Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Lifeboost Coffee, And A Healthy Gut

13 min read APR 22, 2024

Do painful stomach cramps and bloating keep you from enjoying your day?

Do you find yourself planning meals in fearful anticipation of GI distress?

Are painful gas, constipation, and diarrhea unfortunately just a part of life for you?

Anyone suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) knows the above symptoms all too well. And, even for those enduring such symptoms without an official diagnosis, I’d say it’s likely IBS has been on your radar.

Irritable bowel syndrome affects millions of people, roughly 15% of the population, and while there are medications which aid in controlling symptoms of this condition, some have found a simple and common means of relief comes down to balance.

Within your gastrointestinal tract live trillions of bacteria, and there must be a balance of good and bad bacteria here in order for your body to gain or maintain health.

Experts have yet to confirm that this balance is the primary root of IBS, but we do know the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel are present when the gut is not healthy (balanced).

Unfortunately, this can mean bad news for coffee drinkers, depending on the type of brew you’re sipping!

So, today we’re going to explore the connection between IBS and gut health as well as how your coffee routine can be a help or a hindrance when it comes to dealing with this common, yet troubling, condition.

What Is IBS?

IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome, a disorder that affects the stomach and intestines.

Irritable bowel has become increasingly common, a sad fact for many as even a mild case of IBS can cause symptoms such as:

  • stomach cramps
  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • gas
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • feeling like you can not or have not emptied your bowels even after a bowel movement
  • whitish colored mucus in feces

And, some sufferers may even experience symptoms that are seemingly unlinked to the gastrointestinal tract, such as:

  • migraine headaches
  • sleep disturbances
  • chronic pain in the pelvic region
  • fibromyalgia
  • depression
  • anxiety

Then, for those suffering with severe IBS symptoms, these individuals may even experience:

  • weight loss
  • diarrhea at night
  • rectal bleeding
  • vomiting
  • low iron

IBS is one of the most common disorders diagnosed and treated by gastroenterologists, though the exact cause or root of this condition often alludes even the experts in this field. And, this is likely due to the wide range of factors that can play a part in the development of IBS.

First, irritable bowel symptoms can be triggered by a variety of things, with the two most common triggers being diet and stress.

When it comes to diet, while true food allergies aren’t typically triggers for IBS, a large number of folks find that irritable bowel symptoms worsen when they eat certain foods or drink certain beverages.

Some of the most common food and beverage triggers for sufferers include wheat, dairy, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, and carbonated beverages.

Then, aside from diet, stress also seems to be a common trigger, causing existing IBS symptoms to worsen or increase in frequency.

But, these symptom triggers don’t truly get to the root cause of IBS, which is where things get a little more complicated.

Researchers now believe many of the above listed symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are linked to a hypersensitivity in the nerves which line the walls of the intestinal tract, or the gut.

While these nerves are different from those which run through the spinal cord and brain, scientists believe the way the nerves within the gut communicate with the brain, or how the brain processes this information, may be at the root of this uncomfortable (and sometimes debilitating) condition.

This is why IBS is classified as a neurogastrointestinal disorder.

And, if you’ve ever heard of the gut-brain axis, then this likely makes a lot of sense.

Your gut and your brain are closely linked. In fact, the nerves within your gut, otherwise known as the enteric nervous system or the gastrointestinal nervous system, are sometimes called your body’s second brain.

This pathway of messaging between the gut and the brain can easily be seen in simple occurrences like when you eat something that upsets your stomach. This negative experience causes us to avoid the food culprit in later instances, all because of the communication that takes place in this gut-brain messaging pathway.

But, on a greater scale, as in the case of irritable bowel syndrome, it is believed that this messaging system between the gut and brain is actually malfunctioning or has even suffered damage.

So then, let’s now take some time to dig a bit deeper to see how the gut can suffer the type of damage that would hinder this connection, leading to conditions like IBS?

IBS And Gut Health

There are a handful of things that can disrupt or damage the communication network between your gut and your brain, but for today, we’d like to zone in on one prominent area - the gut microbiome.

The gut microbiome is essentially an ecosystem of trillions and trillions of microbes, or bacteria, that dwell in your gastrointestinal tract.

Sounds gross, right? But, the bacteria in your gut are needed to supply your body with nutrients, synthesize vitamins, aid in digestion, and…drum roll please…they promote healthy nerve function within the gut to allow these nerves to appropriately communicate with your brain.

