Does Coffee Cause Heartburn?

An undeniable ritual in most of our mornings is the drinking of a hot mug of coffee. Few beverages hold such an immovable and cherished place in our routines and lives. Most of us can hardly function without that familiar stimulus that is a jolt of caffeine that invigorates our brains, rousing us from the fog of sleep and kick-starting our day.

Yes, coffee can cause heartburn. Studies show that when coffee enters the body, it relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which increases the risk of acid reflux as well as heartburn.

However, you may still want to know several things about this subject. Let’s start …

What is Heartburn?

The term heartburn is misleading. Though the discomfort may feel that way, your heart is not combusting. More accurately, the burning sensation occurs in your esophagus. When ingested food goes down the esophagus, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens to allow the food through and closes to keep the contents in the stomach.

Should the LES fail to close completely, stomach acid will leek back up into the esophagus – acid reflux- causing that uncomfortable burn that you experience in your chest as heartburn.

For most people, heartburn is only sporadic and occurs upon eating specific foods but in cases where the occurrence is more frequent, a diagnosis of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder) is a strong possibility.

Acid reflux can be controlled successfully by making adjustments to your diet. GERD, which is more severe and sometimes causes further health problems, can also be treated once the cause is established.

With GERD, other factors such as age, anatomy, and genes could be possible culprits although diet still plays the most significant role in causing or escalating GERD and acid reflux or heartburn.

Acidic foods are the most likely culprits for heartburn and though there is insufficient evidence determining that coffee causes acid reflux, coffee is acidic which means at the very least it is a likely causative agent for heartburn.

If you have experienced heartburn, the following are some acidic foods you should avoid:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • Citrus fruits
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Garlic

So, Does Coffee Cause Heartburn?

Coffee is acidic and acidic foods are most likely to induce heartburn. However, while acidity levels are a key factor for the occurrence of acid reflux it is an oversimplification to deduce summarily that coffee causes heartburn.

Other factors must be taken into consideration such as the quality of the coffee you are taking, the type of roast; light, medium, or dark, and the caffeine content in your cup. The caffeine in coffee triggers acid reflux by relaxing the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) preventing it from closing completely and securing stomach contents within the stomach.

If your coffee intake seems to result in heartburn, it may simply mean that you are taking too much coffee or highly caffeinated coffee.

How Do You Stop Coffee Heartburn?

You want to stop coffee heartburn, right? Here are a few ingenious things you need to do if all you want is to end heartburn that is associated with taking hot or cold coffee:

Monitor Your Brewing Method

Some coffee brewing methods actually increase acid levels in coffee. You will do good if you avoid brewing methods that do not use cellulose or paper filters such as French press or Espresso

Cellulose filters are good in catching oil droplets that are present in coffee, which contains stomach irritants.

Consume ‘Stomach-friendly’ Coffee

Stomach-friendly coffee is that coffee, which has undergone serious steam treatment before roasting. When this is done, the steam removes wax that is found on the outer part of the coffee bean.

#PS1. Wax on the outer part of the coffee bean is responsible for many stomach irritants. In fact, wax harbors all the irritants that cause heartburn.

#PS2. Steam treatments affect coffee flavor and quality.

Ration Your Caffeine To Reduce Coffee Heartburn

If coffee keeps causing you heartburn, it will only get worse and may escalate into a more serious gastrointestinal (GI) problem. While you may be unwilling to give up the incredible rush that caffeine gives you, you may have no choice.

This is likely to be even more difficult given the dependency caffeine may have created in you. An effective way to reduce your caffeine is to cut down your daily dose by half. Of the six cups of coffee, you take daily, try having only three.

Within days, you should be able to cut down that intake even further to maybe one cup. Slowly. cutting down your intake will keep you from experiencing the awful withdrawal migraines that will plague you should you attempt going off caffeine cold turkey.

Severe withdrawal migraines are also likely to result in failure and relapse.

Switch to Shade – Grown Beans

Demand for coffee has exploded globally making the production of coffee a highly commercialized affair. Most of the available coffee is grown in the sun for maximum yield, which robs coffee of certain nutrients and results in highly acidic beans.

The most optimal conditions for coffee bean development are in the shade under cooler temperatures which produces a better quality bean and a smoother brew.

Arabica Over Robusta

All coffee can be grouped into two major varieties; Arabica or Robusta, each with distinct properties. Robusta is the more resilient species and costs less to grow even under tough conditions.

Though it has a harsher flavor, it produces a better yield and a greater caffeine output than Arabica.

Arabica beans have a smoother flavor, less acid, and significantly lower caffeine content. Switching to Arabica may resolve your acid reflux altogether.

Coconut Water To Counter Coffee Heartburn

Coconut water is alkaline so if acid is the issue, then drinking coconut water after coffee could neutralize the acidity. Milk and milk substitutes have been used to neutralize strong black coffee.

With a pH of 6.8, milk easily counteracts the acidic content in coffee. However, the process of digesting milk demands the production of even more acid to break it down making its use as a neutralizing agent a zero-sum game.

Milk is also one of the most common allergens in the human diet and if over consumed leads to other health issues such as weight gain.

Final Thoughts

Consider significantly reducing your caffeine intake, switching to shade-grown beans, drinking only 100% Arabica blends, and taking your coffee with coconut water.

Coffee may be a dominant component of your day. Besides, it might not be among the main drinks in your budget. Other items in your diet that may induce heartburn include alcohol, chocolate, and spicy foods. You can try to eliminate them to allow your favorite beverage on the menu.

So, does coffee cause heartburn? The truth is it may. If coffee is causing your acid reflux, implementing the above changes when consuming it may solve the problem. Taming the urge for that jolt of energy is difficult but it may be necessary in order to control and eradicate that annoying unnecessary pain in your chest.