Does coffee cause upset stomach?

by Tina Sendin October 12, 2018

Does coffee cause upset stomach?

Caffeine is known to bring a great deal of health benefits day in and day out. From helping you get clear, misty-looking skin, carry a sprightly vibe throughout the day, or win the gold in your favorite sport, caffeine just keeps winning the java-lover in you over.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes, having one too many cups of joe leads to unwanted side effects, turning a regular caffeine hit into a love-hate relationship.

Upset tummy is perhaps one of the *supposedly* negative effects of being too caffeine-happy. Hear a growling tummy or feel a nagging pain in the stomach? Must be your fourth cup of coffee, right?

But is caffeine really to blame?

 

Why your stomach hurts after drinking coffee

According to Livestrong, caffeine shouldn’t cause you tummy agony. [1] If you observe getting one right after consuming your favourite caffeine (read: coffee, tea, chocolate, and yes - even frozen yogurt), there may be an underlying medical condition going on here, such as a “serious digestive condition.”

 

Ulcers

Caffeine worsens things for people suffering from ulcers. Imagine a sore opening in the lining of the digestive system, then caffeine - which could be highly acidic - passing through it. Ouch!

According to Livestrong, “an ulcer is the result of an infection in your digestive system.” [2] Acidic fluids and foods can irritate the lining and cause so much pain for the person with ulcer. [3]

 

 

Allergic Reaction

If you feel an upset tummy after your caffeine fix, chances are you have an allergic reaction to it. According to Livestrong:

“During an allergic reaction, chemicals are released that can cause inflammation to develop in your digestive system, leading to stomach pain, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and bloating. Most allergic reactions cause varied symptoms throughout the body, not just in the gastrointestinal system.”

 
 
 

Acidity

When we said coffee could be highly acidic, that’s because it contains a significant amount of chlorogenic acid. [4] According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, chlorogenic acid can lead to gastritis, which causes stomach and abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea and vomiting. Aside from this, caffeine as a stimulant fires up the central nervous system that prompts the stomach to produce more acid than usual. The side effects of having excess stomach acid manifest in feeling bloated, burping and sheer discomfort.

 
 

 

Empty stomach 

Caffeine contains extra acids and molecules that trigger "gastrin release and gastric acid secretion." [5] Imagine that happening without any lining in the stomach!

To enjoy your first morning cup in full steam, try having some breakky with it.

 
 

 

Other considerations

It’s also possible that you get stomach pains post-caffeine because of the following:

  • Lactose intolerance (watch out for that cappuccino/caffe latte!) [6]
  • Crohn’s disease or “a chronic relapsing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)” [7]
  • Irritable bowel syndrome [8(While coffee and tea may help you go to the bathroom, it can also jumpstart one too many trips to the loo.)
 

 

 

How to make your stomach stop hurting

If you're already suffering from an upset tummy, fret not. There are a few natural remedies you can do to ease the pain. 

Steer clear (for now)

You may want to stay away from anything that will worsen your stomach upset. If you keep getting tummy aches post-caffeine, try to gradually lessen your caffeine intake and keep to an acceptable amount. (Here's how much caffeine you should have in a day.) Or better yet, drop caffeine altogether until you think you can ease into it again. 

Hydrate 

If you can't really get rid of your favorite cup of joe, then help your case by drinking lots of water! Caffeine may lead to dehydration, which in turn aggravates stomach aches. So keep refilling your water bottle; you'll find the pain goners in no time.

Go herbal

You can substitute your usual caffeine fix with something natural, like herbal tea. Brew some ginger tea, which has long been proven to be an effective remedy for stomach ache. If the flavor is too strong for you, go for mint-flavored ones, i.e. peppermint or spearmint. Not only are they commonly used to clear a clogged nose, they're also effective for indigestion. 

Medicate

If all else fails, take that much-needed painkiller. Keep in mind though - caffeine tends to interact with some forms of medicine and may amplify their effects (and side effects). 

 

 

 

Tina Sendin
Tina Sendin


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