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Is Coffee Killing Your Chance of Being GERD-Free?

by Carissa Andrews  -  November 19th, 2018

Is Coffee Killing Your Chance of Being GERD-Free?

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the effects of caffeine on our gut flora — and whether or not too much coffee is killing off the good bacteria in our gut. It was an interest I had because I’ve always tried to eat in a way that allows my gut flora to work optimally—but I do love my morning coffee. The good news was, coffee itself doesn’t kill of probiotics (unless you consume probiotics with something hot—including coffee). So, while there isn’t any evidence to prove coffee itself kills off probiotics, there is evidence it can stir up GERD—at least in some patients. However, that’s not necessarily the end of it. GERD and caffeine have a similar relationship to probiotics and caffeine in that it’s subjective to the person drinking it. Let’s dig in and take a closer look.

Caffeine and GERD

4 in 10 people in the United States alone experience symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn one or more times a week. Of those, many find drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages can make those symptoms worse. Caffeine isn’t just found in coffee—as most of us know. It’s also in tea, sodas, energy drinks, and even some headache medicines, such as Excedrin. The deal with caffeine and GERD has to do with the way caffeine has been known to relax the LES, which may trigger GERD by allowing stomach acid to travel back up the esophagus. Coffee can also stimulate gastrin release and gastric acid secretion.

However, just like with probiotics and coffee—there’s no hard and fast rule stating it always causes GERD symptoms. In fact, there aren’t any well-designed studies showing that eliminating caffeine actually improves GERD symptoms, which is part of the reason the American College of Gastroenterology no longer recommends removing it as a blanket treatment for GERD patients. A 2012 study declared the relationship between coffee consumption and GERD to be wholly unclear. That being said, the acid in coffee and the level of caffeine can still trigger problems for some.

Safe Ways to Get Your Coffee Fix with GERD

Caffeine itself can trigger a number of unwanted side-effects when consumed in higher dosages. Over-caffeination can be the biggest culprit for coffee-related heartburn. As we discussed, when caffeine levels in the body are too high, it triggers the LES to relax too much. However, it’s unclear what level may be too much for GERD sufferers. If caffeine doesn’t seem to be the problem, but drinking coffee is—it could be the amount of acid in your java. Here are a few tips to consider when trying to find the right balance between getting your caffeine fix and avoiding GERD symptoms:

1. Keep caffeine to a minimum.

According to Health Canada, 400mg (or about 4 cups of coffee) is a safe daily dosage. Your particular safe amount may be less, however. So test out what feels right to you.

2. Stick to shade-grown coffee.

Interestingly, this simple switch can mean all the difference in coffee quality. Coffee beans that are exposed to the sun’s strong rays certainly grow faster, but they also contain more acidity because of it. While this process does cut costs because growers are able to produce crops faster, it can mean more heartburn for those who are sensitive. So next time you’re buying coffee, look for the shade-grown label and enjoy a smoother, less acidic cup of java.

3. Cold brew coffee is less acidic.

However, which may make it the better alternative for GERD patients who still need or want to get their coffee fix.

4. Darker roast coffee might also be a better fit.

Not only does it have less acid, it’s also lower in caffeine content. Making it a win-win for those who can tolerate it. Whenever possible, stick with 100% Arabica coffee (not Robusta, as it can have twice the caffeine content as Arabica beans).

5. Add a little salt to your coffee grounds.

It might sound a little weird, but you can add salt to reduce the bitterness in your coffee and reduce its acid.

6. While we’re on the course of making your coffee a bit more alkaline when you brew it, try adding egg shells to your brewing process to bring down its acidity.

For automatic drip machines, place some broken shells into the basket with your grounds and brew it as you normally would.

As humans, we always want a quick fix to our problems. However, with GERD, a quick fix may not always be the most effective one. As it turns out, bigger lifestyle changes such as being more active and losing the extra belly fat are most beneficial.

Other beneficial lifestyle changes most experts agree could reduce GERD symptoms include:

• Elevating the head of your bed by six inches

• Refraining from eating 3 hours before bedtime

• Avoid alcoholic beverages

• Stop smoking

• Remain upright for at least two hours after eating

• Take antacids as prescribed by your doctor

• Increase your intake of fiber

For those working to manage these lifestyle changes while living with GERD, there are a few medications on the market that may help. Dexilant (dexlansoprazole) is a medication we carry at Canadian Pharmacy King that has been shown to be very effective with treating acid reflux symptoms.

Having GERD can mean altering the way you live your life, so it can be as comfortable as possible—even despite the uncomfortableness of the symptoms. Knowing what your personal triggers are really is the key to developing a game plan that works for you. Get the proper amount of exercise and reduce your weight to a healthier level to start with. While there may not be a distinct connection found between coffee/caffeine and GERD, there is something to be said about anecdotal evidence. For many people, the acidity in coffee can be a trigger—and it’s important to honor that connection if it’s there for you. Find alternative ways to lower the acidity of your morning java or eliminate coffee altogether for a healthier alternative.

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