For many people, it is hard to imagine everyday life without hot coffee in the morning. But often unpleasant side effects come with the consumption of the popular brown drink: complaints such as heartburn, abdominal pain or flatulence are not uncommon. In a recent statement from the Cleveland Clinic, nutritionist Andrea Dunn explains how you still don’t have to go without the caffeine rush.
Heartburn and reflux
Coffee is one of the most popular luxury foods worldwide. Whether for breakfast or with colleagues in the afternoon, for many people the wake-up call is simply part of the process – every day. But not all of them tolerate the hot drink equally well, explains the American nutritionist Andrea Dunn: “The acid or fat content in coffee can cause gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn and flatulence.” The consumption of caffeinated coffee increases the amount of acid, which is already present in the stomach anyway. This leads to heartburn and acid reflux more quickly, explains the expert. “But there are many low-acid options you can try to manage your symptoms.”
Acid and caffeine are the main culprits
There are two components in the drink that are responsible for the problems that some people experience through coffee consumption: the caffeic acid and the caffeine. “Caffeine is a natural stimulant, but it also increases the contractions in the digestive tract and the production of stomach acid,” says expert Dunn. The caffeic acid speeds up digestion and makes you run to the toilet faster. However, not all types of coffee contain the same amount of acid: varieties made from Arabica beans or lightly roasted coffee, for example, have a particularly high acid content. Alternatives with less acid are for example:
- Dark roasts: They contain fewer compounds that lead to the formation of acid in the stomach.
- Espresso beans: The shorter brewing process means that less acid ends up in the cup.
- Cold Brew: With this type of preparation, which serves as the basis for iced coffee, ground coffee is left to steep in cold water for 12 to 24 hours. This long soaking process in combination with the low water temperatures leads to fewer bitter substances and therefore less acid.
- Mushroom or chicory coffee: The new trend in the coffee world is benefiting from the health benefits that mushrooms and chicory bring with them. Mushrooms, for example, have an anti-inflammatory and therefore calming effect on the stomach. Chicory has been made into a drink since the 19th century. Its roots are roasted, ground and brewed into a coffee-like drink.
Habits that are gentle on the stomach
In addition to changing the type of coffee, changes in drinking habits can also have a positive effect on the digestive tract. Here are a few tips for consuming coffee that is gentle on the gastrointestinal tract, but still does not deprive you of the health benefits of the drink:
- Don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach.
- Do not consume more than three to four cups a day.
- Use a paper filter instead of a metal filter – the paper will trap more acid that would otherwise flow into your drink.
- If you have cream in coffee, replace it with low-fat milk or low-sugar plant-based alternatives.
Another option could be to replace coffee with other beverages that contain caffeine. Matcha, green tea, black tea or kombucha also contain caffeine, but have different effects on the body. If heartburn, acid reflux, or gas persists, seek medical advice.