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Is It Bad to Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach?

For most people, coffee on an empty stomach is unlikely to cause harm to their digestive system. But those with stomach issues may need to take precautions.

The Washington Post

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The question:

Is it true that it’s bad to drink coffee on an empty stomach?

The science:

For most people, drinking a cup of coffee on an empty stomach is unlikely to create issues.

But a jolt of morning coffee on an empty stomach may exacerbate symptoms for people with sensitive stomachs, those who are predisposed to certain gastrointestinal conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux, or those who already have damage to their stomach lining, such as those with stomach erosion or ulcers, said Kim Barrett, a professor of physiology and membrane biology at the University of California at Davis’s School of Medicine, and a member of the governing board of the American Gastroenterological Association.

Also consider the caffeine.

Cortisol, the stress hormone that produces the fight-or-flight response, is usually highest in the morning and, for some people, that shot of caffeine may increase the effect.

Cortisol can also raise blood sugar levels, and coffee drinkers with diabetes may want to pair a protein with a carbohydrate in a morning meal to balance out blood sugar levels, said Courtney Delpra, a registered dietitian for the Cleveland Clinic.

Research shows that coffee can be acidic and stimulate the production of stomach acid, but that isn’t likely to be a problem for most people. A study of 8,000 healthy individuals found no significant link between coffee consumption and four major upper gastrointestinal disorders, including ulcers and reflux issues.

As for the stomach, it is “extremely well equipped to protect itself,” Barrett said.

Coffee “is not likely to damage the lining of the stomach unless there’s some underlying disease,” she said.

What else you should know:

Depending on how your coffee is brewed and served, you may be able to partially sidestep the acidity issue.

Experts suggest:

  • Trying a darker roast. They tend to stimulate less stomach acid secretion.
  • Drinking cold coffee. Cold brew has been found to have lower concentrations of acidic compounds than hot brew.
  • Adding milk or cream to your coffee. The dairy may help buffer the acid in your stomach.

The bottom line:

For most people, drinking a cup of coffee on an empty stomach won’t cause any harm. Even those with sensitive stomachs may be able to reduce the risk of stomach upset by brewing a darker roast or preparing their coffee with a splash of milk.

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This post originally appeared on The Washington Post and was published January 26, 2024. This article is republished here with permission.

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