As a coffee lover and an IBS sufferer, you will be pleased to know that the coffee FODMAP content is none. This means that coffee is safe to have on the low FODMAP diet.
Although coffee is FODMAP free, some of the added ingredients we use to make various coffee drinks are high FODMAP. Coffee itself may also trigger IBS symptoms.
This article will also discuss how coffee affects the digestive system, some of the high coffee FODMAP ingredients to watch out for and whether you should limit caffeine intake.
Coffee FODMAP content
All coffee beans are FODMAP-free, meaning that the coffee FODMAP content made with just beans and hot water is none. This means black coffee is low FODMAP.
Coffee FODMAP content: Americano
Americano coffee is made only with espresso and hot water, making it FODMAP-free.
Coffee FODMAP content: Lattes
Following a low FODMAP diet does not initially mean drinking only black coffee (except if you prefer). So, in this section, we will give you low FODMAP ideas for FODMAP-friendly Lattes.
If you like having your coffee with milk or a plant-based alternative, choose low FODMAP options, like (1):
- Lactose-free cow’s milk
- Almond milk
- Rice milk
To learn more about low FODMAP milk, read our article: “Does low FODMAP milk exist?”
To sweeten coffee, you can use sugar, or a variety of low FODMAP sweeteners, including:
However, FODMAPs are not the only substances that can cause an IBS flare-up.
Coffee may trigger IBS symptoms due to caffeine, a naturally present stimulant, which affects the digestive system and gut-brain axis (2).
Low FODMAP Starbucks options
You do not have to avoid Starbucks during the low FODMAP diet.
In this section, we will give you tips on making your Starbucks coffee choice low FODMAP and a list of the low FODMAP options.
To order a suitable low FODMAP coffee:
- Order smaller serving sizes.
- Avoid syrups.
- Switch high FODMAP milk for the low FODMAP option, as discussed above (and check the Monash app for portion sizes).
Low FODMAP Starbucks coffee options:
- Coffee Americano
- Coffee Espresso
- Coffee Macchiato
- Veranda Blend
- Cappuccino (made with almond milk)
- Espresso con Panna
- Flat white
- Coffee Misto etc.
You can also order your coffee with whipped cream, which will be discussed in the following section.
Low FODMAP coffee creamer
A low FODMAP diet is restrictive, and you might have to limit the foods and drinks you enjoy.
Luckily, there are many low FODMAP options you can add to the coffee to enrich it.
Low FODMAP servings of coffee creamers (1):
- Creamer powder: 3g per serving
- Whipped cream: 60g per serving
- Coconut cream: 60g per serving
- Evaporated milk: 10g per serving
- Sweetened condensed milk: 7g per serving
- Lactose-free cream: FODMAP-free
How does coffee affect the digestive system?
Coffee affects the digestive system in numerous ways, including:
Coffee stimulates stomach acid production
People with IBS often report coffee is one of the main foods related to acid reflux symptoms (6).
However, currently, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the elimination of caffeine in acid reflux disease (6).
Additionally, a couple of large human studies have argued against the concept that caffeine has a role in acid reflux. In one study, researchers found that coffee drinkers were less likely to have an acid-related disease (7).
A similar study showed a weak link between coffee consumption and acid reflux (8).
However, both of these two studies are population-based. That means that numerous factors could influence the results, such as:
- Exposure to stress etc.
Why can coffee upset your stomach?
The exact reason why coffee upsets your stomach remains unclear (9).
However, there are two theories – the first is that coffee might increase gastric acid production and therefore impact your stomach (3).
Does coffee make you poop?
Yes, studies show that coffee can help you to open your bowels.
One study showed caffeinated coffee has a 23% stronger effect on motor colonic activity than decaffeinated coffee (4).
These findings tell us caffeine is a motor colonic stimulant, but it is not the only compound from coffee with such an effect.
Coffee and irritable bowel syndrome
Unfortunately, the quality of the studies is not great. Therefore, we should tailor the advice around coffee and caffeine intake to the individual rather than just banning or reducing it without the need (14).
Keep a diary of how much you usually drink, and also check your symptoms for loose stools or signs of anxiety.
If you notice these issues, reduce your intake slowly over a few days and track to see if your symptoms improve.
Can coffee trigger anxiety?
Some individuals report increased anxiety levels when they drink coffee (15).
Moreover, anxiety has been linked to digestive health problems (17).
Unfortunately, when it comes to looking at how caffeine affects our body when taken in normal coffee amounts, there is limited information available. Even the two studies below disagree with each other.
In a small study of just 16 men who regularly drank coffee, 3mg of caffeine/kg weight was enough to increase their cortisol (stress hormone) levels for up to 60 minutes (18).
In another larger study, drinking coffee with 160mg of caffeine was suggested to have an anti-stress effect (2).
However, there was no ‘control’ in this trial, so having a drink in the morning may have provided the ‘anti-stress’ effect.
(A control is used in research to ensure that the results are not just due to placebo).
How much coffee can I drink?
It depends. As we are all different from each other, this advice should be tailored to the individual.
Caffeine is metabolized in the liver by specific enzymes. How fast we metabolize it depends on our genetics.
The recommendations are all based on caffeine intake rather than the actual coffee, as the science points to it as being the ‘active’ ingredient in the coffee.
The caffeine content in coffee
Caffeine recommendations for the general public
- General population – up to 400mg/day (22).
- During pregnancy – up to 200mg/day (22).
- IBS – tailored advice depending on symptoms and current diet but no more than general population guidelines.
- Acid reflux – tailored advice depending on symptoms and current diet but no more than general population guidelines.
- Anxiety – tailored advice depending on symptoms and current diet but no more than general population guidelines.
Health benefits of drinking coffee
Studies are not consistent when it comes to the health benefits of drinking coffee.
But if we look at a large meta-analysis that compared drinking three to four cups of coffee a day versus none, is drinking coffee associated with many health outcomes, including (23):
- Reduction of all-cause mortality
- Reduction of cardiovascular mortality
- Reduction of cardiovascular diseases
- Lower incidence of certain cancers etc.
These health benefits from drinking coffee are mostly due to its high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are organic compounds which have a role as antioxidants.
The most represented in coffee are cafestol and kahweol.
Regular drinking of coffee can positively affect our wellbeing, but we must remember that more is not always better.
Also, caffeinated coffee in the late afternoon can negatively affect our sleep.
Coffee itself is low FODMAP. However, adding high FODMAP ingredients can make it inappropriate while following the low FODMAP diet.
If you like enriching coffee with milk or creamer, choose the low FODMAP options mentioned above.
Coffee can trigger IBS symptoms despite being low FODMAP. Reducing your caffeine intake is unnecessary for general health as long as it is within the recommended guidelines.
However, if caffeine harms your wellbeing, you must tailor your caffeine intake to your symptoms. This may be tricky, so you should consider seeing a registered dietitian.
Written by Barbara Lešnik, Student Dietitian, reviewed by Kirsten Jackson, Consultant Dietitian BSc Hons, RD, PG Cert
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.
Last updated on August 21st, 2023 at 08:46 pm