As we mentioned above, IBS is thought to stem from a potential breakdown or damage to the means of communication between your gut and brain, causing a misfiring of sorts which leads to the symptoms associated with this syndrome.

And, while research is still ongoing regarding this connection, it is commonly believed that abnormal levels of gut bacteria may contribute to, or even cause, IBS symptoms.

To put it simply, this is because the bacteria in your gut aren’t all good and beneficial.

So, with the presence of both good and bad bacteria in your gut, what’s needed for optimal health is balance.

But, balance in terms of gut bacteria looks different than the 50-50 ratios we typically think of when it comes to things being even.

No, in your gut, balance looks more like 85-15, or 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria.

Of course, it sounds odd to us to think there would be a need for any “bad” bacteria at all, but these are actually beneficial when kept in check, aiding in waste removal, disease prevention and treatment, and keeping your immune system healthy.

The problem here, however, is that this balance is very delicate, and unfortunately many factors can work to disrupt it.

In the case of IBS, research has shown a link between an unbalanced gut microbiome and an increase in irritable bowel symptoms, but the mystery which remains, or the missing link perhaps, lies in the fact that scientists have yet to pinpoint exactly how the gut microbiome contributes to IBS.

Despite this missing link, however, we can still address what we do know:

  • Abnormal bacterial balances in the gut do indeed contribute to a wide range of gastrointestinal issues.
  • Individuals with IBS most commonly present with altered GI bacteria.
  • Changes or variations in the gut bacteria balance contribute to flares in IBS symptoms.
  • Gut bacteria influence muscle growth and contraction in the gastrointestinal tract, and an increase in large intestine muscle contraction (contributing to abdominal cramping and pain) is common in those suffering from IBS.
  • Stress is a known, common, IBS trigger, a factor that also has been found to disrupt the balance of bacteria within the gut.

So then, how can you keep your gut balanced in an effort to keep IBS symptoms at bay?

The 4 most common ways you can keep your enteric nervous system healthy (nerves in your gastrointestinal tract) and your gut microbiome balanced include:

Medications - Medications, specifically antibiotics, should only be taken as needed as these can seriously disrupt the gut bacteria balance.

Exercise - Whether you’re looking to maintain or achieve balance in your gut microbiome, exercise has been proven to enrich the environment where these bacteria dwell, keeping the bad bacteria at bay and the good bacteria flourishing.

Stress - When you have trouble dealing with stress or when you experience chronic stress, this can wreak havoc on your gut microbiome. Managing stress is a key component in your efforts to achieve or maintain a healthy gut.

Diet - We mentioned in the section above that there are a handful of foods and beverages which have been proven to trigger IBS symptoms, but apart from these triggers, there are also foods and drinks which can either aid in that bacterial balance or cause serious damage to your gut.

Eating fermented foods, lean meats, eggs, fatty fish, leafy greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, and items low in sugar are all said to improve the gut bacterial balance in individuals with IBS.

But, what we’d like to know is how coffee can help or hinder this condition…in other words…could your daily coffee routine be wrecking your gut microbiome and contributing to IBS symptoms and/or flare ups?

Let’s find out…

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Coffee And Gut Health

When it comes to coffee and gut health, there’s good news and bad news. Here, we’re going to tackle the bad news first, so we can end on a good, happy, and positive note!

A friend and I were recently chatting about coffee, and I was a little surprised when she made the following remark, “coffee is terrible for your gut health.”

Immediately I thought…um…definitely not, because I know the coffee I drink is actually great for gut health. But, that’s not the case with all coffee, so I could see where she’d have cause for concern.

You see, coffee in and of itself is powerfully healthy, containing antioxidants, polyphenols, and on and on.

However, the way this powerful superfood is grown and processed can make all the difference, even frustrating or negating the benefits of this bean, especially as it pertains to your gut!

And, unfortunately much of the coffee consumed today falls into the category which my friend spoke of - that which is terrible for gut health.

Conventional coffee is in high demand throughout our world, and this means one thing…large companies need to grow lots of it, without the interference of pests, and fast!

To do this, mass market coffee is grown in deforested regions, and often a hybrid bean is grown to ensure proper growth in the sun (not the typical or optimal environment for coffee shrubs).

