How Can Coffee Cause Gas and Bloating?

When and How Does Coffee Cause Gas and Bloating? (9 Little-Known Considerations)

“When and How Does Coffee Cause Gas and Bloating?” was written by dietetic intern and Certified Personal Trainer Julie Wilcoxson, B.S., and reviewed, edited, revised and updated by Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT.

Ahhh, coffee… a beloved beverage enjoyed by millions each day. Yet there’s also an ongoing dispute on whether coffee is good for us, or a cause of unwanted symptoms such as gas and bloating.

So, does coffee cause gas and bloating?  In short, it depends!  (While this isn’t the straightforward “yes-or-no” answer you’re likely looking for, we always need to consider our bio-individuality.)

Whether directly or indirectly, coffee does sometimes have the potential to trigger gas and bloating in certain individuals, for a few very specific reasons.  But at the same time, millions of others consume multiple cups of coffee daily, on-the-reg, without experiencing any adverse effects.

Read on to learn exactly how and why coffee can potentially cause gas and bloating in some of us, what you can do about it (if applicable), and how to investigate other possible causes of your digestive distress (if it’s not the coffee).

Disclaimer: This article was written for general education purposes, not to be taken as medical/dietary advice! Consult a gut health dietitian and/or holistic nutritionist to receive personalized nutrition advice tailored to your individual needs.

What are gas and bloating?

Gas

Gas in our digestive system is a blend of hydrogen, methane, nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide gasses which get produced by microbes fermenting the food we eat. 

How it works:  As certain foods get broken down and fermented by microbes in your gut, gas is generated as a bi-product.  

Gas should eventually get expelled and released through belching (aka burping) or flatulence (aka “farting” or “passing gas”) – with or without an unpleasant odor. (1)  

  • Foul-smelling gas can even provide some deeper insights into the types of foods you ate, and/or the types of microbes living in your gut.

Bloating

Bloating happens when excess gas is produced and stuck in your intestines, creating visible distention (or swelling) in your belly.   

When you’re bloated, you may also feel a fullness or tightness in your midsection – along with some discomfort or even pain. (1)

(At Whole-istic Living, clients have described bloating as feeling like they have a “basketball belly”).

What causes gas and bloating?

Occasional gas and bloating are a normal part of being human.  (In many cases, gas and bloating can result from simple lifestyle factors like swallowing air, eating too fast, chewing gum, and/or skipping meals.)

In other cases, while it may appear as if coffee could be causing your gas and bloating, it’s important to remember that adverse food reactions are complex.  There’s usually something even deeper going on.

So, before you decide to give up your favorite beverage, let’s unpack the most common reasons coffee may seem to be causing your unwanted symptoms (and what else could be going on, from a holistic perspective).

Little-Known Direct/Indirect Reasons for Gas and Bloating from Coffee

To be clear, it’s not normal to get gassy or bloated from drinking coffee.  But at the same time, this stuff never happens for no reason!  It’s always rooted in something deeper.

(1) Gastritis

“Gastritis” means your stomach lining is inflamed.  This condition can be acute (sudden-onset and short-term) or chronic (long-term, ongoing). 

Whether acute or chronic, symptoms of gastritis typically include abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, bloating, and a sensation of fullness. (2)

Coffee and gastritis

From a nutrition standpoint, symptoms of gastritis often get worse when we consume acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus, spicy food, alcohol, and – you guessed it – caffeine!

Coffee plays a role in stimulating the release of gastrin and hydrochloric acid, increasing stomach acid production. (3)

(Technically, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have the capacity to inspire gastrin and bile acid secretion – but it’s more potent in regular caffeinated coffee.)

TLDR:  Coffee increases digestive secretions which are acidic, and may irritate an already-inflamed stomach lining – especially if you have gastritis.  

What you can do

If you’ve noticed that other acidic foods/beverages also seem to trigger bloating and stomach pain, we suggest consulting your doctor about ruling out gastritis.

Or if you’ve already determined you have gastritis, switching to decaf or a coffee substitute may be worth trying.

  • Since decaffeinated coffee has significantly less caffeine compared to regular coffee, it may be worth switching to a decaf or even “half-caf” to see if this makes a difference.
  • We’ve also noticed anecdotally that switching to mushroom coffee, which usually has a lower acidity level, can sometimes be easier to tolerate compared to regular coffee.

Recommended reading:  

However, the acidity from coffee doesn’t typically cause gas and bloating for most people, if you don’t have gastritis or another form of inflammation.  

Food intolerances from coffee add-ins are a more common culprit of gas and bloating worth considering.

(2) Food intolerances

While drinking coffee, you might not immediately associate it with lactose or sucrose- but these popular additives could be a potential culprit of your gas and bloating, if you have any underlying gut imbalances.

Lactose intolerance

As per the World Population Review, 36% of people in the U.S. experience lactose intolerance.  (Lactose is the type of sugar naturally found in milk and cream.)

So, if you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll likely experience gas, bloating, and/or even diarrhea after consuming dairy products such as milk and cream. (4)

What you can do

Do you put milk, half & half, or cream in your morning coffee? 

