Most of us coffee lovers find getting that first cup in an absolute necessity in the morning. But is it safe and healthy to drink coffee on an empty stomach? There’s a lot of information out there so we decided to sift through it and find the answers you need.
First things first, drinking coffee has a huge number of health benefits so drinking it isn’t something you should worry about. There’s nothing wrong with making a coffee habit part of your lifestyle.
Coffee can reduce your chance of getting dementia, assist with anxiety for some who suffer from it, and even drop your chances of getting melanoma cancer. It’s also been proven to improve energy levels, increase physical performance, and make it less likely you get type 2 diabetes.
However, drinking it on an empty stomach may be a different situation. We’ll take a look at what the truth is, so you can make an informed decision that is right for you, personally.
The Risks of Drinking Coffee Without Food
The reality is that when you take in caffeine before you sit down to a real breakfast, it can cause some issues with your digestive system. Drinking coffee will increase the rate that your stomach produces acid, which can lead to damage to your stomach lining, heartburn, and indigestion.
You might be wondering if this applies to decaffeinated coffee and the answer is a resounding yes. All coffee is acidic and can lead to gastrointestinal issues when it’s consumed on an empty stomach. That means gas, bloating, acid reflux, and more.
One expert, Nitin Makadia, notes that, “Coffee, even decaffeinated coffee, has been shown to stimulate production of acid which, in the absence of food, can be damaging to the lining of the stomach with repeated exposure.”
That’s definitely not something you want to hear if you often drink coffee first thing in the morning. But don’t worry! You can drop the risk of these things by simply having something to eat with your morning cup of coffee.
However, the risk doesn’t end there. According to Dr. Adam Simon, drinking coffee with nothing else in your stomach can “give you jitters, shakes, and other withdrawal effects, including mood changes.” It’s also known to ramp up your heart beat, cause trouble focusing, and amplify symptoms of anxiety.
Digging Deeper on Gastrointestinal Issues
We mentioned you may experience stomach issues when drinking coffee with nothing else in your stomach. But we should also delve into exactly what issues you might expect in terms of your digestive system.
If you often drink coffee on its own, it can lead to slowing your digestion. When this happens, certain bacteria start to grow who enjoy feeding on undigested matter in the stomach. Many of these bacteria lead to flatulence and it can be the super smelly sort.
But that isn’t all. With the increase of stomach acid, you can also experience indigestion, heartburn, and irritation to your intestine. If you continue to go on in this fashion, those problems can exacerbate and turn into ulcers, acid reflux, and even irritable bowel syndrome.
And like we mentioned earlier, this isn’t just the work of caffeine. All coffee can cause it and, in some cases, decaf causes more significant problems than traditional coffee. So be careful no matter what sort of java you drink every morning.
Nutritional Problems when Drinking Java on an Empty Stomach
In one study done in Japan by the Yokohama City University School of Medicine, it was found that coffee leads to a phenomenon known as gastric emptying. That essentially means your stomach allows food out quicker than normal. This also means food isn’t left in your intestines as long, so you may not absorb the minerals and vitamins that your body badly needs.
While the gastric emptying is common with any coffee, there is another problem that caffeine is related to. Caffeine is known to speed up the rate at which liquids leave the body through the kidneys. That means you may spend more time running to the bathroom if you drink caffeinated coffee.
Because of that, the kidneys don’t get the chance to absorb the zinc, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. The largest problem is magnesium because it is believed nearly 25% of Americans don’t get enough of it to begin with.
Those who don’t get enough of the mineral have been shown to have higher rates of depression, heart disease, chronic fatigue, migraines, tooth decay, and other health problems. It’s a serious issue and one that shouldn’t be discounted.
While the latter isn’t only associated with coffee while fasting, it’s something that should be considered when you love coffee as much as most people do!
Looking at Coffee and Effects on Mental Health
The first thing to know about drinking coffee on an empty stomach as it relates to your mental health is that it can mess with your internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. When this happens, it can cause disruptions in the release of cortisol. This is a hormone that is released when you are stressed out, but it can also have a serious affect on your level of energy.
In most cases, your cortisol is at its higher in the morning to help you wake up in a natural way. It might seem like coffee would be the perfect complement to this, but studies show something a bit different. Taking in caffeine can cause a decrease in the cortisol in your body and even subdue the alertness it provides.
Based on that, it’s best to drink your coffee a bit later and get some food in your stomach when you first wake up, instead. When you do, you’ll get more of a jolt from the caffeine and your cortisol will have already started to go down on its own.
Many experts agree that the best time to grab a cup of coffee is around 10 am. Of course, that may not work for everyone but it gives you a guideline of what works for many people to avoid problems with cortisol and feeling refreshed and awake in the morning.
For those who have trouble with anxiety, coffee without food can also cause problems. Coffee consumption can increase anxiety symptoms and make it harder to focus on what you are doing. Eating with the coffee will drop down that symptom, so it’s best to grab breakfast with your favorite brew.
Of course, you don’t have to cook a three-course meal with your coffee first thing in the morning. Even eating a snack like a banana or a muffin or energy bar is enough to offset the issues that coffee on its own may cause.
Remember to Consider Your Own Body
There’s evidence out there that coffee being the first thing in your stomach every morning may not be the best option, but the reality is that everyone is different. Some people will experience all sorts of issues when they go for it, but others may not have any problem whatsoever.
And if you now realize that coffee before grub may be causing problems, you can always adapt your habits accordingly. Grab a donut to have with your coffee or fry up an egg and have it with your morning beverage. It might take a bit of getting used to but it will become a new habit in only a few weeks.
The good news is that making this change can even go beyond stopping pesky physical and mental issues. You may even find that the effect of the coffee will be more pronounced when you eat at the same time.