Is Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach Bad for You?

Is Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach Bad for You?
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Many people out there cannot imagine starting the day right without a cup of coffee, even before, or sometimes as a replacement for breakfast!

That being said, the idea that drinking coffee on an empty stomach can affect the gut or cause things like acne, hair loss, bloating, thyroid issues, anxiety or painful periods has been circulation on social media for a while. How true is it, however?

Well, scientists have been looking into the potential harm and benefits of drinking coffee for decades, starting with the 1970s.

Professor of physiology and membrane biology at University of California, Kim Barrett, now says that the stomach can fortunately withstand many different irritants, coffee being one of them so in reality, there is little reason for concern.

Dr. Barrett explains that “The stomach has so many ways to protect itself. For instance, it secretes a very thick mucus layer that creates a strong  shield between the stomach lining and what you ingest.”

One would have to ingest a really harsh substance “for the defenses of the stomach to be breached because it is constantly in a really adverse and damaging environment. That is just how the stomach does its job.”

Chief of internal medicine at Baylor University, Dr. Byron Cryer, says that different irritants such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and coffee can alter the stomach’s natural defense mechanisms and hurt its lining.

Cryer pointed out that “Coffee, even when in a concentrated form, isn’t likely to cause objective injury to the stomach. And much less with typical doses in usual beverages.”

At the same time, it’s important to note that coffee actually does have an effect on the gut, being able to speed up the colon and cause bowel movement, therefore promoting acid production inside the stomach.

But what about drinking coffee on an empty stomach? Could it be more harmful than not?

Dr. Barrett made it clear that it’s unlikely to cause damage to the gut.

However, she also stressed that, theoretically, it could cause heartburn.

It is a well known fact that coffee promotes acid production but you can neutralize it by simply having some food in your stomach or drinking your coffee with some creamer or milk in order to create a buffer.

Normally, more acid is not a huge danger for the lining of the stomach but it’s more so an issue for the esophagus, which is more vulnerable to acid.

All in all, Dr. Cryer notes something we should all keep in mind – “There’s far more evidence for coffee’s benefits than harms,” so if you really enjoy coffee in the morning, don’t let social media scare you into giving it up completely.

Just be mindful of your body and pay attention to any symptoms you may experience as a result of habitual coffee drinking and you should be fine.


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Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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