Why Does Coffee Upset My Stomach? (You Don’t Need to Eliminate Coffee!)

Mornings without coffee or even spending just one whole day without delicious coffee is like eating food without salt. This may be a bad example, but the point is that you get my point, right?

Staying away from coffee is much more difficult than we care to admit, and the reasons for this are justifiable indeed. After all, coffee is very, very enjoyable as a beverage!

But, unfortunately, you’re left asking the question why does coffee upset my stomach?

Coffee may be delicious and flavorful and heavenly when it comes to taste but that level of caffeine in your system is not very tummy-friendly. The bigger question then is why does caffeine hurt my stomach? What about caffeine bothers the stomach so much? And is there a way to prevent the tummy from getting upset without giving up coffee?

Time to understand the coffee conundrum!

Why Does Coffee Make My Stomach Hurt?

Why does coffee upset my stomach?
Why does coffee upset my stomach?

Most common reasons why your tummy just doesn’t seem to agree with coffee:

1. Your Stomach May NOT Be Coffee-Acid-Friendly

Coffee acidity is the one ruining your delicious, hot brew experience. It’s the pH level of coffee, which is around 5. That of water is 7 and lemon is somewhere near 2.5. Lower levels of pH mean more acidity.

Now the thing with coffee is that its pH value is based on many factors, the two most important ones are the roast type of those coffee beans and the brewing process. Both have an impact on the acid concentration of the coffee. Acids such as citric acid, quintic acid, and chlorogenic acid.

These coffee acids enter the stomach and increase the level of naturally present stomach acid. Thus, producing a greater amount of gastric acid, which gives rise to common tummy-related or digestion issues like acid reflux, indigestion, heartburn, or just plain upset stomach.

What coffee acidity also does is breaks down mucosal barrier protection of the digestive system. And this sounds anything but stomach-friendly. In fact, it can aggravate stomach ulcers and lead to other digestive tract problems.

But can coffee cause stomach ulcers? Nope, fortunately, coffee doesn’t directly develop any stomach ulcers. However, too much coffee can trigger symptoms associated with ulcers and also worsen stomach ache.

2. The Caffeine Content Might Be the Source of Trouble

Have you ever tried drinking decaffeinated coffee? The reason I’m asking this question is that if decaf coffee did not hurt the tummy, then it’s very likely that the caffeine content is what’s causing the stomach pain and discomfort.

Caffeine and the digestive tract, in general, are not besties! The former can cause the latter to get irritated, resulting in gastrointestinal distress. Caffeine also provokes movement in your digestive tract. So now you understand why caffeine has such a laxative influence on your lower digestive tract?

But the major effect that caffeine has on any part or system of the body is the nervous system. A lot of caffeine does make people feel jittery. Just one cup of coffee that you drink remains in your bloodstream for several hours. Even after 5-6 hours of consuming caffeine, only half of it leaves your system whereas the other half still stays in the bloodstream.

I’m telling you about the nervous system bit because many people associate that jittery and overstimulated feeling produced by excessive caffeine with an upset stomach. And this is most likely to aggravate the negative effects of caffeine in the digestive tract.

3. You’re Drinking Coffee On An Empty Stomach

Coffee is no healthy, highly nutritious smoothie that you’re drinking first thing in the morning. Coffee is coffee, meaning it’s acidic, it’s got tummy-upsetting caffeine, so discomfort and pain in the abdominal area are only inevitable if you already have a sensitive gut.

Think about it for a second here, coffee on an empty stomach means all the coffee acids entering your tummy without any food there to counterbalance the excessive acid production. No wonder the stomach lining as well as the intestinal tract feel irritated. Only makes sense, right?

Certain coffee compounds, on an empty stomach, directly affect your digestive system. And depending on the coffee, the concentration of these compounds may be even higher, thus exacerbating the discomfort and pain in your stomach caused by the irritants present in coffee.

So if you’re on an intermittent-fasting kind of diet and consume coffee first thing in the morning when the stomach is completely empty, you’re in for some tummy trouble.

When intermittent fasting, drinking just black coffee (due to the low calories) is understandable because it’s definitely not going to break your fast. However, it certainly is going to upset your stomach. And if the coffee is of poor quality, then expect the stomach ache to feel even worse at such times.

Also, if you already experience or have digestion-related problems, drinking coffee without feeding your stomach any food first makes such issues even more pronounced. It’s like adding fuel to the fire! And that should answer the question can coffee cause diarrhea on an empty stomach?

