expert Livestrong say the caffeine and other plant-based compounds within coffee does stimulate the production of more hydrochloric acid. Trying a lower acidity coffee to see if there’s a decrease in symptoms might be a good place to start.
What you may gain in comfort, may be lacking in taste however. verywellhealth say: “Some people might enjoy the taste of coffee with a lower acid content, as it tends to be smoother and milder. Others would miss what connoisseurs describe as the ‘brightness’ of a brew.”
Choose dark roast
According to verywellhealth, dark roast coffee varieties may be easier on the stomach. Researchers suggest that compared with a medium roast, dark roast has increased N-methylpyridinium (NMP) – a beneficial chemical compound found in coffee – and decreased chlorogenic acid – a compound considered to be a culprit of stomach discomfort.
“A dark roast, which may have fewer of the compounds that increase stomach acid and more of the chemicals that decrease stomach acid, is going to offer the greatest chance of a coffee that doesn’t cause symptoms,” add verywellhealth.
Most coffee shops offer a dark roast blend. Ask the barista if you’re unsure.
Keep it cold
Using a cold brewing method produces coffee which is lower in acidity.
verywellhealth state: “Cold brew is going to result in a coffee that has lower levels of all the compounds found in coffee. This means that the parts of coffee that cause an increase in stomach acid are going to be lower.”
Cold brewing is simply a gentler infusion process which involves mixing ground coffee with cool water and allowing it to steep in the fridge overnight.
This is all very well if we have the time to make the coffee ourselves, but what if we want to grab a coffee on-the-go? In addition to dark roast options, the majority of coffee houses offer a cold brew.
“We serve Minor Figures’ cold brew,” says independent coffee shop owner Tina Lupoli, “[however, there’s] nothing on the packaging regarding lower acidity.”
The 50-year-old, who opened Bean 47 in Birmingham last year, explains she has never been asked for a lower acidity coffee.
Surprisingly, having milk in your coffee could be beneficial for those who don’t have issues with dairy.
“Milk proteins combine with some of the compounds in coffee that tend to increase stomach acid,” explain verywellhealth.
Of course, this is not an option for sufferers of lactose intolerance which can in fact be a cause of stomach upset.
Tina confirms: “Customers order alternative milk due to upset stomachs because of the lactose that some people can’t tolerate.” Dairy-free alternatives include soya, almond, coconut and oat milk.
“I would suggest a one-shot coffee rather than a two-shot,” adds Tina. She would even recommend trying decaf coffee to people with sensitive stomachs who are cautious about ordering coffee in public.
It seems there is still a lot to learn about the complexity of coffees. As with most things, what may work for one may not for another; it is a case of trial and error.
verywellhealth add: “With the vast array of coffees on the market, however, there’s likely to be one that comes with fewer stomach upsets.”
Gut-friendly coffee options
Whittard’s French Dark Roast
- What: Café Français Coffee
- Price: £2.97 — £23.76
- Where: Order at whittard.co.uk
Starbuck’s Cold Brew
- Price: £3.10 – £3.60
- Where: Enjoy in store at Starbucks
Low acid option
- What: Monsoon Malabar Coffee
- Price: £3.40 — £27.20
- Where: Order at whittard.co.uk
What is the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning?
The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is an annual event, taking place later this month, to raise funds for anyone facing cancer. People from all over the UK are encouraged to host their own Coffee Morning with all donations going to Macmillan. Visit coffee.macmillan.org.uk to order your coffee kit and get involved.