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Coffee: Perks And Dangers For People With IBS

Coffee: Perks and Dangers for People with IBS

Many people with IBS and IBD continue to drink coffee, even though it is known to aggravate certain symptoms. Before you order your next latte, make sure you know what effects it can have!

It’s not always easy to find the resources and help you need for irritable bowel syndrome, which is an unpleasant, challenging and sometimes embarrassing condition to live with – even if it isn’t life-threatening. In most cases it is a lifelong condition. It can be a very frustrating condition to live with, and may have a major impact on your daily routine. Resources like The IBS Network can come in handy when you’re lost, but many people with IBS choose to work out what they can and can’t do through trial and error.

The Research

Many of us are reluctant to give up our morning coffee – we just love it too much. Even though we know it may lead to an increase in our symptoms, according to a study published in the August 2015 issue of Nutrition Journal, coffee drinkers with IBS or an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) will continue to indulge in that daily caffeine hit.

The high levels of natural polyphenols found in coffee are known to lend it a lot of health perks. People with IBD are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer than the rest of the general population, and according to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that coffee can decrease your risk of developing this and other cancers, as well as Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and type 2 diabetes.

The journal Circulation has even suggested that moderate coffee drinking could lower your risk of premature death, based on a study published in November 2015. And with or without this promise of longevity, your morning cup can provide a much-needed caffeine jolt that many people would be unwilling to live without.

The ways in which coffee can interact with the body, however, mean that it may not be the best choice of drink for someone with IBS. The caffeine in coffee can increase stress, which can cancel out its offerings of greater energy and productivity, and drinkers may also experience diarrhoea and more problems with sleep.

The IBS Network

People living with IBS can get some support from The IBS Network, a national charity. They help thousands of people with irritable bowel syndrome to live well with this debilitating condition, with the help of donations from the general public. They aim to provide understanding and guidance by working alongside healthcare professionals to facilitate self-management.

Members of The IBS Network have access to additional information, but the basic programme is available to everybody.

Self-Care Programme

Information on many key subjects is available through The IBS Network’s self-care programme, including…

  • Other things that could be causing your symptoms;
  • Adjustments you can make to your diet;
  • Symptom tracking;
  • Complementary therapy;
  • How to manage your symptoms;
  • How to manage stress and emotions;
  • Designing a self-care programme that works for you;
  • Options for medication.

Members of The IBS Network get access to a range of other benefits, including access to the medical professionals working with the charity. Managing your IBS effectively is the goal here, and the programme aims to give you all the tools you need to work with your healthcare professionals to this end.

Members can call the specialist Nurse helpline with their medical questions, or submit them online to a team of healthcare professionals.

Member Benefits

Despite having no government or NHS support, The IBS Network is able to operate thanks to its membership fees of £24 annually (or £34 if you want to receive a quarterly magazine in the post). Paying members get the following perks:

  • Alflorex (two-month supply);
  • Specialist helpline;
  • Monthly recipes and a Can’t Wait card;
  • Factsheets and reliable information from specialists;
  • ‘Ask the Experts’ facility, personal one to one contact through the website with healthcare professionals (including gastroenterologists and dietitians);
  • Monthly enewsletter – Relief;
  • Members in some areas will have access to support groups;
  • A subscription to a quarterly publication. This magazine features information on the latest campaigns and plans, alongside responses to letters from members;
  • Support in managing your condition through the online Symptom Tracker and Self-Care Programme.

Gut Reaction

Gut Reaction, a quarterly magazine featuring up-to-date and useful articles relating to IBS is published by The IBS Network. Every three months a new issue is made available to members, who also have access to all back copies of the magazine.

Coffee Facts

Your body experiences a number of effects when you consume caffeine, the popular drug that gives fizzy drinks and coffee their allure. If you aren’t careful about your consumption, some of these may be harmful to those with IBS. Before you sip your next java, make sure you are aware of the effects it may be having.

Bowel Stimulation

If you struggle with the common IBS symptom of regular diarrhoea, coffee’s stimulating effects may only serve to make this situation worse. By affecting the epithelial lining of the small intestine and stomach, the hormone gastrin whose production has been found to be promoted by coffee consumption can speed colon emptying and increase motor activity in the colon.

This isn’t a problem that can be solved simply by switching to decaf. While regular coffee will have a slightly stronger effect, decaf coffee will still have an impact on bowel frequency. It’s a good idea to avoid coffee at all costs during a flare-up, especially when there is active diarrhoea.

For more information about irritable bowel syndrome, check out Need2Know’s Essential Guide to IBS which covers everything you need to know about living with IBS in the 21st century.


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