Coffee and Gut Health: A Prebiotic Pick-me-up?

Gut Health

Your morning brew does more than just clear the cobwebs. Since it burned onto the beverage scene 1000 years ago, coffee has become one of the most popular non-alcoholic beverages worldwide. And it’s good for your health! Regular coffee consumption reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

Coffee has different effects on different disease states. How does our miraculous mocha do it? 

We’ll focus on the following gut-healthy impacts of your daily cup of Joe.

  1. How does coffee affect gut health?
  2. Coffee and your microbiome
  3. What is a “gut-healthy” amount of coffee? 

So pour yourself a cup of your favorite blend and discover how coffee can benefit your belly! 

How Does Coffee Affect Gut Health? 

Did you know that coffee is a plant, and coffee “beans” aren’t even beans?

Coffee is a species of fruit-producing shrub. The coffee fruit looks like a cherry and has a seed inside. These seeds are what we call coffee “beans.” 

If you were to pick a coffee cherry, eat the fruit, and get to the seed inside, you probably wouldn’t recognize it as a coffee bean. When first harvested, coffee seeds are green. The drying and roasting process is necessary to get the chocolatey brown, fragrant “beans” that we grind for “go juice.” 

Is your mind blown? Wait, it gets better! The fact that coffee is a plant is central to how it supports gut health.

Like other plants in our diets (apples, lettuce, broccoli), the coffee plant contains numerous healthy substances collectively known as phytochemicals. You’re probably familiar with one of the most prevalent phytochemicals in coffee, caffeine, but there are many more! 

One of the phytochemicals’ main jobs is to work as antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that protect the cells in the body (including the bacteria in our gut microbiome) from degrading and breaking down, and coffee contains TONS! 

In addition to phytochemicals, coffee also contains fiber! There’s not as much fiber as an apple, but it’s there. Fiber is critical for the health and growth of a diverse and healthy bacterial population in our microbiome. 


Coffee contains fiber and numerous beneficial plant compounds called phytochemicals. The phytochemicals in coffee are responsible for many of coffee’s health benefits. 

Coffee and your microbiome

We’ve established that phytochemicals are good and that they’re in coffee. But what do those phytochemicals do in the gut?

Researchers set out to answer how coffee affects our gut microbiome. 

Several studies have observed the effects of coffee and caffeine on the bacterial populations of coffee-drinkers guts, and at least two have come to similar conclusions. Coffee and caffeine consumption leads to a more diverse and beneficial population of gut bacteria. 

A 2020 study of 147 subjects found that individuals who consumed more coffee had more diverse populations of bacteria in their poop. The researchers gave caffeine credit. 

They figured this out by testing caffeine and bacterial growth outside the body, using standard methods for growing bacteria in a lab. The results showed that the same bacteria that grew better with caffeine in the lab were more prevalent in caffeine users’ feces. They concluded caffeine supported a healthier population of bacteria in coffee drinkers from this information. 

A  2019 study at the Baylor College of Medicine gathered even more specific information about the effects of caffeine and coffee on the gut microbiome. After surveying 34 participants and separating them into different levels of caffeine use, they took tiny samples from diverse sections of the participants’ colons. 

The results showed a more diverse and healthy gut microbiome in those who used more caffeine. Researchers also found that beneficial bacteria were dispersed more evenly throughout the gut. 

As it turns out, that breakfast boost isn’t just for your brain but your bacteria too! 


Research shows that coffee and caffeine users may have a healthier and more diverse bacterial community in their gut microbiome.

What is a “gut-healthy” amount of coffee? 

If the research we discussed indicates that more caffeine is better for you, is that license to go coffee crazy? 

Not exactly. 

While there are health benefits to “normal” coffee and caffeine use, there are also downsides to overdoing it. These downsides could cause problems for people who are highly sensitive to caffeine, extremely heavy users, or those with pre-existing conditions. These downsides can directly affect gut health. 

Do you know how that first cup of coffee often “gets you moving” in the morning? That’s caffeine working on the muscles of your digestive system, and that effect is dose-dependent. Meaning that too much coffee can “keep you moving,” even when it shouldn’t. 

To put it bluntly, the overuse of caffeine can cause digestive problems like diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and reflux. These effects can interfere with healthy bowel function and disrupt the gut microbiome. 

Caffeine also increases the need to urinate. Combined with diarrhea, excessive urinating could result in dehydration, so it’s essential to drink plenty of non-coffee water in addition to your daily cuppa. 

It’s also important to remember that caffeine is a stimulant, increasing your physical sense of awakeness, awareness, and energy. This perk is usually welcome first thing in the morning, but too much caffeine can cause anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. These symptoms of overstimulation can cause stress, which results in harmful inflammation of the gut (and everything else). 

Finally, especially if you are already diagnosed with these conditions, coffee can cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. Cardiac effects, if left unchecked, can lead to the development of chronic cardiovascular disease. 

What do the experts say when asked how much coffee is too much? They recommend “going with your gut.” Average coffee intake is associated with many health benefits, including:

  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Decreased risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Potential protection against Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Depression
  • Supports healthy liver function

And, as we’ve already covered, coffee supports a healthy and diverse gut microbiome! 

When determining what a healthy amount of coffee is for you, just watch for potentially harmful symptoms and be aware that they could be related to your caffeine intake. 

In general, coffee is safe, healthy, and delicious! 


Heavy coffee consumption can cause adverse health effects, but coffee is most likely to support a healthy lifestyle when enjoyed in moderation! 

The Betr conclusion on coffee

Imagine the delight of the entire Betr team when we discovered that coffee has the potential to improve your gut health! Anything that tastes great, provides a healthy energy boost, AND supports the gut microbiome is a winner in our book! 

It is crucial, especially if you’re in Level 1 of the Betr protocol, to be aware of what you’re putting IN your coffee. We recommend good old-fashioned milk or half & half (preferably organic!). Many sweetened, flavored creamers contain extra sugar and additives that could interfere with your progress. 

Healthy water intake is also a vital part of the Betr lifestyle, so make sure coffee isn’t causing you to drift towards dehydration! 

No single food is all good or bad. Betr is all about finding what works best for YOU! If you think you have enough energy and feel it would be best for your health,  it’s OK to skip the coffee! 

It’s good to know that your morning coffee might be fighting the good fight for gut health! 

If you take nothing else away, remember:

  • Coffee contains plant compounds called phytochemicals that generally support overall good health! 
  • Studies have shown that moderate to high caffeine use may result in a more diverse and beneficial bacterial population in the gut.
  • Coffee does have some potential to harm your health, so be aware of the downsides and don’t overdo it! 

Hopefully, this discussion has given you another reason to bust out your favorite mug and fill it to the brim with your preferred brew! 

If you want to learn more about gut-healthy food and habits, browse our Betr Blog
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After reading this article, you may be asking yourself if your own health hurdles could be related to an unhealthy gut.

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