Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Joe and John: Coffee and celiac disease

Contrary to appearances, my coffee doesn't love me anymore.
I have a confession: My morning joe sends me straight to the john. I love my morning coffee, so I have been in denial for a long, long time about this issue. But what I don’t know is if this problem is a gluten issue or something else. Does celiac disease cause my problems with coffee? If it has nothing to do with celiac disease, is it harmful for me to continue to drink it, even though it sends me on a sprint for the loo?

Apparently, many people with celiac disease are also in a state of confusion (or panic) about coffee and celiac disease. When I googled “coffee and celiac disease,” the search results were prolific and wide-ranging.

The first article on the list was simply an information sheet titled “Coeliac Disease Diet Sheet” from the medical website www.patient.co.uk. On that sheet coffee is listed with many other beverages as “Allowed.” (Coeliac, by the way, is the British spelling for celiac. Try googling it with that spelling, if you want to find more answers to your celiac questions.)

The next article, “8 Gluten Free and Celiac Myths Debunked,” was from a blog called prettylittleceliac.com. The author, who had attended International Celiac Disease Symposium 2013 (ICDS 2013), wrote that medical experts at the symposium said, “Yes! You can enjoy your coffee.” She also points out, “in fact, the coffee flowed everywhere during this conference. Could you have another, separate problem with coffee or caffeine? Yes! But, it is not linked with gluten or celiac as a cross reactive food.”

Then came an article by Lauren Lindsey from Celiac.com called “Cautions for Coffee and Caffeine Drinkers.” In this article, Lindsey doesn’t say that coffee is definitely off limits for celiacs, but she does write, “it’s commonly understood that coffee is a trigger for IBS.  Even in modest amounts, coffee produces a laxative effect within minutes after drinking.”

So I'm learning to love another beverage ...
Erica Dermer, another attendee of ICDS 2013, blogged vehemently about the coffee issue on her website called celiacandthebeast.com: “Can you drink coffee with a gluten-free diet?  But what about all the cross-reactivity with gluten I’ve been reading about on the interwebs? Luckily, 86% of the conference said no, because the answer is no. IT IS A MYTH. STOP SPREADING THIS CRAP!!!! Drink your coffee, again, (sic) there is no scientifically validated research on cross-reactivity. However, coffee is a bowel irritant to EVERYONE. My mom. Your mom. The baristas at Starbucks. If coffee gives you the runs, congratulations – you’re like everyone else. Also, stop drinking coffee if you do. It’s that simple.”

Few credible sources claim that coffee cross-reacts with gluten (although there is some question about instant coffee), but I’ve given up my morning joe, anyway—and I haven’t dashed to the john ever since. Dermer is right, I guess. It was pretty simple. I’ve replaced the coffee with tea, which I’m learning to appreciate to some extent. Under certain circumstances, however—like when my hands are trembling and my eyelids are heavy (and there’s a toilet nearby)—I’m still going to partake of that most wonderful of all beverages.