The Link Between Coffee and Your Gallbladder
More than 600 billion cups of coffee are consumed by the world’s population yearly. That demand makes it the second most sought-after commodity in the world after crude oil. The coffee industry also serves as a livelihood for more than 25 million people. Based on global market trends, it is still expected to increase in the next few decades as the millennial population fuels its industry growth by promoting the “café culture.” From being a medicinal herb to becoming a breakfast beverage of choice, coffee has now evolved to be a status symbol.
Is coffee good or bad?
Despite the overwhelming numbers and worldwide patronage of coffee, one question remains unanswered – is coffee good or bad? Unfortunately, there is no definitive response to that. In our Gallbladder Food list, we have categorized coffee under the “do not consume” list for a number of reasons, all of which will be discussed in this blog. It is very important for patients suffering from gallbladder attacks to avoid coffee. On the other hand, science proves that coffee may also support the liver and the bile. So is coffee your gallbladder’s friend or foe? That all depends.
For sure, coffee has its merits. Historically, it has been used as an herbal medicine due to the therapeutic effects of its components. So although we can’t say yet that we recommend coffee drinking, coffee drinkers may be happy to know that they have good reason to do so. We’ll present you with the facts and let you be the judge. But before we enumerate the good and bad news, let’s acquaint ourselves with some basic things we need to know about coffee:
Quick Coffee Facts
The term “coffee” originated from the word qahiya which means “to lack hunger”, referring to coffee’s effects on appetite. Throughout the Arabic-speaking world, coffee was called qahwa which was previously a term that referred to wine, and thus it became known among the Europeans as the “wine of Islam.” The earliest documented evidence of coffee was also found in Arabia, dating back to the 13th -15th centuries. As early as that time, coffee was said to be prepared in a manner similar to what we do today – roasted and brewed. Legends however claim that coffee has been consumed way before that time. It is said that 1000 years ago, coffee wasn’t enjoyed in its liquid form. Instead, Ethiopian people used to eat the beans together with some animal fat to boost their energy. Chinese medicine practitioners have also used coffee for therapeutic purposes. It is said to regulate and sink the Qi, open orifices, move bowels, and help with respiratory conditions as a bronchodilator.
The Obvious Effects on Sleep
As people from centuries ago already know, coffee obviously impacts sleep and rest. As we have mentioned in our previous post, the availability and intake of caffeine-rich beverages such as coffee, tea, and power drinks contribute to disrupting the circadian rhythm. Lack of sleep results in poor digestion and compromised gut health, thus affecting the gallbladder.
Studies in humans have shown that caffeine increases cortisol and epinephrine at rest and that cortisol levels after caffeine consumption are similar to those experienced during acute stress. Coffee activates our fight-or-flight response as it triggers the adrenal glands. It may be good if you’re trying to keep awake. However, it will take its toll on you in the long run. Drinking coffee, in other words, re-creates stress conditions for the body.
Nutrition Facts for Coffee
The nutritional profile of coffee is difficult to qualify and quantify because of all the variables. Also, the preparation and flavor, which may entail the addition of milk, cream, or other sweeteners, definitely affects the type and amount of nutrients found in each cup (not to mention digestion). But if we are to break down 1 cup (8 fl oz) of black, medium strength, caffeinated coffee, it is approximately made up of 41% carbs, 17% fats, and 42% protein.
5 Important Links between Coffee and the Gallbladder
1. Coffee induces gallbladder contraction
This must be the most significant among all the links between coffee and the biliary system. Whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, coffee ingestion increases cholecystokinin release and gallbladder contractions. Cholecystokinin is a gastrointestinal hormone produced in the duodenum of the small intestine in response to food intake. It is responsible for stimulating the release of bile from the gallbladder and digestive enzymes from the pancreas, facilitating the digestive process. It also relaxes the sphincter of Oddi at the end of the bile duct, allowing for the flow of bile and pancreatic enzymes into the small intestine.
Gallbladder contraction is a good thing – usually. It needs to contract to eject the bile. But if the gallbladder is inflamed, contraction can hurt. And if it’s full of stones, those stones can be pushed out and get stuck in the bile ducts, causing a gallbladder attack or more pain.
Contraction can be helpful in the prevention of gallstones as it keeps the bile moving and biliary sludge from forming, and studies back that up.
2. Coffee supports digestion
Coffee induces a series of digestive effects, including gastrin release, increased gastric acid secretion, prolonged relaxation of the stomach, and increased rectum and colonic activity (thus helping to keep the bowel moving). Because of these physiological changes, coffee is often blamed for gastrointestinal discomforts such as dyspepsia, diarrhea, and GERD. Some people feel that it helps ease constipation, cramps, and gas. Among these claims, the only scientific proof is the prevalence of acid reflux and heartburn among excessive coffee drinkers. It’s definitely on the DO NOT DRINK list for acidic conditions. However, many find that switching to cold brew coffee which is 75% lower in acid, makes a big difference. But honestly, if it wrecks your stomach, better to leave it alone. Use something like Adaptogen for a boost in the morning.
Coffee and metabolism
Aside from digestion, coffee also influences metabolism. Metabolism is a series of chemical processes that change food into energy and go beyond that to break down old cells and build new ones, and basically keep everything working. According to various studies, coffee consumption impacts fasting glucose metabolism, calcium absorption, lipolysis, and energy release.
