You wake up to the thought of brewing delicious, aromatic coffee. So you get your morning caffeine fix before you get on with your busy day. But then it doesn’t take time for side effects like heartburn, nausea, gut irritability, etc. to ruin the rest of your morning and day. So why does coffee upset my stomach? That’s a common one to ask!
The reasons are not the same for everyone. Also, not every cause of a troubled tummy because of coffee has a remedy or solution. But the ones that do, which also happen to be the most common, are discussed in this article. So you can keep the strong bond between you and your precious coffee intact while also shooing away caffeine-induced side effects.
Coffee Intolerance – Most Common Signs
If you’re wondering if coffee intolerance is really a possibility, the answer, unfortunately, is YES. So what are the recurring red flags that keep coming up? These are all much too common…
- Feelings of anxiety, irritability, restlessness, etc.
- Upset stomach
- Increased blood pressure or heart rate
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- Uncontrollable muscle spasms
- Abdominal cramps
- Minor skin breakouts
Does anything from this list sound familiar? If yes, then it’s possible that your caffeine consumption is causing the problem. You know you can take a food intolerance test just to be sure.
When it comes to caffeine intolerance or sensitivity, you end up feeling the side effects of coffee more strongly in comparison to those who are “lucky” enough to not have to deal with the dark side of caffeine. So just a few sips can make you feel like you’ve downed several espresso shots.
But keep in mind that coffee sensitivity is different from coffee allergy. In the case of the latter, the symptoms include hives, itchy skin, swelling of the tongue or throat, or difficulty in breathing (the last implies that the allergy is a serious, potentially dangerous condition).
Potential Reasons Why Coffee May Upset Your Stomach
1. Drinking Coffee On An Empty Stomach
Consuming coffee on an empty tummy, more often than not this happens first thing in the morning, is one of the most common reasons for an upset tummy. Because, and this not many coffee drinkers know, caffeine increases your stomach’s acid levels. And that, in turn, leads to indigestion, heartburn, and harming the stomach lining in the long run.
When your tummy is empty, there’s no food in there for absorbing the coffee acids, right? And your stomach’s naturally acidic pH value (between 1.5 and 3.5 on the pH scale) doesn’t make things any easier. Stomach acid, after all, performs the function of breaking down food. But too much acid means indigestion.
What’s the Solution Then?
The first thing that comes to mind, and one that coffee lovers seem to latch on to, is drinking premium-grade decaf coffee, which tastes just as flavorful and delicious as its caffeinated counterpart. It’s also one of the most effective solutions to heartburn, indigestion, etc. often caused by caffeine.
Then another solution involves having oatmeal, banana, or any other such alkanine food before you consume coffee. Along with filling up the tummy so you don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach, alkaline foods also offer gut soothing properties. And the latter counterbalances the harshness and acidity of caffeine.
2. Caffeine Sensitivity
An upset stomach because of coffee means one of two things. Either you’re sensitive to coffee acids or caffeine.
Sensitivity to Coffee Acids
The digestive system of the human body requires stomach acid to break down food. It’s a necessary component. But then when the acid level goes above the normal rate (that is higher on the pH scale or above 200 ml), then symptoms like nausea, bloating, belching, tummy ache, and general pain and discomfort are inevitable.
And this is not just limited to coffee but also other acidic foods and drinks, such as fruits and alcohol.
Sensitivity to Caffeine
Then there’s coffee caffeine that promotes more acid production in the stomach. But then your coffee need not necessarily be very acidic to boost production above the normal range.
On top of that, caffeine tends to irritate the stomach due to its laxative properties. What it does is speed up the working of the digestive system. That’s the reason why coffee is often consumed as a remedy for constipation.
Along the way, dealing with discomfort or pain in the tummy due to the shifting of the bowels because your stomach wants to eliminate the caffeine from your system as soon as possible.
What’s the Solution Then?
- Buy low-acid coffee since it has been proven for keeping your stomach happy while also satisfying your cravings. Low-acid coffee simply means the coffee is grown at a low altitude.
- Choose darker roasts because even this type of coffee, in comparison to lighter roasts, has low acidity levels.
- Favour the cold brewing method above all else. The reason being the use of cold and not hot water. The former, no doubt, brings down the levels of acid by more than 50-percent. In that light, slow brewing works the best with the smoothest light roast coffee.
3. Acid Reflux
Caffeine, which is present in not just coffee but also tea and energy drinks, is one of the most common triggers for heartburn in those experiencing GERD or acid reflux symptoms.
What’s the Solution Then?
But then here’s some great news for coffee lovers, brought to you by none other than Dr. Rosser who made an appearance on the popular The Dr. Oz Show.
He says that there’s absolutely no need to completely eliminate caffeine since that may give rise to annoying migraines. Instead, minimize (by at least 50-percent) your daily coffee intake and soda/energy drink consumption. So what you’re doing is gradually reducing the amount of caffeine entering your system instead of just going cold turkey
In the meanwhile, incorporate healthy smoothies and shakes as coffee alternatives into your daily diet. Here’s an utterly delicious detox drink Dr. Rosser recommends for those dealing with acid reflux…
Acid Reflux Detox Smoothie (A Healthy Alternative to Coffee)
Bring together by blending a cup of almond milk, a tablespoon of almond butter, a shot of aloe vera juice, 2 bananas, and one date.
Have it twice a day for 2 whole weeks for drastically decreasing the symptoms associated with acid reflux flare-ups. And then, at the end of those 2 weeks, you can bring caffeine back into your life. But, at this point, always remember to consume an alkaline drink like coconut water or alkaline food like banana for neutralizing the acidity of coffee or soda.
Also, keep a check on your daily intake of caffeine, which in itself is a very effective remedy.
Drinking more than 3-4 cups of coffee a day is inevitably going to cause an upset stomach and even other more serious health issues in the long run. So keep your caffeine consumption below 400 milligrams per day. And maybe even not more than 100 grams of caffeine in the case of acid reflux or GERD.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do I Feel Sick After Drinking Coffee?
Coffee contains acids, which are responsible for the flavor and taste. But, at the same time, these acids, when consumed on an empty stomach, irritate the lining of the gut. Therefore, giving rise to feelings of nausea.
Also, the laxative effect of caffeine boosts the function of the digestive system. So it feels like your gastrointestinal tract, after the consumption of coffee of course, is working faster for eliminating caffeine as soon as possible.
Can Drinking Coffee Give You Diarrhea?
Any beverage or drink with caffeine in it has a laxative effect. Be it coffee, energy drinks, soda, etc. So if you drink more than 3-4 cups of coffee per day, the onset of diarrhea is only a natural, inevitable outcome.
Is Coffee Bad for Gut Health?
Caffeine, because of its natural laxative properties, improves bowel movement or mobility in your gastrointestinal tract. No wonder coffee is a highly recommended and effective home remedy for constipation.
But then excessive consumption (more than 3-4 cups daily) is bad for your gut health.
Time to Wrap It Up…
To be completely honest with you, there are all kinds of research studies that point in both directions – good and bad. But then the logic and truth remain the same.
Coffee acids responsible for the delicious flavor of your most favorite hot beverage can actually increase your stomach acid if not consumed the right way. And that is why your coffee is probably upsetting your tummy.