Coffee is a wonderful way to start the day… for most of us. But if you have a sensitive stomach, GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), or another similar condition, you might be worried that that first cup of coffee will also start your day off with heartburn.
Many people with sensitive stomachs experience acid reflux after drinking coffee. But does coffee cause heartburn, and if so, why? Isn’t there some way to avoid heartburn without cutting out your favorite brew?
Great question. In this article, we dive into what heartburn is and why coffee can sometimes cause it, as well as 6 concrete ways you can avoid getting heartburn without giving up your daily java. (And yes… if you’re impatient, you can skip ahead. We won’t tell).
What Is Heartburn?
Firstly, a quick note on today’s villain. Heartburn is when stomach acids, which are supposed to stay in your stomach, travel up toward your throat. This can cause an uncomfortable, burning feeling in your chest.
Everyone gets heartburn occasionally, but some people are more prone to experience it on the regular. If you have a sensitive stomach or a condition such as GERD or IBS, you’re probably well familiar with acid reflux, and looking for ways to ease the symptoms.
Can Acids in Coffee Cause Heartburn?
Coffee is a naturally acidic drink, with a pH value generally ranging between 4.85 and 5.13. But while the acidity in coffee could be a contributing factor to heartburn, the main culprit is actually the acids produced in your stomach.
A study from 2016 found that coffee can increase the acids in your stomach. But that same study found that while the stomach acid increased, it still didn’t lead to indigestion for the people in the study. This suggests that the acidity in coffee doesn’t always cause heartburn.
And yet, low-acid coffee has helped to relieve symptoms for a lot of people with sensitive stomachs and heartburn. This underlines an important point – what triggers discomfort differs drastically from person to person.
For some, the acids in coffee could be a contributing factor to heartburn. For others, however, the acidity in coffee has no real impact on whether or not they experience acid reflux, and other foods, beverages, and habits may actually be what’s causing it.
Does Caffeine Trigger Heartburn?
Caffeine is another known cause of heartburn, and as we all know, most coffee is rich in this energy booster. Caffeine can also increase the amount of acid in your stomach, but the main issue is that caffeine relaxes the muscle between your esophagus and stomach – and for some, that makes acid reflux more likely.
However, this research review shows that for many people, caffeine doesn’t trigger heartburn, because their symptoms were not affected by whether or not the coffee contained caffeine.
In other words, caffeine is a potential trigger for heartburn, but it isn’t the cause for everyone. It really is about figuring out what your own body reacts to, until you find the true causes for you.
6 Ways to Avoid Heartburn From Coffee
Now, if you do experience heartburn from coffee, don’t fret. There are many things you can try to ease your symptoms, so you don’t necessarily have to give it up. Here are 6 ways to avoid heartburn from coffee:
1. Try Low-Acid Coffee
Since acidity is a potential trigger for heartburn, switching to coffee that is naturally less acidic is a great place to start. The acidity in the beans is affected by a variety of things, such as growing conditions – shade-grown coffee, for example, is generally less acidic – and type of bean. Look for coffee that is marked as low-acid or made for sensitive stomachs.
Besides the natural acidity of the bean, roasting time also affects how acidic the actual brew becomes. The longer coffee beans roast, the less acid remains, so dark roasts are a great alternative for you if you experience heartburn or have a sensitive stomach.
Even better, one study has found dark roasts to contain less CGA (chlorogenic acids) and more NMP, and this particular combo makes your stomach produce less acid, which makes heartburn less likely. Finally, switching to cold brew coffee may help, since this brewing method has been shown to make coffee about 70% less acidic!
2. Lower Your Caffeine Intake
If caffeine is a heartburn trigger for you, then lowering your daily caffeine intake could make a huge difference. Decaf is an obvious and effective option, but if you’re not big on decaf, don’t worry – you may not have to cut out caffeine completely. For instance, switching to arabica beans could help ease your symptoms, since arabica beans contain about half the caffeine that robusta beans do.
Another thing to try is switching up your brewing method. Cold brew, for example, contains less caffeine than hot-brewed coffee does, and you don’t have to wait for summer to get it – you can easily make cold brew coffee at home any time of the year.
