Does coffee feed parasites?

Ever been on vacation to somewhere out of your comfort zone and developed a nasty gut infection? Ever consumed something dodgy and ended up spending the night hovering over the toilet bowl? I’m not talking about a nasty hangover here but rather, something a bit more microscopic than that: Parasites.

Statistics show that parasite infections are affecting millions of people worldwide. In fact, one of the most common parasites, the Trichomonas, affects 3.7 million people in the US alone. Additionally, around 300,000 Americans are infected with the parasite that causes Chagas, a disease that can be passed on to babies during birth.

These microscopic critters can live and survive in your gut for up to a staggering 30 years if left untreated, presenting a whole array of nasty illnesses like diarrhea, vomiting, gas and bloating, chills, sepsis, and even death.

However, it is also pretty normal for everyone to have a minute number of parasites living in our bodies from time to time. What can be quite disturbing though is that some sources say that those who drink coffee frequently are at risk of feeding parasites in their gut.

Does coffee really feed parasites?

Unhappy farmers have reported that some of their crops have become favorable targets for parasitic worms, ruining supplies of one of the most loved drinks in the world. That’s right, our beloved coffee could be a gourmet feast for parasites, but does the coffee we drink really feed these invisible creepy crawlies?

Parasites and Diet

Most of us who’ve been plagued by parasites in the past have probably done some form of research on what foods to eat that could naturally expel these nuisances. Many sources state that pumpkin seeds, papaya seeds, garlic, honey, and cloves are some common natural ways to purge parasites. However, many sources also mention that we should stay away from coffee when suffering from the wrath of these nematodes.

It is known that parasites thrive in a sugary environment, so eating foods high in sugar like candy, cakes, sodas, and cereals are a no-no for parasite sufferers. Sticking on the topic of sugar, many people throw spoonfuls of sugar, creamers, and sweetened milk into their cups of coffee daily, making coffee; in this case a sugary product. Put two and two together, and it is no wonder that some people say that drinking coffee could indeed prolong the lifespan of these parasites that prowl our bodies, and it's all thanks to the amount of sweeteners we put into them.

Although this sounds like great news for those who prefer their coffee black, this does not explain the reason why microscopic worms in the soil go after the roots of coffee plants. Surely, there is no abundance of sugar in these?

Coffee Plants Feed Parasites

coffee plant

In the plant world, it is evident that coffee plants are a favorite delicacy among parasitic worms that lurk in the soil. These nematodes damage coffee plant roots, inhibiting the growth of coffee beans. This can be a major problem for farmers as billions of people worldwide consume coffee on a daily basis. It is reported that these very parasites enjoy feasting on banana and black pepper crops.

Why Coffee?

There are many research papers published on the Coffee Root-Knot Nematode, a type of parasitic worm that attacks coffee plantations. It is evident in this case that coffee plant roots feed this particular type of worm that lives in the soil, however, these worms are rarely seen feeding on the coffee beans itself.

Additionally, no cases have been found that suggest the coffee we consume does indeed feed the parasites in our body. It is safe to say that although sugary foods like some coffees would in fact feed parasites, backing my previous point, coffee itself is not the real culprit here.

Caffeine Kills Parasites

man holding coffee with microscope in front

On the contrary, many research articles state that high doses of caffeine can kill small animals like worms. Although experimentally correct, it is impossible for a human to consume such high doses of caffeine without making themselves ill. In this sense, it is true that caffeine can kill parasites, but untrue that drinking a few cups of coffee would in fact do the trick.

This brings me to the recollection of a friend of mine talking about a coffee enema that helped purge her gut of parasites. What on Earth is a coffee enema you might ask (I know that is definitely what I asked!).

A coffee enema is a type of cleanse used in alternative medicine. Brewed caffeine, similar to coffee, is filled into a device that is inserted directly into the colon through the rectum.

This may sound disgusting, but this tactic is widely used to expel parasites from the gut. The catch here is that this type of alternative medicine is only effective on parasites that have already been weakened or killed off by oral medication like antibiotics or by a powerful immune system. Although there is no scientific evidence backing coffee enemas, there is also no evidence that contradicts the use of such alternative medicine.

In this prospect, many people feel that caffeine can be used to kill off unwanted parasites; provided that they are not well and thriving.

On the other hand, experiments have been done on the relationship between flatworm regeneration and caffeine. Non-toxic levels of caffeine, in other words, something similar to what we consume in coffee, was used to determine the effect it had on prolonging the life of a flatworm. After 1 day of treating the worms with 0.001M - 0.1M of caffeine, 90% of the flatworms had died.

I suppose, in this sense, that caffeine itself is disruptive towards parasites, but the effect of every day coffee on parasites still remains questionable. So go ahead and drink up your coffee, I’ll leave you to be the judge!