Many Americans rely on caffeine to get through the day. In fact, three out of four caffeine consumers report drinking it every day. And while there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to an afternoon pick-me-up once in a while, it’s important to be aware of the health effects of the drinks you put into your body. As it turns out, there’s a popular option that can compromise your gut health due to the extremely high sugar content along with the caffeine: energy drinks.
To understand how energy drinks can strain your digestive system, we spoke to Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN. She gave us an overview of how caffeine can affect your gut. Read on to learn more about this, as well as the role sugar plays in digestion.
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Sometimes you just need a little caffeine, but unfortunately many of the caffeinated drink options can be extremely harmful to your overall health, especially when it comes to your digestive system. One of the biggest culprits is energy drinks with sugar.
If you’re struggling with your gut health, energy drinks like Monster and Red Bull will work against you for two reasons: their sugar content and their caffeine content. While we can all appreciate a little caffeine to keep us going every now and then, Harris-Pincus warns that highly caffeinated drinks “can cause gastritis, inflammation, increased intestinal motility, and diarrhea.”
However, it’s not just the physical effects of caffeine that can take a toll on your gut. It turns out that there is a strong connection between your nervous system and your digestive system. And as anyone who’s ever had too much caffeine can tell you, an excess of this stimulant can turn up the heat when it comes to anxiety and stress levels. Harris-Pincus notes that “it can cause jitters and increase anxiety, which can exacerbate symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).” Yikes!
Then there’s the problem of all that sugar, in addition to the caffeine. Refined sugar is an extremely inflammatory ingredient and can lead to a range of health problems, including intestinal dysbiosis. And unfortunately, your typical can of energy drink is really full of sweet stuff. For example, a can of Monster contains no less than 27 grams of sugar. Over time, drinking this regularly will feed the bad bacteria in your gut, disrupting the balance of your microbiome and potentially leading to digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea, gas and more — not to mention weight gain.
What to drink instead
So, what are options if you need a quick caffeine boost but don’t want to subject your body to the potential health effects of an energy drink? While it may not be great for your taste buds, you can always opt for a cup of black coffee instead — or even green tea, which is great for you thanks to the fact that it’s packed with antioxidants. Although it may seem difficult to kick your Red Bull addiction at first, believe us: it will be worth it in the long run, especially if you want to get your gut health in order.