If you’ve ever experienced sudden nausea in the morning, you’ll know the human body struggles with early starts sometimes too.
It’s a perfectly normal phenomenon that can be attributed to a variety of factors.
For example, you might be surprised to know the most common cause is caffeine consumption.
Caffeine can indeed be a lifeline for early starters. Many of us find it difficult to engage our brains and prepare for work without a cup of joe.
There are some unexpected health benefits too such as accelerated fat burning, improved liver functions and even protection against certain cancers.
So, why does caffeine sometimes cause us to feel nauseous? Is an upset stomach after drinking coffee anything to worry about?
This article explains why it happens, what it means and what you can do about it.
Why Does Drinking Coffee Give Me An Upset Stomach?
There could be several explanations.
It really depends on your body, your body’s unique sensitivities and your daily routines. Most of the causes can be eliminated or prevented in some way, so let’s dive deeper.
Coffee On An Empty Stomach
For most people, this is the simple explanation for what we’ll call ‘coffee stomach.’ Let’s not forget, coffee is a strong stimulant.
It is caffeine rich of course, but it also has unctuous, indulgent flavors. We’re so used to drinking coffee in the morning to wake us up that we forget this is a very heady combination.
If it’s the first thing (food or drink) to hit your stomach, there’s every chance your digestive system is going to balk a little. It’s a lot of strong chemicals and flavors to wake all these organs up. A little nausea after drinking coffee on an empty stomach is perfectly normal albeit rather unpleasant.
How To Fix It
- Look for a lower acid coffee product
- Save your coffee until breakfast time (or drink with a banana)
Coffee Causing Acid Reflux
Acidic substances tend to be viewed negatively.
Yet, there are lots of different acids in operation within our digestive system. They’re very important and our bodies can’t function without them. The problem is these acids are sensitive to change and can easily become imbalanced as we fill our stomachs with food.
In some people, coffee causes an increase in gastric acid which leads to acid reflux. Involuntary spasms send gastric acid up into an overly relaxed esophagus where it causes burning sensations. Again, this is not a serious health problem on its own. It’s a fairly minor issue, but it can feel very unpleasant.
Some people are more sensitive to acid reflux than others.
If you have a delicate digestive system, you might experience this same problem after drinking acidic beverages such as alcohol or fruit juice.
How To Fix It
- Cut out coffee and other acidic drinks (at different times) to pinpoint the sensitivity
- Look for a lower acid coffee product (try beans grown at low altitudes)
- Try cold brewing (it reduces acidity by 60%)
It might be that the acidic components in your cup of coffee are causing stomach upsets.
However, the truth is coffee isn’t as acidic as you may think. Yes, it can trigger nausea and cramps in some very sensitive people. It’s quite close in volume to a carrot though. So, over-sensitivity to acids is possible but less likely than caffeine intolerance.
Caffeine, though we love it for all the ways it can engage our bodies, is a rich, heavy and extremely stimulating substance. If anything, it makes more sense that our stomachs reject it than not.
Drinking a cup of coffee increases acid production, accelerates digestion (which explains why coffee is used for enemas) and worsens existing issues with acid reflux and heartburn.
It’s not the news coffee lovers want to hear but some people just have less tolerance for caffeine and its stimulating effects.
How To Fix It
- Consider switching to decaffeinated coffee
- Reduce your daily coffee intake
- Have your coffee with a banana (they’re great at neutralizing acids)
The Final Word On Coffee and Stomach Upsets
Assuming you don’t have underlying health problems, none of these issues will cause you serious harm.
They’re mild annoyances, frustrating (painful in some cases) but unlikely to result in permanent damage of any kind. Conditions like acid reflux are very unpleasant though, so it makes sense to avoid them.
Everybody is different. To find out what’s causing your stomach upsets, carry out some practical tests. Cut out coffee and acidic drinks (preferably, at different times) to see if symptoms cease.
Always try to eat something before or alongside your first cup of coffee of the day. This preps the stomach for activity and can make a big difference in the way your body receives caffeine early in the morning.
Lastly, don’t despair. If you love the taste of coffee but have a low tolerance for caffeine, experiment with decaf varieties.
If you primarily drink coffee for its stimulating effects, switch to green teas, kombucha or apple cider vinegar for a different type of kick.