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  Can Coffee Cause Heartburn?

Many people wonder if drinking too much coffee can cause heartburn symptoms. If you cannot picture starting off your day without a cup of joe, then you have joined a huge club without even really knowing it. The majority of the population needs caffeine to jump start their day or get through that mid day slump but this is not the case for around 20 percent of coffee drinkers. These people tend to experience stomach distress and heartburn and most have to stop drinking coffee in order to not cause long lasting harm to their bodies.

According to the National Coffee Association of the USA, 56 of the population above 18 yrs of age enjoys a cup daily. The estimated number of the sufferers though stands at around 40 million. These people either have to avoid it all together or sip only a very small amount as anything more creates reflux or other unpleasant symptoms in their bodies.

Acid RefluxThe main thought cause of this was that caffeine is the main irritant and it causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax which allows for the stomach contents to raise up into the chest and throat area. It seems that things are a bit more complicated than that.

At the American Chemical Society's 239th National Meeting, a group of scientists pointed out that no previous research really proved why any of the coffee components irritate the stomach. Many coffee manufacturers sell "stomach friendly" products where the beans are supposedly put through a different process, but no one really knows what the results actually are.

The process is meant to reduce the irritants within the beans but this also lessens the benefits of the drink such as a reduced risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. If you have ever sipped a stomach friendly coffee than you already know that these lack a bit in the aroma and taste department.

Studies have been done on all types off coffee... ranging from mild, decaffeinated, regular, stomach friendly... all the way to the dark and gourmet brews. They have been trying to figure out the effect of these drinks on the cultures which lie within the human stomach cells. The findings have shows that certain compounds such as N-alkanoly-5-hydroxytryptamides, catechols and caffeine trigger the production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid).

The study also showed that a combination of these things on not just one element is the cause of the irritation. To add a twist, the compound called N-methylpyridium (NMP) seems to have a beneficial effect as it actually prevents the stomach from producing excess acid.

This compound does not show up in the raw coffee beans and is only present when roasted. This would suggest that drinking roasted brews such as espresso, or French roast may actually cause less of the painful symptoms then some of the other hearty brews. The amount of NMP depends on the roasting process and type of bean.

The National Coffee Association is experimenting with various strands of beans and methods of roasting them in order to create a more stomach friendly type of coffee. Hopefully, they can also create something that actually tastes good as that is a big deterrent for most people as it relates to the current stomach friendly roasts.

So What Can You Do In The Mean Time?

  • Until the perfect, stomach friendly coffee is created there are a few things that you can try: 
  • Try a yerba mate, gets you moving, allows you to sleep better without the side effects of coffee. 
  • Drink a stomach-friendly brew and see if that helps. The brand Folgers can be found in the supermarkets selling these. 
  • Take an antacid before and after drinking. 
  • Switch to decaf, espresso or French roast. 
  • Drink smaller amounts. 

National Coffee Association

American Chemical Society