If so, and you experience gas and bloating from your usual coffee drink, consider switching to a lactose-free milk, or even a dairy-free alternative and see if this makes a difference.

(Disclaimer:  Even with an intolerance to lactose, you may be able to consume small amounts of dairy without any symptoms. Everyone is different!)

Recommended reading:

Believe it or not, lactose isn’t the only possible culprit to consider, when it comes to coffee add-ins.  There’s more to the story!

Sucrose intolerance

A certain percentage of people with diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D) actually have a sucrase-isomaltase enzyme deficiency, so they can’t properly break down sugar. 

This results in a sucrose intolerance, which is very similar to a lactose intolerance except it’s happening with sugar.

Sucrose (table sugar) isn’t just added directly to coffee – it’s also hidden in many popular coffee drinks and flavored creamers on the market.

What you can do

If you put sugar in your coffee, or you drink fancy coffee drinks, and you experience frequent diarrhea, gas, bloating, indigestion, and/or stomach aches after your morning brew, we suggest switching to black coffee to see if it makes a difference.

We also recommend consulting a CSID-informed doctor and/or a gut health dietitian nutritionist about ruling out sucrose intolerance.

Recommended reading:

Fructose intolerance

A fructose intolerance is the inability to break down fructose, a highly fermentable short-chain carbohydrate which is restricted on a low FODMAP elimination diet.

 Many people with SIBO often find they have an underlying fructose intolerance, since this type of sugar tends to ferment easily in the intestines (leading to symptoms of gas and bloating).

Another possible underlying cause of fructose intolerance is a deficiency in the enzyme, fructose 1-phosphate aldolase. (5)  

Either way, if you have a fructose intolerance, you may notice that consuming flavored coffee syrups (commonly containing honey or high-fructose corn syrup) triggers gas and bloating (with or without nausea, abdominal pain, bloating, and/or diarrhea).

Note that while small quantities may not always make a difference, incorporating larger quantities of high-fructose additives into coffee more frequently is more likely add up and trigger gas and bloating.

TLDR:  While coffee itself doesn’t contain fructose, you may still experience gas and bloating from coffee that contains syrups high in fructose from honey and/or high fructose corn syrup.

What you can do

We recommend auditing the ingredients in your coffee.

Are you adding honey or flavored syrups?  If so, consider switching to a low FODMAP sweetener.

Or better yet: switch to black coffee!  Does it help? If so, fructose from sugary syrups could be the culprit of your gas/bloating.

(Keeping an IBS food-symptom diary can also help you to identify symptom triggers more quickly and easily.)

Polyols

Polyols are the “P” in FODMAP – and they’re more common in coffee drinks than you might expect!

With ketogenic diets trending, lots of coffee drinks are being sweetened with sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol and erythritol.

These sugar substitutes are generally more likely to trigger IBS symptoms (including gas and bloating) compared to other alternative sweeteners.

Even erythritol, the only sugar alcohol not listed on the “high FODMAP” sweetener list, isn’t 100% IBS-friendly.

Related article:  Is Erythritol Low FODMAP? (The Low-Down on Erythritol and IBS)

What you can do

Do your research and audit your coffee add-in’s.

Look for sugar alcohols like sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol and mannitol.

Try replacing it with something else, to see what works!

(3) Sensitivity to coffee/caffeine

Experiencing a food sensitivity to coffee and/or a chemical sensitivity caffeine is different from an allergy in that it can manifest with a broad range of symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, and even migraines.

Adding to the complexity, symptoms of a food sensitivity reaction are often delayed, so you may not notice them immediately. 

Food sensitivity reactions are also dose-dependent.  In other words, the amount of coffee consumed at any given time can also contribute to your symptoms of bloating.

(Note that food sensitivities can cause bloating, but not gas.  If you’re experiencing gas when you drink coffee, it’s unrelated to a food/chemical sensitivity.)

What you can do

If you’d like to rule out the possibility of food/chemical sensitivities, consider running a Mediator Release Test (MRT) and consult a certified LEAP therapist as needed.

Recommended reading:

(4) Sugar substitutes and gut motility

Sugar substitutes are used to give beverages a sweet taste without adding calories.

Examples of sugar subs can include:

Sipping these types of sweetened beverages between meals has been shown to disrupt the natural rhythmic movement pattern of our Migrating Motor Complex (MMC). 

This prolonged slowdown could potentially lead to conditions like gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying) and small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO). (6)

These conditions are notorious for causing bloat!

TLDR:  Indirectly, what you’re putting in your coffee could potentially contribute to the onset of a condition that makes you feel gassy and bloated.

(5) Candida overgrowth

Candida is an opportunistic fungus (yeast) that lives in our digestive tract. 

This fungus loves to consume sugars. (7

When it overgrows, candida can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in our gut.

Candida overgrowth is known to inflammation, bloating, and gas. (8)

So, what does this have to do with coffee?!  This disruption in your gut microbiome may create an environment conducive to candida overgrowth and the subsequent symptoms of gas, bloating, and more. 

