Coffee is one of the most consumed substances in the world – and contrary to what some people will have you believe, it’s not generally bad for your health – in fact, it’s pretty good. But, if you’re getting bloating after drinking coffee, you might be wondering does coffee cause gas or is something else going on? And we’re here to explain…
Why Does Coffee Cause Gas
Okay, let’s start with the good news if you’re a massive coffee fan – in most people who get gassy after drinking coffee, it’s not the coffee itself that’s causing your problem.
In fact, coffee is more likely to cure gas than cause it as, within as little as four minutes of drinking a cup of coffee, the caffeine within it actually stimulates your digestive system to start moving – and the more regular your bowel movements, the less likely you are to suffer bloating.
However, it is true that in some people drinking coffee creates bloating.
One reason for this is that caffeine in coffee causes the production of stomach acid – and, when this happens, foods in the stomach cause create more gas than normal as they break down – this can create coffee bloat, or lead to acid reflux or symptoms like burping after coffee.
In other people it’s the acidity of coffee that causes irritation and gas.
However, this isn’t the normal reaction to coffee, instead, if you develop coffee bloat, it’s more likely to be something else in the brew triggering your problems so ask yourself…
Did You Add Milk to Your Coffee?
In that case, it might be the milk that you’re reacting to – especially if you’ve had breakfast cereal, or another dish with dairy products in it that morning which would increase the amount of dairy you’ve consumed to more than just the splash in your coffee.
Why Milk Causes Bloating
There’s a few reasons why milk might be behind your bloat…
Milk contains a sugar called lactose, and, some people don’t have enough of the enzyme, lactase, needed to digest this in their system – a condition known as lactose intolerance.
When this happens, lactose enters the large intestine undigested and the gut bacteria that live then start to break it down – and when that happens, gas is produced.
But you don’t have to be lactose intolerant to react to milk.
Milk also contains a substance called beta-casein which contains two proteins, A1 and A2.
While A2 doesn’t really affect the digestive tract, when A1 is digested it causes the release of a peptide that has been shown to cause digestive problems in animals – and, it’s now believed the same thing happens in people.
If you’re one of the people who can’t tolerate A1, drinking coffee with milk in might lead to an upset stomach and bloating.
What Else Did You Have With Your Coffee?
Because we have this (false) image that coffee is an unhealthy product, we tend to blame any health problems that occur after drinking it on the coffee – while in fact, it could be the fruit, yogurt or chia seeds in your morning smoothie, the cereal in your breakfast or the toast, muffins or biscuits that you had with it.
In fact, all of these are all far more regularly linked to bloating that coffee beans are!
Teasing out whether the symptoms you’re blaming on the coffee are actually caused by coffee is therefore an important part in answering the question ‘can coffee cause gas?’
What About Artificial Sweeteners?
If you’re watching your calories, you might be using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar in your coffee and wondering they might be a problem.
While some types of artificial sweetener used in foods like sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol can contain types of sugar known as FODMAPS that can be problem for those with irritable bowel syndrome or sensitive stomachs – the types that you’re most likely to use to sweeten coffee – Sweet N Low, Splenda, Nutrasweet or Stevia use sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame and saccharin that don’t contain these.
However if you’re adding sweeteners that are often flagged up as more healthy – including honey, agave or xylitol-based sweeteners these do contain FODMAPs and they might aggravate a sensitive stomach and can cause bloating and gas.
If you want to see if your sweetener is on the list that might cause bloating, have a look at the Monash FODMAP app which ranks foods by their FODMAP content.
Could Mould in Coffee Cause Bloating?
Mould can grow on coffee beans – that much is true.
And, some moulds produce substances called mycotoxins which have been linked to gut health problems like bloating.
However, before you naturally assume that this is why coffee gives you gas, let’s examine the actual facts about mycotoxins and their levels in coffee.
According to research drinking four cups of coffee would only see you consume two per cent of the amount of mycotoxins that would be deemed harmful to health.
The reason is that while coffee beans might carry mould when they are harvested or stored, roasting the beans kills up to 95 per cent of certain mycotoxins and almost 50 per cent of others. Caffeine also affects it – so, by the time you brew your coffee grounds there’s likely to be very little mycotoxins within your cup.
However, if you’re not convinced and want to try and see what happens if you drink ‘clean’ coffee, you can buy coffee beans that claim to be totally mycotoxin-free (like Bulletproof Coffee).
Is Coffee Gluten Free?
Gluten is blamed for a lot of bloating, but, when it comes to coffee causing gas you can strike this one of your list. Coffee does not contain gluten.
