Crohn's and Caffeine

Health Writer

Caffeine has helped many of us stay up late to study or get ready for work early in the morning. In fact, upwards of about 90 percent of adults in North America consume some form of caffeine daily. But what if you have Crohn's Disease? Is it safe for you to include caffeine in your daily routine?

In the research community, the jury is still out when it comes to the topic of Crohn's Disease and caffeine. In other words, there is not yet a substantial body of research available specifically demonstrating the impact caffeine may have on individuals with Crohn's Disease.

However, there is a boat-load of common knowledge that may be convincing enough for some to avoid caffeine if they are living with Crohn's Disease. For example, it is a well known fact that caffeine produces a laxative effect, so if diarrhea is already a problem, this could worsen existing symptoms. Caffeine also elevates stress hormones and causes blood to be diverted from the stomach, which can worsen digestion. Caffeine is also highly acidic, and as a result, it may create stomach upset. And finally, caffeine acts as a diuretic which can lead to dehydration. Staying hydrated can be particularly important if you are living with Crohn's Disease.

If you are a "bottom-line only" person, I think at least two things have to be considered when it comes to making a decision about whether or not you should kick the caffeine habit if you have Crohn's Disease. The first consideration is the potential withdrawal symptoms associated with decreasing caffeine intake. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can involve painful headaches, nausea, vomiting, and digestive changes. Deciding that you would be better off without caffeine in your diet, may involve gradually decreasing your caffeine intake, versus eliminating caffeine suddenly. This approach may reduce some of the withdrawal symptoms.

The other thing to consider related to caffeine and Crohn's Disease is the individualized nature of digestive disease. When I was researching the effects of caffeine on individuals with Crohn's Disease, I came across a great article about the relationship between IBD and food and beverage avoidance. In their abstract the researchers wrote, "The adverse effects of many foods and beverages are amount dependent and can be delayed, additive, and cumulative." I think this statement said it all - how much, when, and how often something is consumed can really make a difference if you are living with Crohn's Disease.