So now you have another reason not to skip breakfast! Coffee, in no way, is a subtle, mellow beverage. Instead, it contains acids, oils, caffeine, and aromas that are not easy for the tummy to handle and digest. Hence, over-production of acids takes place in the stomach if you put just coffee in there without any food first.

Lastly, this can happen even if your tummy is not the sensitive or troublesome kind. Coffee is plain bad news on an empty stomach. Period.

4. Bad Coffee Beans, Poor Quality Ingredients, and Other Additives

Coffee quality determines not only its taste and flavor but also how it reacts with your stomach. Cheap coffee, in that case, is no good because it may contain questionable substances and also fungi-like contaminants that are bound to cause tummy irritation. Please note that not all of the fungi toxins are eliminated during the process of roasting.

Then you have the coffee ground size which also plays a major role when it comes to the level of acidity. If the grounds are on the coarser side, there’s a less acidic profile in comparison to finer coffee grounds. Does this mean that if you grind the coffee beans too finely, you should be expecting the brew prepared by that to upset your stomach? Yes, most likely.

It also implies that you should stay away from inconsistently-sized ground coffee. Always get your ground coffee from a well-known brand since they prioritize factors such as grind size consistency to maximize the flavor and minimize the acidity.

Moving on to other ingredients/additives, which brings into discussion the topic of lactose intolerance. If you’ve been dealing with this particular health condition, then it’s only logical for the milk in your creamy, yummy latte to cause stomach pain or discomfort. Even a small amount at such times will get you bloated and your digestive tract irritated.

The solution here is to switch to non-dairy milk, so your options are soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk, etc. And unsweetened of course because even sugar and sweeteners can and do lead to an upset stomach. The list also includes creamer by the way, thus consider switching to a non-dairy creamer alternative too.

Coffee Upset Stomach Remedy – How to Stop Coffee From Upsetting Your Stomach

Too in love with coffee to give it up, even though it messes with your digestive functioning? That’s completely okay because you can try out the following solutions despite conditions like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). All you have to do is make some stomach-friendly choices and then even you can reap all the amazing and surprising health benefits of coffee!

#1 Ever Heard of Low Acid Coffee?

There are low acid coffee brands and also low acid coffee K-cups for a reason you know!

Certain coffee varieties contain a smaller amount of acids, thus better for the tummy i.e. easy on the digestive system. How coffee beans are grown (soil, environment, etc.) has an impact on acidity. For example, higher-altitude-grown coffee has fewer acids, and the same applies to when coffee is grown under shade.

Even roasting and brewing play a part in determining the acidity level of the coffee. For instance, dark roast is less acidic than light roast, and espresso is more acidic in comparison to standard coffee.

#2 Cold Brewing

beans for cold brew
Cold brew has lower acid content than hot coffee!

For the process of cold brewing, needless to say, hot water is NOT used. Instead, you brew with cold water, which extracts much less coffee compounds, chemicals, and acids. Hence, fewer stomach irritants extracted, right?

So why not switch to more flavorful, bolder tasting, low acidity cold brew coffee!

If you don’t believe me, here’s a study that proves cold-brewed coffee is less acidic than hot coffee. Call it the magic elixir that is not packed with too many acids or too much caffeine. On top of that, cold brew tastes sweeter and smoother, and it’s more aromatic as well.

And not many know this but you can easily dilute the coffee concentrate with hot water in case you don’t like an iced cold brew.

#3 Next On the List Is Decaf Coffee

If caffeine is the culprit, eliminate almost every bit of it simply by introducing your taste buds and coffee cravings to decaffeinated coffee. There are decaf K-cups too! So your stomach, which seems to be so caffeine-sensitive, will thank you in the long run.

The added bonus is the jittery feeling, also accompanied by caffeine, taking a hike.

However, if your tummy is still feeling vexed, then it’s not the caffeine content causing the problem. It could be the acidity of coffee, the use of dairy products in your coffee, or any other additives (sugar, sweetener, etc.).

That’s About It!

If coffee is doing more harm than good, why not first figure out what’s causing the problem. Because if it’s the caffeine content, switch to decaf! If it’s the coffee acids, then go for dark roasts instead of light. And if you’re lactose intolerant, there are plenty of non-dairy milk alternatives. The point is to not have to give up delicious coffee!

As for how to recover from coffee stomach aches, try drinking some herbal tea or aloe vera juice (both reduce inflammation), or plain water. You can also have a healthy snack to counterbalance the effects of excessive acid production in your tummy.