8 Unexpected Ways Even One Cup Of Coffee Can Affect Your Gut Health

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It's the drink that incentivizes you to get out of bed, gives you energy to fly through your to-do list, and delivers a sweet pick-me-up in the middle of a long afternoon. Coffee can be super bitter or practically a delicious milkshake, depending on your preferences. While you're probably pretty in tune with how the beverage affects your energy levels, you might not know all the unexpected ways that drinking even one cup of coffee can affect your gut health.

What side effects you personally notice depend on how sensitive your individual gut is, a spokesperson for MegaFood, Keri Gans, RDN, nutritionist, certified yoga teacher and author of The Small Change Diet, tells Bustle. "Consuming caffeine alongside food might help for some, but for others it might not make a difference," she says. If your morning coffee is the highlight of your day, don't feel like you have to give it up unless it's really affecting you. But just make sure that either way, you're keeping your gut health in top condition. "To really ensure a healthy gut, stick to a high fiber diet that includes plenty of fruits, veggies, and 100 percent whole grains," says Gans.

The good news is that not every side effect of drinking a mug of coffee is negative. According to experts, there are some pretty good gut benefits to be reaped from the delicious beverage, so drink up if you don't notice any uncomfortable symptoms.

Here is how a cup of coffee can affect your gut, according to experts.

1. It Cues Your Stomach To Start Digestion

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If you're someone who drinks a latte with your breakfast, you're really doing things right by combining the two. "Coffee gets your digestive juices flowing," certified nutrition specialist Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, tells Bustle, "by stimulating the release of saliva, stomach acid (HCl), pepsin, gastrin, pancreatic enzymes and bile." Besides, having coffee and food together can potentially help reduce any upset stomach problems that the drink can cause.

2. It Helps You Absorb Nutrients

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When bitter foods and drinks like coffee stimulate your digestive juices, they also help your body absorb nutrients from all of the delicious things you're eating, says Dr. Gittleman. "They tell your body to secrete gastrin, the hormone that controls how much hydrochloric acid (HCl) your stomach produces," she says. "HCl breaks down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins so that their nutritional components can be easily absorbed into your bloodstream."

3. It Can Trigger Reflux

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Some people who already have digestive issues might find that even one cup of coffee makes their symptoms worse. "Someone who suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may find that their GERD is triggered by coffee and/or caffeine," Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, tells Bustle. If you find this to be true for you, maybe try mixing in half decaf grounds when you brew your morning cup, so that it's a little gentler on your body.

4. It Can Mimic A Gluten Reaction

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"This may sound weird but your body sometimes will mistake coffee for gluten," certified personal trainer and nutritionist Jamie Hickey, tells Bustle. If you're gluten intolerant and notice that your body is reacting as if you've eaten a bowl full of pasta when you haven't, you might want to play around with your coffee routine to see if that's affecting your gut. Try cutting it out for a period of time to see whether your symptoms subside. As always, loop in your doctor for specific guidance.

5. It Can Improve Your Gallbladder Health

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Chances are, you haven't really stopped to think about whether your gallbladder was healthy. If you're a hardcore coffee fan, your love of the drink might be to thank for your gallbladder health. "Studies have shown that people that drink at least two cups of coffee a day don’t have as high of a percentage of problems with their gallbladders or gallstones as people who shy away from this popular drink," says Hickey. Having a healthy gallbladder is important, because the tiny organ helps your body break down foods, especially ones that are higher in fats.

6. It Can Reduce Gut Inflammation

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While some people with preexisting reflux or digestive problems might find that a cup of coffee can bother their gut, for many other people, an Americano can actually soothe your gut. "Coffee contains phenolic compounds that can affect the composition of your gut flora," Lisa Richards, a nutritionist, tells Bustle. "The good news is that these compounds have largely positive effects on your intestinal environment," she says, "encouraging the growth of the beneficial bacteria that will reduce inflammation in your gut."

7. It Can Make You More Stressed

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You might think that stress is solely a mental health issue, but there can actually be a connection between your gut and your emotions. Unfortunately, your morning cold brew can affect this negatively. "Coffee can stimulate the body to release cortisol (the stress hormone), which can decrease blood flow to the gut," Oreoluwa Ogunyemi, MD, a physician and health coach, tells Bustle. If you are already stressed, he says, the effect is even stronger.

8. It Can Cause Heartburn And Indigestion

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"Due to the high acidic count, [coffee] can cause your body to build up stomach acid giving you indigestion," Hickey says. If your stomach isn't very happy with you when you have even one cup of coffee, you might not have to give up the drink altogether. First, he says, try brewing a low acidity coffee at home. Do some research to figure out what the pH levels are for a couple of different brands, and opt for something with a low pH. Cold brew is another option, as the brewing process decreases all the chemical elements in your coffee, including the parts that cause gut problems, says Hickey.

Whether you decide to wave goodbye to your frappe habit, or just make a couple of small tweaks to make the drink gentler on your gut health, be sure to listen to your body. It will let you know if something isn't right.