How to Tell Whether Coffee is Causing Your Gas?
Simple, keep a food diary for a few days and do some experiments.
Try just drinking coffee with milk and see if you get any kind of bloating or gas in the hours afterwards. If you do, it might be the coffee or the milk. So…
Try drinking black coffee and ask yourself if black coffee also creates gas.
Try changing your breakfast to something without dairy in it and see if that stops your symptoms. If it does, you might be able to tolerate a little bit of milk in coffee but adding it on top of breakfast cereal with milk is too much for your digestive system to handle.
Also, ask yourself if it could be something else in your breakfast that causes the bloating.
For example, find out here why chia seeds might be causing bloating
Or, if you’re eating toast made with frozen bread, that is also a common trigger for gas (find out why frozen bread specifically can be an issue here)
This should give you a clearer picture as to whether it’s actually the coffee causing flatulance and bloat – or something else.
Keeping a good food and symptom diary is a bit of an art though so check out our tips to writing one here.
You can also download some templates to help keep track of things here
Oh, and if you’re regularly getting bloating and you can’t pin down the cause, it doesn’t go down or it comes with any other unusual symptoms like bleeding, weight loss, loss of appetite, you should go and get things checked out just to make sure there’s not another reason why it’s happening.
What to Do if Coffee Makes You Gassy
The good news is, you might not need to give up coffee completely to beat your bloating.
And ideally you don’t want to. Not just because coffee tastes good, but because it’s also good for you.
Moderate coffee intake provides important anti-oxidants, may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and regular coffee drinkers have even been shown to live longer ( and yes, even instant coffee can be healthy).
Because of this, it’s bettter to find a way to drink coffee and not experience gas, than quit it completely.
And the way to do that is to make some simple tweaks in terms of the type of coffee beans you choose, what you choose to put in your coffee or, how you consume it.
Pick Lighter Roasts
The more acidic the coffee, the more likely it is to irritate the stomach lining in ways that might cause bloating – and, lighter roasts make for less acidic coffee than dark ones.
Try Cold Brew Coffee
Heat increases the acidity of coffee and so, choosing cold brew, which as the name suggests doesn’t use heat may help reduce the effects on your stomach.
Switch to Decaffeinated Coffee
If you think it’s the caffeine in the coffee causing you problems then it’s not a huge surprise that this might help!
And don’t worry, things will still keep moving if you drink decaf coffee – studies comparing coffee with caffeine and coffee without show that both stimulate the bowel.
If you’re worried how you’re going to wake up in the morning if you don’t have caffeine, you might need to check out our guide to ways to raise your energy (some of them work in a matter of minutes).
Don’t Drink it on an Empty Stomach
While some people find there are no issues with drinking coffee on an empty stomach, but if you do get gas, bloating or belching when you drink coffee before eating, then it’s likely affecting acid levels in your stomach.
Consuming coffee alongside food gives the acid in your stomach something to work on making it potentially less likely to irritate.
Note: If you’re adding MCT oil to your morning coffee, that might be another reason why you have an upset stomach. Check out our guide to MCT oil and fasting here as it has a box on this.
Give Your Milk a Makeover
If you suspect that an issue with dairy products might be to blame for your symptoms, then consider changing the type of milk you add.
Plant-based dairy-free milks (like flax milk) are the obvious option, but not the only one.
Lactose-free milks, or lowered sugar-milks like ReMilk have lactose removed and so might not trigger problems if you are lactose intolerant.
Also, have a look for A2 milk. This is a milk from cows that don’t produce the A1 protein which causes the main problems when drinking milk.
How to Release Bloating When It Happens
If you’re reading this already all puffed up, you might be wondering how to relieve your bloating.
There’s a few different methods.
One of the easiest would be to swap your next cup of coffee with one of peppermint tea – this relaxes the valves in the digestive tract letting the gas make it’s way through the system – and, as an added bonus, peppermint tea has been shown to raise energy – so, you’ll still get a bit of a kick from your drink.
The other option, head for a walk around the block. Coffee stimulates the bowel – but so does movement and so, heading out for a walk, jog or cycle can also help get things moving.
For some other ideas, including using activated charcoal or other medications to reduce gas, check out our full gas-busting post here.
So there you have it. All the reasons why coffee may cause you to feel bloated – and some solutions to them that mean that if you love drinking coffee, you can still have your favourite start to the day.
If you do suffer regularly from bloating (and have had a chat to our GP if you need to), you might want to check out our ‘why does’ section which explains why lots of different foods might trigger excess gas – and again, gives some very specific suggestions as to how to reduce the effects if you eat or drink them regularly.
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.