Although the exact impacts of coffee on insulin resistance or diabetes are not yet defined, few studies show a relationship between the two. At this point, it’s difficult to conclude that it’s a good thing since pieces of evidence from studies are very different and sometimes even contradicting. Caffeine in coffee is also said to increase the presence of calcium in the urine and feces, which may deteriorate calcium balance, as illustrated in some animal studies. As for its effect on lipolysis, coffee improves the breakdown of fats. As a lipolytic agent, caffeine in coffee helps spare the utilization of stored glycogen during moderate exercise, thus increasing endurance. Caffeine is also said to burn hepatic fat. Lastly, coffee’s impact on energy release may help boost physical and cognitive performance.
3. Coffee may help support the liver
Coffee and all its components help the liver in so many ways. First, coffee contains chlorogenic, ferulic, caffeic, and n-coumaric acids and melanoidins (the brown polymers formed during coffee roasting). All these components have strong antioxidant and antiradical abilities. As the body’s biggest built-in detoxifier, the liver needs all the help it can to get rid of free radicals and oxidative stress. Detoxifying the liver helps it perform its functions better.
Bile flow is also positively influenced by the intake of coffee. In a study on the effects of coffee on duodenal transport and bile excretion in rats, they found out that regular coffee intake may increase the bile flow rate by as much as 45%. This helps prevent biliary sludge, which is commonly how several gallbladder diseases start. Some studies also prove the association of coffee consumption to lower risk in various liver diseases like liver cancer, cirrhosis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
4. Coffee is linked to increased cholesterol levels
There are number of documented researches which state that the diterpenes cafestol and kahweol found in boiled coffee can raise total cholesterol and LDL (the bad cholesterol) in humans. However, it seems that this only happens with the consumption of unfiltered coffee. Paper filter traps most of coffee oil and diterpenes. Other filtering methods like the sock method using cotton nylon cloth and metal mesh filtration are also effective.
High cholesterol levels may cause a lot of diseases within the biliary system like fatty liver disease, gallstones, bile sludge, and many more. Fortunately, it looks like this fact of coffee can be easily solved.
5. Coffee is associated with weight loss
Achieving and maintaining normal body weight is important for everyone, especially those suffering from gallbladder disease. Obesity is also a risk factor for gallstone development. And if you’re one of the many people looking at coffee to solve this dilemma, you need to read on.
As mentioned earlier, coffee may affect physical performance. Therefore, coffee consumption may increase energy expenditure, fat oxidation, and thermogenesis. It means that after coffee ingestion, the body can burn more fat, which is true for both obese and normal weight test subjects. Peptide YY (PYY), the endogenous peptide associated with satiety and decreased hunger, also increases after coffee intake, supporting the common claim that coffee can lower hunger levels and suppress appetite.
On the other hand, some research studies claim otherwise. Based on other experiments, excessive caffeine intake may lower leptin levels in the body. This is the “feel full” hormone that tells our brains when to stop eating. So the jury is still out on this one.
Other Uses of Coffee
Aside from being consumed as a beverage, coffee can be used in many other different ways:
- Coffee Enema
- Garden Compost and Fertilizer
- Insect Repellent
- Coffee Scrub
- Coffee Oil
We have a separate webpage on the benefits and step-by-step instructions for a coffee enema. Coffee enema is a detox practice discovered by German scientists in the 1920s that can support the opening of bile ducts and stimulation of bile production. Check this page if you want to know more about it.
Giving up coffee is a seemingly impossible task for many but a necessary sacrifice for those with gallbladder pain. However, if you are just looking for healthier alternatives to sweet and fatty frappuccinos and lattes, here are some options you may want to consider.
1. Bulletproof Coffee
Bulletproof coffee is one of the latest healthy food trends. It’s strongly advocated by keto diet practitioners who follow a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. There is still very limited scientific evidence to support the benefits of Bulletproof coffee, but it is said to be anti-inflammatory, appetite suppressing, metabolism-boosting, and energy enhancing. Trending is the addition of medium-chain triglycerides, Bulletproof XCT oil or Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil, which surprisingly gives the impression of cream where there is none. These oils are also good fat for your biliary system as they bypass the liver.
2. Green Coffee
Green coffee (also known as raw coffee) is the rising star in the coffee world. In recent years, research studies about its benefits started to increase. Chlorogenic acids found in green coffee are more bioavailable than those from traditionally roasted coffee beans. Aside from that, green coffee is said to have an antihypertensive effect, inhibitory effect on fat accumulation, and modulatory effect on glucose metabolism. This can be found in supplement form here.
3. Leptin Green Coffee
They say it’s green coffee but better. Leptin green coffee is green coffee infused with leptin. As discussed earlier, leptin is a peptide that helps curb appetite and supports the body’s fat-burning process. This product is mainly aimed at individuals who want to enjoy their cup of coffee and not worry about leptin resistance and weight gain. There are also available supplement versions of the green coffee infused with chlorogenic acid in every pill just like the 100% Pure Green Coffee Bean Extract w/ 50% Chlorogenic Acid.
(Note: All coffee products mentioned are available on Amazon.)