If you’re curious about which coffee contains the most caffeine, check out this breakdown for an easy guide.
3. Mushroom Coffee Could Ease Symptoms
With their powerful antioxidants, functional mushrooms have a range of health benefits – one of the main ones being reduced inflammation. Turkey Tail, for example, contains a prebiotic polysaccharide that has been shown to aid the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut that may ease symptoms of IBS.
If you experience heartburn after drinking coffee, switching to coffee infused with functional mushrooms could be a great way to alleviate symptoms. Even better, functional mushrooms naturally balance out the acidity in coffee, which makes it ideal for anyone with a sensitive stomach.
Since functional mushrooms also have a drip effect on caffeine, they make the energy kick from your brew more even and last longer. This is great for anyone with sensitivity to caffeine – it could even help you cut back on the amount of coffee you need in a day, which could help ease heartburn symptoms.
New to mushroom coffee? Don’t worry, it tastes just as delicious as the coffee you’re used to, with the added benefit of making you feel even better. Learn all about the power of mushroom coffee here.
4. Add a Splash of Milk
Here at Peak State, we love our coffee without additives, for many a reason – but if you’re struggling with heartburn or GERD, adding a splash of milk to your brew might be worth a try.
Not only does milk contain calcium, which helps to neutralize acidity. But apart from coffee’s natural acidity, some proteins in milk, such as casein, can bind to the CGAs in coffee and make it less likely to increase your stomach acid. Which, in turn, can help with acid reflux.
But milk and cream aren’t great options for everyone, so go with your gut on this one – literally.
5. Tweak Your Bean Routine
We’re all about working smarter, not harder. And giving up coffee? Well, that’s hard. Especially when a few smart tweaks to when and how you consume coffee could be enough to help manage your symptoms.
Drinking coffee on an empty stomach, for example, is generally a no-go if you’re prone to heartburn, since it increases the chances of acid reflux. Make sure to eat something, too. And believe it or not, avoiding naps and lying down for a few hours after your latest refill could help, too, since being horizontal makes coffee more likely to seep into your esophagus.
In other words, learn what can trigger heartburn aside from what you consume, and work with your own body and limits.
6. Identify Other Triggers
Finally, as we’ve shown in this article, what triggers heartburn is highly individual – what makes someone else’s condition worse may not bother you at all. And there are a lot of things aside from coffee that could trigger discomfort, including:
- Spicy food
- Citrus fruits/juices
- Fatty foods
- Carbonate beverages
- Fried foods
- Processed snacks
- Prescription medicines
Learning what causes heartburn for you aside from coffee could help you tweak your routine so you don’t have to give up coffee entirely. Perhaps cutting a few other things out can make your symptoms manageable, and, who knows? You might even find that coffee was never the biggest culprit for you.
Low-Acid Coffee for Sensitive Stomachs
If you’re looking for low-acid coffee that is kind to sensitive stomachs, look no further than Peak State’s coffee.
All of our blends are made from naturally low-acid, organic, and Fair Trade-certified beans that have been shade-grown on women-owned farms, using only sustainable practices and high-quality arabica beans. Infused with various functional mushrooms, they are rich in antioxidants that support your immune system and overall health.
If you have a sensitive stomach or are prone to acid reflux and heartburn, we recommend trying Stress Less, our dark roast infused with anti-inflammatory functional mushrooms, or Calm Descent, our delicious decaf blend with notes of dark chocolate and sweet caramel. Get your free sample delivered to your front door today!
Bottomline: Does Coffee Cause Heartburn?
What triggers acid reflux, GERD and similar conditions differs from person to person, and there are many foods, beverages, and behaviors that could be behind the discomfort. So, does coffee cause heartburn? Not for everyone, but for some people, it might.
If coffee is causing you heartburn, choosing low-acid coffee, a dark roast, or coffee with less caffeine might help ease your symptoms so you don’t have to give it up entirely.
Some functional mushrooms have also been found to ease acid reflux, balance out acidity and lessen the side effects of caffeine. So, if you’re prone to heartburn, mushroom coffee could be a great option for you.
Psst… In a learning mood? Click here to learn how to avoid coffee headaches!