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Can Coffee Cause Intestinal Bleeding?

By Dana Severson

Coffee isn’t any more likely to cause intestinal bleeding than other beverages -- or foods, for that matter. In fact, diet isn’t often associated with bleeding in the lower digestive tract. Instead, a medical condition is typically the cause of the problem. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned with intestinal bleeding, especially if you notice signs and symptoms.


Symptoms of intestinal bleeding are almost always isolated to bowel movements. If your stool appears black or tarry, it’s a good indication of bleeding along the lower digestive tract. You may also notice dark to bright red blood mixed with your stool. The brighter the color, the lower the source of bleeding tends to be. Coughing or vomiting blood, however, is often a sign of bleeding in the upper digestive tract. Actually, some people will vomit something that looks like coffee grounds when dealing with gastrointestinal bleeding, so this may be where the misconception comes from.


A number of conditions are known to contribute to intestinal bleeding. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, some of the more common are colitis, polyps, fissures, diverticulitis and angiodysplasia. Colitis is basically inflammation of the colon, whereas diverticular disease is swelling of the diverticula -- pouches along the intestinal walls. Polyps are growths in the colon, and fissures are lesions that can develop in the anus. Angiodysplasia is a condition affecting the blood vessels of the intestine. Coffee is not among the list of causes. It is important to note, however, that people with diverticulitis shouldn't drink too much coffee, as it could make symptoms worse.


Treatment depends on the cause, but most medical professionals will tell you that a colonoscopy can be used to diagnose and stop the bleeding. During a colonoscopy, your doctor inserts an endoscope into the colon to cauterize or suture the site of bleeding or administer chemicals to the area. If a colonoscopy fails to improve the condition, another treatment option is necessary.


Although there’s no surefire way of preventing intestinal bleeding, you should contact a health care provider as soon as you notice symptoms. Most of the time, the source of bleeding can be managed or controlled, but proper diagnosis is key to long-term success. There’s no need to give up coffee, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

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