In these large fields, water can pool enhancing mold growth, and pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and more are used to keep threats at bay. Even fertilizers are heavily sprayed on crops to ensure quick growth.

Then, once mechanically picked and stored, molds and mycotoxins (a byproduct of certain molds) can be abundant in this type of coffee too.

And, all of these spell disaster for your gut.

Take a look…

  • Mold exposure can weaken the gut’s innate defense mechanisms making you (and your gut) more susceptible to invading bacteria, pathogens, viruses, and parasites, even leading to gastrointestinal infections. Such infections are one of the known triggers contributing to the onset of IBS.

  • Then, the presence of mold in coffee can produce mycotoxins in/on these beloved beans. And, mycotoxins have been proven to alter normal intestinal functions, hindering nutrient absorption and harming the gut barrier.

  • Pesticides are particularly toxic to gut health as they can change the very functions of the bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract as well as greatly disrupt that needed bacterial balance we explained in the section above.

  • One very common herbicide used on conventional coffee crops is glyphosate, and this weed controller, even in low doses has been proven to negatively alter the bacterial balance in the gut.

  • Glyphosate and other herbicides have been shown to weaken the lining in the gut and trigger shifts in bacterial makeup. These are known to cause high levels of inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract as well.

  • Unfortunately, conventional coffee also typically contains heavy metals which greatly hinder the balance of gut bacteria, even contributing to issues in the lining of your gut which can allow these harmful metals to leak into other parts of your body causing illness or poisoning.

So, as you can see, while coffee can be a healthy beverage, when it’s heavily treated or contains mold/mycotoxins and heavy metals, it truly does more harm than good, especially when it comes to your gut, and this is seriously bad news for IBS sufferers.

Now for the good news…

Lifeboost Coffee and Gut Health

If conventional coffee growing methods have taught us anything, it’s that there is a better way to grow, process, and savor this abundantly healthy and delicious bean!

Here at Lifeboost, we do things differently, with the health of our planet, our bodies, and ultimately even our gut, in mind!

Our coffee is grown at high elevations in protected rainforest regions under a natural canopy of shade received from neighboring plant life.

At such elevations, the coffee slowly grows to maturity, and the rainforest rains water the plants in perfection as any excess water streams away from the plants and down the mountain to avoid any pooling and mold growth.

These shrubs are also grown without the use of any harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, etc.

Our coffee plants receive help in the form of soil enrichment (nutrition), shade, and pest control from the plant and animal life in the region while also providing equal benefit to the same components of creation.

Our coffee cherries are grown and hand selected by generational farmers, then spring water washed, meticulously processed, and third party tested for molds, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and more than 450 other toxins to ensure you are getting the cleanest, healthiest beans possible.

This not only produces what we’ve found to be the tastiest cup of coffee, but also a cup that improves the health of your body, including your gut!

  • Coffee contains caffeine, and this stimulant can keep things moving in your gut, which scientists say changes the gut microbiome in the right direction. When the flow through your intestines is slowed, this can contribute to an overgrowth of bad bacteria and greatly trigger IBS symptoms. As coffee “keeps things moving,” this lessens the opportunity for overpopulation of such bacteria.
  • Coffee contains phytochemicals which promote the growth of good, helpful bacteria in the gut.
  • Sixteen ounces of coffee contains almost as much fiber as a raw apple, and fiber is a needed component of a healthy gut.
  • Coffee has prebiotic properties which can feed the good bacteria in your gut. Keeping good bacteria plentiful not only ensures a proper amount of these microbiota, but this also works to keep the ‘bad’ bacteria at bay.

This only scratches the surface concerning the many benefits of coffee, for as many of you already know, this magic bean has also been proven to decrease the risk of some diseases, improve heart health, lower the risk of all causes of death, increase energy, and more.

But, for IBS sufferers and anyone seeking to improve gut health (and whole body health), clean, healthy coffee is a must…and this is why we don’t simply love Lifeboost Coffee for the taste, but for its clean, pure, gut-health-boosting components as well!

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Charles Livingston nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

Headshot of Becky Livingston Vance
Becky Livingston Vance Content writer

Becky is a mother, educator, and content writer for Lifeboost Coffee. She has had three years’ experience as a writer, and in that time she has enjoyed creatively composing articles and ebooks covering the topics of coffee, health and fitness, education, recipes, and relationships.


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