Probiotic Coffee Is a New Drink Trend—But Is It Even a Good Idea?
Nutritionists weigh in on whether you should start drinking live bacteria lattes or save your stomach from another bad trend.
Do you wake up thinking, dreaming, and drooling for coffee? Same. That craving, however, doesn't apply to probiotic vitamins. But since collagen coffee, spiked cold brew coffee, glitter coffee, and mushroom coffee all exist, why not have probiotic coffee?
Well, it's officially here. A new, on-the-rise java trend combines the two. For example, juice brand Jus by Julie offers a cold brew coffee with probiotics. And VitaCup launched single-serve probiotic K-cup coffee pods with "1 billion CFU of heat-resistant bacillus coagulans and aloe vera ... the ultimate combination to help your digestive systems function," according to the website.
But is this one-and-done coffee probiotic beverage actually a good idea? Here, registered dietitians specializing in gut health comment on whether you should start drinking live bacteria lattes or save your stomach from the pain of another bad diet trend.
What do probiotics and prebiotics do to your gut?
"Probiotic foods and supplements have live bacteria, whereas prebiotic foods such as asparagus, artichokes, and legumes feed the live bacteria that's already in your gut," says Maria Bella, R.D., founder of Top Balance Nutrition in NYC.
Research shows probiotics and prebiotics support digestive health, especially if you have an infection, are on antibiotics, or have IBS, says Sherry Coleman Collins, R.D., president of Southern Fried Nutrition. "But there isn't much research on the use of pre- and probiotics in a healthy individual. We still have a lot to learn about what a 'healthy' microbiota looks like." (Here's more on the benefits of taking probiotics.)
What does coffee do to your gut?
Simply put, coffee makes you poop.
"Coffee is a stimulant and can stimulate the gastrointestinal tract," says Collins. "For some people, this can have a positive impact to aid in elimination; however, for others (particularly those with IBS or functional gut issues) it may exacerbate their issues." (This is especially important to know since so many women have GI and stomach problems.)
"Fat tends to slow digestion, so adding whole milk or cream will slow the rate of absorption of coffee in the gastrointestinal tract," says Collins, helping to prolong the release of caffeine and reduce coffee-induced GI troubles.
Bella agrees that coffee in its pure non-cappuccino form can be a bad idea for someone with digestive issues and even acid reflux. Plus, if you're adding sugar, "it may change the pH of your intestine, making it harder for the good bacteria to survive," she says.
So is probiotic coffee good or bad?
So far, it doesn't sound like a match made in Arabica heaven to combine probiotics with coffee.
"Coffee is relatively acidic, so there's potential that the environment could be better or worse for the probiotic microbes inoculated into the coffee," says Collins. "Beneficial microbes, probiotics, and their benefits are strain-specific and they also flourish or perish in varying conditions." VitaCup seems to have taken the precautions to make sure the environment (coffee) is suited to the strain of probiotics and prebiotics in their blend: "Our probiotic and prebiotic work together in perfect harmony to create an environment that will help the microbiome in your gut," reads the website.
Collins still suggests not rushing to include lots of probiotic products in your daily diet before consulting an expert. Her concern stems from the risk of overusing them-and we definitely overuse coffee on its own. Taking too many probiotics could result in bloating, diarrhea, and an imbalance in the microbiota.
"I'm pro-coffee," says Collins. "There are some benefits to drinking coffee (such as the polyphenols in coffee beans), but I think there are better ways to get your vitamins, minerals, and probiotics."
So, yes, probiotic coffee can be a legitimate way to deliver your body the probiotics it needs to function at its best, but this method of probiotic consumption may not be ideal if you have any recurring stomach issues or adverse reactions to coffee.
Bella says she doesn't see any harm in drinking probiotic coffee, "but I would not recommend this way of probiotic intake to my patients."
Instead of boosting your gut health via a peppermint mocha or iced coffee, Bella recommends eating real foods that already contain good-belly probiotics, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso soup, tempeh, and sourdough bread. (And, yes, she recommends whole foods over traditional probiotic supplements too.)
If you're still intrigued by probiotic coffee, talk it over with an expert (no, your barista doesn't count) like an general M.D. or a gastroenterologist.