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An Expert Explains How Energy Drinks Can Damage Your Gut Health

By Faith Geiger,


Many Americans rely on caffeine to get through the day. In fact, three in four caffeine consumers report to drinking it every single day. And while there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to an afternoon pick-me-up every now and then, it’s important to be aware of the health effects of the beverages you’re putting into your body. As it turns out, there’s one popular option that could be putting your gut health at risk due to its extremely high sugar content , along with the caffeine: energy drinks.

To understand how energy drinks may be taking a toll on your digestive system, we spoke to Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN . She gave us a rundown on how caffeine can affect your gut. Read on to learn more about this, as well as the role sugar plays in digestion.


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Energy drinks

Sometimes you just need a bit of caffeine–unfortunately, though, many of the options for caffeinated beverages can be extremely harmful to your overall health, especially when it comes to your digestive system. One of the worst culprits is sugary energy drinks.

If you struggle with your gut health, energy drinks like Monster and Red Bull are working against you for two reasons: their sugar content and their caffeine content. Although we can all appreciate a bit of caffeine to keep us going every now and then, Harris-Pincus warns that heavily caffeinated beverages “can cause gastritis, inflammation, increased gut motility, and diarrhea.”

It isn’t just the physical effects of caffeine that can take a toll on your gut, though. As it turns out, there’s a strong connection between your nervous system and your digestive system. And as anyone who’s ever had too much caffeine can tell you, an excess of this stimulant can add fire to flame when it comes to anxiety and stress levels. Harris-Pincus notes that “it can cause jitters and increase anxiety which can exacerbate symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)." Yikes!

Then there’s the issue of all that sugar, in addition to the caffeine. Refined sugar is an extremely inflammatory ingredient and it can lead to a range of health issues, including gut dysbiosis. And unfortunately, your typical can of energy drink really packs in the sweet stuff. A can of Monster, for example, contains a whopping 27g of sugar. Over time, drinking this on a regular basis will feed the bad bacteria in your gut, disrupting the balance of your microbiome and possibly leading to digestive issues such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, and more–not to mention weight gain.

What to drink instead

So, what are options when you need a quick caffeine boost but you don’t want to subject your body to the possible health effects of an energy drink? Although it may not be as pleasing to your taste buds, you can always go with a cup of black coffee instead–or even a green tea, which is great for you thanks to the fact that it’s packed with antioxidants. While kicking your Red Bull habit may seem difficult in the beginning, trust us: it will be well worth it in the long-run, especially if you want to get your gut health in order.

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