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Can Coffee Cause Heartburn?

Coffee delights us in many ways: It offers a morning and/or afternoon ritual (whether we make it ourselves or pick it up from a coffee shop or gas station), it has an energizing effect and it appeals to people with a variety of tastes should you like it black, with cream or sugar, or with added flavors. But what if that delightful beverage starts causing digestive upset?

Unfortunately, coffee can cause heartburn due to its acidity.1 Coffee is a common heartburn trigger among other acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus.2 If you find that coffee causes heartburn for you, don’t worry—there are plenty of options to try to reduce the symptoms, including low-acid coffee or coffee alternatives. In the meantime, for fast relief from heartburn, sour stomach, acid indigestion, or upset stomach associated with these symptoms, try TUMS Chewy Bites (use as directed). Read on to discover why coffee may trigger heartburn symptoms.

Does Caffeine Trigger Heartburn?

Caffeine itself can also trigger heartburn. It relaxes the esophageal sphincter, which is a common cause of acid reflux.4 It can also increase the release of acid in your stomach, causing it to reflux back into your esophagus.6 If you find that other caffeinated beverages, such as soda or teas, also cause heartburn, it may not be the acid in the coffee but the caffeine.

Is Coffee More Likely to Cause Heartburn at Certain Times of Day?

While you may notice coffee triggers heartburn for you in the morning, it’s probably because you are more likely to drink coffee in the morning than at other times of day. But coffee can cause heartburn any time of day if it is a common trigger for you.

Be sure not to lay down immediately after drinking coffee, as food and beverages are more likely to seep into your esophagus.4 Avoid laying down for two to three hours after drinking coffee.

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach may also increase the likelihood of having heartburn.1 Try to eat something with your morning or afternoon cup of Joe to help cushion your stomach.

How to Reduce Coffee Intake

Reducing your coffee and caffeine intake may help reduce your heartburn symptoms. Depending on how much coffee you’re drinking, it might be a good idea to reduce your intake in general—more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day (or four cups of coffee) may lead to headaches, insomnia, irritability, and more.5 It is important, however, to cut back your caffeine consumption slowly, as quitting cold turkey can cause withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, or brain fog.5 Consider the following steps to wean off of caffeine:5

  • Slowly reduce your caffeine consumption. Cut back by drinking an increasingly smaller cup each day, or avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages at night.
  • Choose decaf options. Swap one of your cups of coffee each day with a cup of decaf for a period of time. Gradually keep swapping your coffee with decaf, then consider some of the other swaps listed below.

Swaps for an Energizing Morning

If you do find that coffee triggers heartburn for you, but you still want to have a ritual to replace your morning Joe, try some of these ideas for a more energized morning:

  • Drink water. Dehydration can cause fatigue, so drink a big glass of water upon waking to rehydrate and get your bowels moving.6 Add a squeeze of lemon for extra flavor, if you’d like. Drinking water throughout the day can help reduce fatigue as well.
  • Go for a walk or complete a workout. Exercise improves energy levels for a few reasons: first, it increases the production of mitochondria in your muscle cells, and they create fuel (or energy) from what you eat and the oxygen you breathe.2 It also increases the circulation of oxygen in your body, which helps your body function more efficiently.2 Finally, exercise increases the feel-good hormones like serotonin that can help you feel energized.2 Whether you want to make time for a 10-minute walk around the block, try a 30-minute home yoga video or hit the gym for a full workout, you’ll reap the benefits in the morning.
  • Try meditation. Over time, the effects of meditation can increase your energy levels.7 Start with a few minutes of guided meditation in the morning to reduce stress and start your morning out on the right foot.
  • Choose a decaf coffee. If you have found that other caffeinated beverages cause heartburn for you, try drinking decaf coffee instead. It may not have the same chemically-inducing energy impact on you that caffeine would, but you may find that the flavor of decaffeinated coffee will still perk you up emotionally.
  • Choose a low-acid coffee. Different roasts and brewing methods have varying levels of acid and caffeine. Light roasts tend to have higher amounts of caffeine and are more acidic, whereas dark roasts are lower in caffeine and are lower in acid content.1 Additionally, coffee from a drip coffee maker causes coffee to be more acidic, while pour-over carafes and French presses yield lower-acid coffee.1 You can experiment with the different roasts and brewing methods to find out which are least likely to cause heartburn—remember to keep some TUMS on-hand just in case.

If coffee is causing heartburn, you have many options for swapping your daily brew for something less acidic or for cutting it out altogether. If you’re still experiencing frequent heartburn, talk to your healthcare provider.

Source Citations:

  1. Why Does Coffee Bother My Stomach? Cleveland Clinic. Accessed 9/9/2022.
  2. Does exercise really boost energy levels? Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed 9/9/2022.
  3. What to eat when you have chronic heartburn. Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed 9/9/2022.
  4. GERD Triggers: What’s Turning the Heat Up on Your Heartburn? Loyola Medicine. Accessed 9/9/2022.
  5. Caffeine: How much is too much? Mayo Clinic. Accessed 9/9/2022.
  6. Are There Any Health Benefits to Drinking a Gallon of Water a Day? Cleveland Clinic. Accessed 9/9/2022.
  7. Meditation: Process and effects. PMC. Accessed 9/9/2022.
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