Do you get stomach pain whenever you drink coffee but still want caffeine? If so, you’re not alone. Estimates show that about 40 million Americans avoid drinking coffee or cannot drink as much as they want due to stomach irritations. (1)
Because of these aches, some people end up avoiding it all together, but caffeine is an incredible tool in creating mental focus and alertness which helps with everything from studying to sports and getting work done. Caffeine is as versatile as we are, but what’s going on with coffee that’s giving some people such a bad time?
Why Does This Happen?
Contrary to popular belief, it may not be the caffeine causing the problems, but a mix of many compounds in coffee acting on your stomach all at once. These compounds cause an overproduction of stomach acid, known as gastric acid, and this overproduction of gastric acid is what doctors now believe to be the cause of that stomach pain. (1)
"Their research into this revealed that there were multiple natural chemical compounds in brewed coffee that affected gastric acid production..."
In 2010, two scientists set out to determine which chemicals cause the overproduction of gastric acid. Their research into this revealed that there were multiple natural chemical compounds in brewed coffee that affected gastric acid production, including; catechols, N-alkanoly-5-hydroxytryptamides, chlorogenic acid, and caffeine. (1, 2)
Yes, caffeine was found on the naughty list, but does that mean you need to avoid it? Not necessarily: Veronika Samoza, PhD, from the 2010 study explains that “there’s no single, key irritant. It is a mixture of compounds that seem to cause the irritant effect of coffee.” (1) So how much of this irritation is due to caffeine and the other compounds? There are several studies that suggest most of the irritation comes from all the other compounds in coffee with only a small portion of gastric acid production coming from caffeine.
Two studies comparing the effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on gastric acid secretion and the blood serum levels of gastrin (the hormone that regulates the release of gastric acid) showed that both types of coffee (with or without caffeine) caused significant increases in the production of gastric acid and serum gastrin. One of the studies even controlled for pure caffeine and saw that the other compounds in coffee produced twice the acid response as the pure caffeine. (3, 4)
The author of that study notes: “These data suggest that clinical recommendations based upon the known gastrointestinal effects of caffeine may bear little relation to the actual observed actions of coffee or decaffeinated coffee.” (3) Meaning we may need to draw a distinction between caffeine and coffee, which are sometimes used synonymously. The research is predominantly showing that the irritating effects of coffee are not solely the effects caused by caffeine, but a large part the other elements in coffee.
"Coffee isn't the only way of getting caffeine..."
So is caffeine the cause of your stomach pains? Realistically, no. Caffeine is a great tool and you don't have to give it up. Coffee isn't the only way of getting caffeine, and that's great news for people who get stomach aches from drinking coffee.
If you want to experiment with different caffeine sources and see how they sit with your stomach, check out this link to Ways to Get Your Caffeine without the Stomach Ache.
But if you want to jump straight to our recommendation for caffeine that's super easy on your stomach, you can try Ritual Energy here. You can also read how it's easy on your stomach in the article above.
As always, you and your doctor know your body best, so please be careful and talk to your doctor before adopting any new lifestyle modifications found here.