Why Does Coffee Make my Stomach Hurt?
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Coffee is, unsurprisingly, one of the world’s most popular hot drinks. Approximately 30-40% of the world’s entire population consume coffee on a daily basis. The affordable, easily accessible nature of the drink, plus caffeine’s ability to give us a good kick in the morning to get us going, no doubt contributes to it’s popularity.
Of course, like anything, some of us may experience negative side effects. For the majority of us that daily cup of happiness is harmless but for others it can cause an upset stomach, pain and perhaps an urgent trip to the restroom. So, why does coffee make my stomach hurt?
Why does our favorite drink, a drink that is consumed 2.25 BILLION times per day worldwide, cause stomach issues in some and not others? And wouldn’t it be great if we found a way of still having our cup of coffee but without these troublesome issues? Well, you’re in the right place!
There are a few reasons why coffee can cause discomfort but, thanks to modern-day research, more is being learned about how we can address these issues and enjoy our cup of joe relatively problem-free.
We all have different types of digestive systems. Some weaker than others due to issues such as genetics, allergies etc. These factors make us more susceptible to stomach discomfort when ingesting not only coffee but a range of other food and drinks. So if you already have a sensitive stomach, coffee can in fact make it worse.
In order to manage the negative effects of coffee better, it is important to understand what happens to your stomach when you drink it. So let’s take a look at why coffee might be causing you pain and what you can try to help alleviate some of the symptoms.
Possible reasons coffee makes your stomach hurt
The first three reasons revolve around the topic of stomach acid. However by going through reason, try the each solution one by one and note any changes, if any. If the first one doesn’t work after a few days then move onto the next.
Hopefully with a little tweaking, you’ll find the right coffee or make an adjustment that your body can work with.
1. Inability for the body to handle increased stomach acid
Coffee, or rather the caffeine in coffee, stimulates the release of gastric acid, or stomach acid as it’s more commonly known, which contains HCl (hydrochloric acid). It is the abundance of this gastric acid that can not only relax the lower oesophageal sphincter, triggering acid reflux and heartburn but also cause bloating and stomach pain.
If you are experiencing pain, bloating or gassiness after drinking coffee, it could be that your stomach acid is raised. Those with pre-existing abdominal conditions* such as gastritis and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) are already at risk of inflammation and uncomfort due to their conditions so even small amounts of coffee could aggravating symptoms.
*It should also be stressed that regular caffeinated coffee should not be consumed by those with gastroesophageal reflux or peptic-ulcer disease.
1. Dark roast coffee:
Darker roasts tend to be less acidic because the roasting process breaks down some of those tough acids that are present in coffee. The darker the roast, the less acidic the batch will be.
Therefore these darker blends are likely to be a better choice for you if you are struggling with stomach irritation after drinking coffee. Click here for a list of our favourite dark roast coffees.
2. Type of coffee:
You could also try low acidic coffee that is gentle on the stomach. In fact, Dr. Aaron Oxenrider, a Board Certified Chiropractic Physician and Regenerative Medicine Expert recommends Lifeboost Coffee because it’s easy on the stomach.
3. Decaf coffee:
Decaf coffee can be especially helpful for those suffering from heartburn due to the removal of caffeine.
4. Drink water:
Water dilutes the coffee in your stomach and as it is processed quickly, it can take some of the caffeine with it as it passes through the digestive system.
2. Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach
A lot of people struggle to eat first thing in the morning. It just feels way too early. However, as coffee can keep you topped up for a while, many of us turn to this drink as the first source of energy to get our day started.
But drinking coffee on an empty stomach may not be the best choice. Why? It directly links in with the point above regarding acidity. Caffeine, like certain medications, is recommended to be taken with food if you suffer from a sensitive stomach. Painkillers, vitamins, medications and drugs can all affect the acidity of the stomach due to the fact that they increase stomach acid.
All this excess stomach acid can cause or worsen abdominal issues such as Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), diarrhoea, and even gastritis, which is caused by irritation to the stomach’s lining. When taken with food, acidity of the medication is reduced as food dilutes the acid concentration.
