Carissa Andrews is a freelance writer, graphic designer, and author. You can learn more about her at her website.
Today I had to ask myself this question: does drinking coffee kill probiotics? This question came to me in particular due to an experiment I’m trying with a well-known nutrition supplement program and shake system. The woman I spoke to about the system was adamant that my daily 2 cups of coffee were the reason I wasn’t seeing the addictionesque results from using their products. She claimed the acid from the coffee was killing the probiotics in the nutritional system (and not the fact I already eat well, and exercise daily).
Well, this of course made me curious because of everything I’ve already read and studied about gut flora and probiotics. For instance, the best probiotics
I get why companies like this exist and make big money. There are 40 million Americans suffering from chronic gut stress, according to Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP, the Co-author of Trust Your Gut, Senior Consultant at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. More than that number are chronically obese, have energy lags, and are looking for the magic pill that fixes everything. Unfortunately, this often comes with a blind faith and a blind eye. Neither of which I’m best known for. I’ve always found it’s important to do the research and come up with your own conclusions whenever possible.
What are Probiotics Good For?
I’m sure many of you may have heard of probiotics, but you may be wondering what they’re really good for. Sure, they’re in your yogurts and such, but why do we need them? Or more importantly, what do they do?
Probiotics help to:
• Assist in digestion
• Kill or slow down the growth of bad bacteria
• Kill or slow down the growth of yeast in the body
• Detoxify and protect your intestines
• Reduce cholesterol
• Aid in absorption of minerals and vitamins
• Support the immune system
• Reduce the risk of cancer and tumors
• Help the body produce vitamins such as niacin, folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B6
• Regulate pH value
• Reduce cholesterol when values are high
• Reduce the effects of depression
Freeze-Dried vs Live
So, this company I was talking about earlier may be freeze-drying their probiotics so they can withstand room temperature. While our freeze drying process has increased the viability of probiotic strains over the past few years, conditions have to be right. If any moisture enters the packages, the strains are activated and thus subject to the damaging effects of any other probiotic that hasn’t been refrigerated.
When purchasing live strains, it’s very important to buy them from a company that keeps them refrigerated. As I stated earlier, this includes the shipping process, too. If you buy live strains online, you want to be sure they’re kept in a refrigerated car and packaged with materials that keep the probiotics cold once they’re sitting on your doorstep.
Here’s the Rub
Now that we’ve talked about what probiotics are good for, it’s important to make sure they live long enough to do their magic. So what about this coffee kills probiotics issue?
There’s no evidence whatsoever coffee kills the probiotics in your system. However, in some instances, coffee (both brewed and instant) have increased the levels of Bifidobacterium (good bacteria) in the gut.
The interesting thing is, heat can kill probiotics. Perhaps this is where people get confused since coffee is hot and it happens to be something nearly everyone consumes first thing in the morning. The way around this issue is simply to avoid eating or drinking anything hot for 30 minutes before or after taking your probiotics—which should always be taken on an empty stomach.
What you really should be concerned about:
While the acid from coffee doesn’t kill the probiotics, too much can still do bodily harm if left unchecked. I know that’s hard to hear, if you like your java. Here’s the harsh truth. Too much coffee/caffeine can lead to:
1. Sympathetic Nervous System Stress
2. Cortisol Levels
3. Adrenal Gland Burnout
4. Insulin Resistance
5. Catabolic Muscle Breakdown
It was important for me to note that while my daily coffee ritual was likely not the cause of my abnormal results from the nutrition company, drinking coffee can still be a problem. It’s health effects are far more reaching than the simple “awake" feeling I get in the morning. If you’re a coffee drinker (who doesn’t plan to give it up) and who also takes probiotics, timing is your most important piece of information in this article. Then again, timing really is most important for anyone taking probiotics. Remember, take them on an empty stomach with nothing hot to eat or drink for at least 30 minutes before and after. Follow that rule and you’ll be just fine.