TLDR:  If you’re among the many with IBS caused by candida overgrowth, consider swapping refined sugar in your coffee for something that doesn’t feed candida.

Recommended reading:  

(6) Increased cortisol 

Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, plays a critical role in stress management.  But prolonged elevated levels of cortisol can have negative effects. 

Caffeine in coffee has the capability to increase cortisol levels by stimulating the release of hormones like adrenaline. This hormone surge, especially during stressful situations or physical activity, can impact digestion and possibly lead to bloating. (9)

Long-term stress left unchecked can lead to excessive cortisol production, which may reduce your Migrating Motor Complex (MMC), negative impacting gut motility. 

TLDR:  High stress associated with too much caffeine may indirectly result in symptoms such as bloating and more.

(7) What’s alongside your coffee?

When exploring the connection between gas, bloating and coffee consumption, let’s not forget about the snacks and sweet treats which often accompany a cup of coffee!

Think: FODMAPs and/or sugars in pastries, cereals, omelets, toast, etc.

Keeping a detailed food-symptom journal (aka “IBS food diary“) can go a long way here, since the possibilities are endless.

(8) Skipping meals

Variations in caffeine metabolism are influenced by the CYP1A2 gene, which determines how quickly caffeine breaks down in your body. 

Faster metabolism of coffee may lead to a decreased appetite, potentially resulting in skipped meals and slower gut motility. (10)

Is coffee curbing your appetite? Are you skipping meals?  If so, keep in mind irregular eating habits can contribute to gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. 

(9) Dehydration

Coffee’s diuretic nature increases urination, emphasizing your need for good hydration.

Are you drinking enough fluids and staying hydrated?  If not, this could potentially contribute to symptoms of bloating, since stagnant digestion essentially means food sitting in your intestines and colon for longer.

How can coffee could cause gas and bloating - 9 factors to consider

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

Can coffee make you bloated?

Coffee doesn’t inherently cause bloating in most cases.  However, the additives you put in your morning brew may be the culprit of this symptom. 

On the other hand, if you’ve investigated and believe even black coffee seems to trigger bloating, you may be sensitive to coffee and/or caffeine. 

Having a food or chemical sensitivity to coffee and/or caffeine could result in bloating, along with other symptoms like diarrhea, heartburn, and/or migraines. 

Does coffee reduce bloating?

It’s possible for coffee to indirectly reduce bloating.

For example, the caffeine in coffee stimulates more movement in the colon, improving bowel regularity.  When regularity improves, this can indirectly help reduce feelings of bloating.  (11)

Does coffee cause gas pains?

Gas pains may be caused by additives in coffee with milk/sugar, if you have any kind of intolerance to these.

However, the type of discomfort caused by coffee itself isn’t considered gas pain.

Since coffee is acidic, you may experience stomach discomfort after drinking coffee if you’re prone to gastritis. 

Also, caffeine does stimulate stomach acid and bile production, which can irritate the stomach lining and/or gallbladder. 

Can coffee cause gas?

There’s currently no evidence that points to coffee itself directly causing gas.

However, ingredients commonly added to or consumed alongside coffee could be the underlying culprits of gas.  (Think lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance, sucrose intolerance, and FODMAPs!)

On the other hand, if you have gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), keep in mind the acidity of regular coffee may still be a direct trigger of gastritis-related symptoms like nausea, bloating, and/or abdominal pain.

Does black coffee help with bloating?

There’s currently no scientific evidence stating that black coffee directly helps with bloating, 

However, replacing fancy coffee drinks (which usually contain some type of milk/cream, sugar, artificial sweeteners, filler, etc.) with black coffee could potentially reduce your bloating, if any of the additives were a trigger.

Keep in mind that consuming black coffee alongside certain foods with reactive ingredients can still cause bloating if you’re consuming foods you are intolerant/sensitive to.

Does decaf coffee cause gas?

There’s no evidence of decaf coffee causing gas directly. 

However, be mindful of any added ingredients in the coffee, whether decaf or not. 

Final thoughts

In most cases, experiencing gas and bloating after drinking coffee may not be caused by the coffee itself.  

It could be related to the type or brand of coffee, additives (milk, cream, sugar, syrups), or the amount of coffee you’re consuming at any given time.

In the field of holistic and functional nutrition, we most often see symptoms gas and/or bloating secondary to functional gut disorders like gastritis, food intolerances, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

So if you notice you feel gassy and bloated after drinking coffee, consider that coffee isn’t the real problem – it’s more likely an imbalance in your digestive system. 

The good news is that coffee offers many health benefits and may not be a drink you have to give up, if you can address your underlying gut imbalances at the root-cause level.

Next steps

Understanding how your body reacts to different ingredients and stimulants can be daunting and overwhelming!   It takes some detective work and a lot of patience. 

We firmly believe that knowledge is power and having someone in your corner can be extremely helpful in understanding and resolving such matters. 

If you’d like more support and stay in touch, we invite you to download a complimentary gut health nutrition guide:  5 Diet Mistakes to Avoid When Healing Your Gut!

Free Download - 5 Diet Mistakes to Avoid When Healing Your Gut - by Jenna Volpe RDN LD CLT

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