1. Eating food with your coffee:
And we don’t mean a good fry-up as this will only make things worse! Something as simple as eating a banana before your cup of coffee can help dilute stomach acid. In addition, bananas are alkaline so can balance out a highly acid stomach.
2. Coffee alternatives:
There are plenty of other hot drinks to consider if you really need something first thing. Try herbal teas, hot lemon water or turmeric lattes – which have some pretty amazing reviews on Amazon. Turmeric is well known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties so it’s definitely worth trying.
3. Drinking hot brew coffee
Not all coffee has the same affect and varies from person to person. This could be due to any one, or combination, of the following:
- Type of coffee bean
- Length of roasting
- Brewing/Extraction time
There are of course other reasons coffee can retain it’s acidity. This includes grind size and coffee/water ratio however even water temperature can make a huge difference.
Interestingly, studies have found that this brewing process actually removes around 70% of the acidity, which means it doesn’t inflame the gut lining in the same way as hot-brewed coffee. The brewing process also mutes a lot of the bitter notes, which means your coffee is less likely to have a run-in with your taste type 2 bitter receptors!
1. Cold brew coffee:
Cold brew coffee is made by soaking ground coffee in room-temperature water for approximately 12-18 hours, before straining out the grounds and chilling it.
Given the length of the soaking time, the flavour of cold brew can often be a lot deeper and sweeter. This is due to the fact that the various acids, oils and other molecules within coffee are more easily extracted when at around 195 – 205 degrees.
Simply switching to cold-brewed coffee may well be the ideal solution to ease your stomach pains when drinking coffee and it also includes health benefits such as a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Cold brew coffee can be made using cold drip, French press or immersion coffee makers.
2. Swap to paper filters:
If you are using a metal filter, it’s good to know that paper filters absorb more of the coffee acids than metal filters. More of the acids in coffee will therefore not filter into your drink.
4. Additional Ingredients
It is worth considering that it might not actually be the coffee itself that is causing you discomfort. What else do you normally add to your cup of coffee: milk, cream, sweeteners? It could just be that your body is having issues with these additives, and NOT with the coffee itself.
According to author Norman Kretchmer, around 70% of the world’s population suffers with lactose intolerance in some capacity. This percentage changes based on your ethnicity and genetics, with northern Europeans less susceptible than those of Asian and/or African American ethnicity. In America alone, this percentage is around 38%. Surprisingly many of us may not know that we’re intolerant.
Symptoms of an intolerance to lactose are also symptoms of so many other common issues; a bloated stomach, stomach cramps and pains, diarrhoea, nausea etc. A quick google search will, on many medical issues, mention abdominal pain or stomach uncomfort as one of the main symptoms. So, you can see how a lactose intolerance might be hard to identify.
Another common addition to coffee is sweeteners. Non-caloric artificial sweeteners in particular have been shown in studies to cause quite a bit of havoc on our gastrointestinal microbiome, leading to an imbalance of bacteria in our guts according.
1. Milk alternatives:
We are lucky in modern times that we have so many options for alternatives. For a dairy alternative, try oat milk or almond milk. Both are great pairings with coffee with the nuttiness of each milk complimenting coffee very well.
Soya milk is also a good alternative however soya can also be an irritant for those who are sensitive to foods so I would recommend trying either oat or almond milk first, unless you are allergic to either.
It may take a few tries to find something you enjoy with your coffee but if it improves your gut health then it’s more than worth it.
‘This is the only sweetener I found – at least, that I liked the taste of – that DIDN’T upset my stomach or GI tract!’
‘3. Decaffeinated coffee:
Caffeine irritation is the most common culprit of stomach pain when drinking coffee. Switching to decaf entirely eliminates the possibility of the caffeine affecting you. The brand we thoroughly recommend is Lifeboost Coffee. Their speciality beans are non GMO, mycotoxin free and chemical free and it shows in the taste. They’re also low in acidity which is better for both stomach and teeth.
So there you have it!
Why does coffee make my stomach hurt? We hope for not much longer! We’ve given you plenty alternatives to try to so you can keep getting your coffee fix, albeit in a slightly different way.
As usual, if you are concerned about your stomach pain, always speak to a healthcare professional.