Is drinking coffee on an empty stomach bad for you?

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Among coffee lovers and addicts there is a big debate: can coffee be taken on an empty stomach as soon as one wakes up or should one eat something first? The answer depends on the person’s body, according to experts. For those suffering from reflux, the recommendation is never to drink on an empty stomach.

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Here, it is also necessary to highlight that, if coffee poses any risk to the human body, this is not associated with the stomach, but, in fact, it can cause problems in the esophagus of people with greater sensitivity. Of course, this considering rates of “normal” coffee consumption, limited to a few cups a day.

Coffee will hardly harm the stomach

“Coffee, even in concentrated form, probably does not cause damage to the stomach,” says Byron Cryer, a physician at Baylor University Medical Center, in the United States, for The New York Times. “And much less in the typical and usual doses of the drink”, adds the specialist.

This is because the stomach walls are protected by a thick layer of mucus, which acts as a shield. This barrier even manages to protect the organ from its own acidic environment — pH less than 7 —, cultivated and maintained to break down digested food. Only a few foods manage to break through this defense, and this is not the case with coffee.

To understand the effects of coffee, Japanese scientists investigated the consumption habits and health of approximately 8,000 people. Published in the scientific journal PLoS One, the study did not find a direct association between coffee consumption and the formation of ulcers in the stomach or intestine, even in those who consumed more than three cups of the drink a day.

Coffee, esophagus and reflux

If coffee doesn’t seem to cause damage to the stomach, the story can change when looking at the esophagus and people who naturally suffer from gastroesophageal reflux. Including, an American study, carried out with 48 thousand volunteers, confirmed that those who drink coffee may have more heartburn and more episodes of reflux – involuntary return of what was in the stomach to the esophagus. The research was published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

It is worth explaining that the esophagus is much more susceptible to the complications of a more acidic pH than the stomach. In parallel, it is known that the drink can cause relaxation of the esophageal sphincter, facilitating the entry of stomach acid. In this way, people report more cases of heartburn and reflux when they drink pure coffee, without any type of complement, such as a piece of bread or mixed with milk. Food forms a “buffer” that neutralizes the effects of acid.

After all, can you drink coffee on an empty stomach?

“As a practical gastroenterologist, I often tell my patients to watch their symptoms,” says Trisha Pasricha, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. For example, those who usually experience heartburn should, yes, give preference to drinking coffee accompanied by another food or milk.

Now, “if you don’t notice any symptoms, you’re probably someone who doesn’t suffer significant reflux after consumption [de café] and you can continue taking [sozinho]without worries”, concludes doctor Pasricha.

Source: NYT, PLoS One and Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology