5 Reasons Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach is Harmful

Is drinking coffee on an empty stomach healthy? That is a question many of us would like to be answered. Our day starts and usually ends with this magical brew for most of us.

Many people start their morning ritual with a nice cup of coffee but in all fairness, who would not enjoy a hot cuppa in the morning?

Morning coffee just hits differently. The smell of freshly roasted beans (or instant coffee) infused with hot water or hot milk is enough to fuel anyone’s batteries, and there is no other way some would like to kick start their morning.

A study reveals that many rely heavily on a cup of coffee in the morning to get their day started, especially on an empty stomach. We know of many people who start their day with a cup of coffee, most of whom are fitness enthusiasts.

This article touches upon whether drinking coffee on an empty stomach is really good for you.

5 Reasons Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach is Harmful

drinking coffee on an empty stomach
Image by Craig Melville from Pixabay Copyright 2016

Many researchers and consumers have raised the question of whether drinking coffee on an empty stomach is healthy. Truth be told, there is no scientific study or evidence that suggests that drinking coffee is unhealthy but drinking your morning brew1 on an empty stomach may not be the best decision.

All things in limitation are good for you; that is the mantra we have all been exposed to since childhood. However, fueling up on caffeine early in the morning before eating or hydrating yourself does have its drawbacks.

Let us take a look at some of the reasons why drinking coffee on an empty stomach may unfavourably affect you;

1. Lead to Dehydration

Glass of Water
Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay Copyright 2018

As much as we love our caffeinated beverages, it is important to note that consuming coffee with high caffeine content leads to dehydration, especially on an empty stomach. It is therefore advised by experts to drink at least a glass of water in the morning followed by a bowl of cereal, fruits, or toast before dosing up on caffeine.

Even as you drink coffee throughout the day, try to hydrate yourself before and after having your coffee.

What most people do to avoid dehydration2 is to drink two glasses of water for every cup of coffee they have. You can also install an app to remind you to hydrate every hour. Trust us, it will do you wonders!

2. Lead to High Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay Copyright 2015

Since coffee contains caffeine, it may lead to a short spike in your blood pressure. Several case studies suggest that the effect of caffeine on blood pressure differs from person to person.

When a person intakes caffeine, the arteries widen, and the adrenal glands tend to release adrenaline in larger amounts than normal, which causes high blood pressure.

It is important to note that the consumption amount also plays a role in dictating the consumer’s blood pressure. Those who consume coffee regularly or at relevant intervals have a different effect than those who only consume a limited amount.

3. Acid Reflux or Heartburn

Acid Reflux
Image by Darko Djurin from Pixabay Copyright 2017

We have all been victims of acid reflux at least once from having coffee. It is quite common for someone to experience acid reflux or heartburn from consuming coffee3, especially if the caffeine content is pretty high.

This happens because the caffeine in your coffee causes the muscles in your stomach lining to open up, which causes the acid in your stomach to reach your esophagus.

The secret to avoiding acid reflux is switching to a coffee that is low in caffeine or reducing your caffeine intake. There are several decaf options available that you might want to try out.

4. Lead to Headaches and Migraines

Woman with Migraine
Image by Mahbub Hasan from Pixabay Copyright 2022

It is no secret that coffee is loaded with caffeine, and caffeine is known to act as a trigger for headaches and migraines. In some cases, the caffeine present in coffee can lead to mild headaches, usually due to dehydration, and in serious cases, it can lead to migraines.

Your coffee may not be that bad for you, as studies by Harvard also suggest that a lack of caffeine in regular coffee drinkers can lead to a headache. This is a symptom caused due to caffeine withdrawal.

Regular drinkers are encouraged to consume a little caffeine to help them get through the day. Many medications meant to treat headaches do contain caffeine, so maybe it isn’t too bad for you.

5. Lead to Anxiety

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay Copyright 2017

Caffeine present in coffee is known to increase cholesterol levels and decreases serotonin in your body, which may lead to anxiety.

People suffering from anxiety should avoid highly caffeinated drinks and stick to beverages low in sugar and caffeine.

Should Pregnant Women Avoid Coffee?

Pregnant Woman
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay Copyright 2017

Expecting women can indulge in coffee but are advised not to go crazy with it. The advised amount is roughly 200mg since consuming more than the recommended amount can lead to acidity, may lower your iron levels, disrupt your sleep cycle, and in some cases, you may also experience vomiting.

Additionally, a study by American Pregnancy suggests that expecting mothers should avoid drinking coffee because the baby cannot metabolize the caffeine4 which may cause irregularities in the placenta and cause birth defects and premature labor.

To Drink or Not to Drink Coffee?

There are health benefits associated with coffee consumption. We have already established that coffee can treat caffeine withdrawal but what we have not touched upon is that coffee is healthy in more ways than one if consumed properly.

Not only are there several studies that suggest that coffee improves one’s cognitive function and keeps one more alert and awake but some studies also show a correlation in longevity.

Most people do not experience any side effects from drinking coffee, that may be because they know their limits.

Moreover, sipping coffee post breakfast can aid digestion, helps elevate your mood, and even boosts your cognition. Do not skip your morning cup. Just ensure you stick to a cup or two a day. We don’t want you running around like a child high on sugar.

What is the best time to have coffee?

Everyone needs their caffeine fix, especially if they have a taxing job or a crazy schedule. But when is the best time to savor your favorite brew?

Some studies suggest getting your caffeine fix when your cortisol levels are low, which is usually late morning or early afternoon.

If you do have a cup of joe in the late afternoon, make sure you have it at least 6 hours before your bedtime – we don’t want you having trouble sleeping at night.

In conclusion, it is safe to say that your body may react differently from someone else’s body, and thus the reaction you have might not apply to another. Several factors play a contributing role, such as your age, underlying diseases, and so forth.

It is also a matter of caffeine tolerance since everybody reacts differently to caffeine. If you are a regular drinker, a cup or two won’t hurt your body as someone who only drinks it once in a while.

Yes or No to Drinking Coffee on An Empty Stomach?

It would be wise to avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach and wait till your cortisol levels are low. If you hate and want to avoid acidity and heartburn, have your blessed brew in the late morning or early afternoon after you have had something to eat.

Remember, coffee is not bad for you. It gives you energy and is the perfect kick to get through the day. In fact, it has just as many positives concerning longevity and cognitive power. It is important to note that everything consumed within a limit is good and does not have to be a cause of concern.

If however, you are one of those people who like to indulge in your favorite brew back-to-back, a word of caution, do not overdo it, and do not forget to hydrate. Better yet, switch to decaf and reap the same benefits minus heartburn, acid reflux, and jittery sensation.

Pro tip: Drink coffee only after you have had something to eat and remember to stay hydrated throughout the day. And for expecting mothers, we reckon a light brew once a day. A decaf drink is a better option in our opinion.

If you want to test your intake levels, we suggest meeting with a doctor for expert advice.

  1. Fallon, K. J. Coffee for One: How the New Way to Make Your Morning Brew Became a Tempest in a Coffee Pod. Simon and Schuster, 2018. ↩︎
  2. Hoffman, Martin D., and Kristin J. Stuempfle. “Is sodium supplementation necessary to avoid dehydration during prolonged exercise in the heat?.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 30.3 (2016): 615-620. ↩︎
  3. Kim, J., et al. “Association between coffee intake and gastroesophageal reflux disease: a meta-analysis.” Diseases of the Esophagus 27.4 (2014): 311-317. ↩︎
  4. Tassaneeyakul, Wichittra, et al. “Caffeine metabolism by human hepatic cytochromes P450: contributions of 1A2, 2E1 and 3A isoforms.” Biochemical pharmacology 47.10 (1994): 1767-1776. ↩︎

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