I have a friend who’s really into one of those well-known nutrition shake supplement systems. While we were having coffee a few days ago, she mentioned that she wasn’t particularly seeing great results from using the product. When she talked to her rep about it, she suggested that it was because of my friends love of coffee. The rep claimed that all of the heat and acid in the coffee was interfering with the “probiotics” in the shake system. Now, my friend is in terrific physical shape and exercises daily, so I’m thinking maybe that was why she wasn’t seeing any additional benefit, but the discussion got me thinking… With Americans spending $40 billion a year on coffee and drink an average of 3.1 cups per day according to the National Coffee Association, why don’t a see a lot of probiotic coffee and could my coffee drinking harming my probiotics?
Based on everything I’ve already read and studied about gut flora and probiotics, it seems like maybe there was something to the shake rep’s argument. For example, many probiotics don’t thrive at room temperature and should ideally be warehoused, shipped and stored at home in a refrigerated environment; none of which this shake product required or even offered. Now technically the shake company didn’t say whether or not the probiotics they included had been freeze-dried or not, but maybe that is what they are doing. They also don’t say whether or not their tablets are enteric coated or not. Enteric coatings protect probiotics from the harsh gastric acids in the stomach, so if the acids in coffee are killing off the bacteria, then they were probably dying off in the stomach anyway. Finally, no where on the product does it talk about the number of active strains or how large the probiotic colonies are. Together, all of this threw up some red flags about their shake system.
SEE ALSO: Six Health Benefits of Probiotics
Now I do get why companies like this exist and make big money. Two out of every three women (and 3 of every 4 men) are overweight in the US according to Cynthia Ogden, Ph.D., M.R.P of the CDC. And who knows how many more have chronic gut issues, energy lags, or poor dietary health and are are looking for the magic pill that fixes everything. Unfortunately, these pills often require blind trust in their ability to work. This is not something I’m best known for. I’ve always found it important to do the research and come up with my own conclusions whenever possible.
So what about this probiotic coffee issue?
It turns out that there’s no evidence I could find that coffee specifically kills the probiotics in your system. In fact, in some cases, coffee has been shown to increase the levels of good bacteria (Bifidobacterium) in the gut. According to research reported in the International Journal of Food Microbiology “consuming three cups of instant coffee a day for three weeks resulted in increased populations of Bifidobacterium spp.”
As far as acids in the coffee harming probiotics, this is true of the acids in your stomach as well. When choosing a supplement, make sure that it includes an enteric coating or other mechanism to allow it to pass into your gut successfully. Many probiotic supplements available today have this ability.
The other issue we need to consider is that heat does in fact kill many types of probiotics. This may be why we don’t see too many probiotic coffee options. Even so, there are probiotics that can be sucessfully beat the heat test and be incorporated into coffee. Ganeden Biotech recently introduced a new probiotic known as Ganaden BC30. This probiotic is unique in that each cell is a hardened structure similar to a seed. This structure serves as a natural protective shield against heat, pressure and the strong acids in your stomach. This allows the probiotic to arrive alive and thrive in your intestines – where it belongs. VitaCup is one such probiotic coffee brand, but there are others as well.
I found VitaCup’s medium-dark roast Immunity Coffee (amazon link) was smooth and well-balanced with a hint of vanilla. According to the manufacturer, it comes from 100% Arabica coffee beans and is infused with probiotics and prebiotics to promote good bacteria growth and healthy digestion. It also contains echinacea for immune-support and a blend of C, D, and B6 vitamins to help deal with daily stressors and infections.
The bottom line
Here are the two simple rules If you’re taking probiotics and don’t plan to give up coffee any time soon:
- Consume your probiotics with nothing hot to eat or drink for at least 20 or 30 minutes before and after
- If you do want to mix your coffee and probiotics, look for probiotics with high heat tolerance (like Ganeden BC30)
If you follow these two simple rules, you’ll be just fine.