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Effects of Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach

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Drinking coffee on an empty stomach in the morning is a common practice. Continue reading to know if it is harmful or not.

Written by

Dr. Asna Fatma

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Published At February 27, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 27, 2023

Introduction:

Coffee is one of the simplest yet most amazing beverages. A freshly brewed cup is produced by steeping and straining dried, roasted, and ground coffee beans in hot water. In certain nations, coffee consumption is second only to water in terms of popularity among beverages. The National Coffee Association reports that an average American consumes three cups daily, making up 62 % of the country's daily coffee drinkers. Caffeine enhances mood, brain function, and athletic performance, making one feel less sleepy and more alert.

Additionally, it may promote weight loss and prevent conditions like type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, and certain heart disease. However, excess of anything is bad for health. Similarly, excessive coffee intake results in excess caffeine consumption, which is not good for health.

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach in the morning is a common practice. But is it harmful to do so? Although there is not enough evidence to back up the premise, some doctors and nutritionists suggest not drinking coffee on an empty stomach.

Is It Fine to Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach?

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach is a common practice, but there are a lot of questions and doubts about whether it is okay to do so. Certain doctors and nutritionists advise against drinking coffee on an empty stomach, but there are not enough studies and research on this.

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach helps with weight loss and regulating bowel movements. However, drinking coffee before eating anything has more negative than positive effects, including increased stress levels, blood sugar imbalances, and digestive problems.

Furthermore, drinking coffee early morning is probably not a good idea because cortisol (a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands) levels are high in the morning. Moreover, drinking coffee on an empty stomach could cause mood swings and anxiety.

What Are the Harmful Effects of Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach?

Some common harmful effects of drinking coffee on an empty stomach are:

  • Digestive Problems: The production of stomach acid may be stimulated by drinking coffee on an empty stomach. The body's digestive system is significantly disrupted by the production of stomach acid, leading to symptoms like indigestion, bloating, nausea, etc. According to research, the bitterness of coffee may promote the secretion of stomach acids. Some claim that drinking coffee on an empty stomach is particularly detrimental because there is nothing else in the stomach to buffer the acid from harming the stomach lining. As a result, many individuals think that coffee irritates the stomach, makes the symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) worse, and causes heartburn, stomach ulcers, nausea, acid reflux, etc.

  • Stress Hormone: Another prevalent claim is that consuming coffee on an empty stomach could result in higher cortisol levels. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and aids in regulating metabolism and maintaining blood pressure and blood sugar levels. However, excessively high cortisol levels in the body can cause health issues like bone loss, hypertension, diabetes, and certain heart conditions. Cortisol levels usually peak when a person wakes up and then decrease during the day. Interestingly, coffee increases the production of cortisol. As a result, some suggest that consuming it in the morning can be harmful when cortisol levels are already high. However, those who routinely consume coffee produce significantly less cortisol in response to it, and some studies show no cortisol increase. There is little proof that drinking coffee on a full stomach will lessen this reaction.

  • Blood Sugar Levels: Coffee consumption first thing in the morning may have a detrimental impact on blood sugar regulation, according to researchers from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.

  • Mood Swings: When consumed on an empty stomach, coffee can cause jitters, shaking, and other withdrawal symptoms, including mood swings.

  • Hormonal Balance: Consuming coffee on an empty stomach affects the conversion of T4 (thyroxine) to T3 (triiodothyronine) hormones by affecting the absorption of levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone.

  • Inflammation: Drinking coffee on an empty stomach is the key factor in oxidative stress and inflammation. A few disorders linked to inflammation include fatigue, skin issues, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

What Is the Best Time to Drink Coffee?

Ardent coffee drinkers can plan their intake to prevent the harmful effects of drinking coffee on an empty stomach. One can try drinking coffee at various times to see how their body reacts to coffee at different times.

According to scientists, the biological peaks of the cortisol hormone levels occur between 8 and 9 am, noon and 1 pm, and 5:30 and 6:30 pm. Therefore, drinking coffee between these times, such as from 9:30 to 11:30 am, is beneficial. Furthermore, since cortisol levels are at their lowest during this window, one can take advantage of its stimulant benefits.

Another suggestion is to drink coffee with food instead of on an empty stomach to avoid the secretion of stomach acids that might damage the stomach lining.

Whether coffee is consumed with food or otherwise, it may still have certain harmful effects. For instance, coffee can be addictive, and some people may be more sensitive to it than others due to genetic predisposition. In addition, frequent drinking of excessive amounts of coffee might change the brain's chemistry, needing gradually higher doses of caffeine to get the same stimulation and effects.

Drinking too much coffee can increase panic episodes and cause anxiety, agitation, heart palpitations, and other symptoms. Some people may even get elevated blood pressure, headaches, or migraines.

Lastly, caffeine can easily cross the placenta, and its effects on pregnant women and their developing fetuses can continue up to 16 hours longer than usual. Therefore, it is advised that pregnant women should reduce their daily coffee consumption to one to two cups (240 to 480 ml).

Conclusion:

Most individuals drink coffee first thing in the morning before breakfast. There is little scientific evidence to support the popular misconception that consuming coffee on an empty stomach is bad for health. No matter how it is consumed, it likely has the same effects on the body.

However, several studies and reports suggest that drinking coffee on an empty stomach can adversely affect the digestive system and causes stress, inflammation, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, etc. Therefore, if drinking coffee on an empty stomach causes any digestive problems, the person can consider drinking it with meals instead and change the routine if one observes an improvement.

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Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop

Dentistry

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