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Does Coffee Cause Acid Reflux?

Does Coffee Cause Acid Reflux?

At-A-Glance

  • Coffee can be a trigger for acid reflux, but not because it’s acidic… so acid-free coffee makes no difference.
  • Coffee causes reflux in 2 ways: (1) It’s either sensitivity to the coffee bean, which means that caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee are both bad, OR (2) a high volume of caffeinated coffee will open any lower esophageal valve.
  • There’s a tea most people have never heard of that works pretty well as a coffee replacement.

From Jamie Koufman, World's Leading Expert on Acid Reflux

A long-time patient of mine, someone I’ve seen on and off for three years, never got her reflux completely under control. However, one day she came in with a confession: “I think I’ve known all along that coffee was a trigger food for me, but I just didn’t want to give it up. Now that I have, my reflux is gone.” Sure enough, when I examined her, she looked terrific.

If you have any of the symptoms of reflux, you should try to identify if you have trigger foods. It’s important to note that reflux isn’t just heartburn or indigestion, but breathing issues, postnasal drip, sinus issues, too much mucus, coughing, chronic throat clearing, morning hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, etc.

The hardest part of treating reflux is that everyone is different, and trigger foods vary wildly. However, the most common trigger foods are chocolate, alcohol, onions, fried foods, and soft drinks. Coffee actually is not a problem for most people when consumed in moderation. But if you’re getting a sour taste in your mouth after drinking coffee or a sour feeling in your stomach, especially if you’re following all the basic lifestyle steps, then it’s time to figure out what kind of reaction you’re having to your coffee.

Debunking the “Coffee is Acidic” Myth

It’s a common misconception that coffee is acidic, so it causes acid reflux.

However, coffee is relatively low on the pH scale (usually ~5.0). Soda is FAR more acidic than coffee. So is orange juice. And wine.

It’s actually something else that makes coffee be a reflux trigger, for those who get a reflux response.

The 2 Types of Sensitivities to Coffee

For most people, a cup of coffee or two in the morning does not cause reflux.

  1. For some people, any amount of coffee is a reflux trigger food (and for them it does not matter whether it has caffeine or not). I’ve seen this in about 15% of refluxers, and it’s a sensitivity to something in the coffee bean itself.
  2. For anyone, if you drink a pot of coffee before noon, you’re going to have reflux. Caffeine makes the lower esophageal sphincter, the valve between the esophagus and stomach, relax / go loose. Because of this, too much caffeine will usually cause reflux.

Most people have a cup or two of coffee, usually in the morning. If that’s you, switch to decaf. If you’re still having a reflux response, then you know it’s not the caffeine, and you’re likely in that 15% that’s sensitive to the coffee bean itself.

Coffee Replacement to Consider

If you want a kick in the morning, black tea is a better choice than coffee for refluxers, just remember to have a cup or two, not more.

Any kind of black tea is a better choice than coffee, but my patients have really enjoyed lapsang souchong, which is a mouthful to say, but it smells smokey and tastes sweet, and you can finally buy it online!

First, See If You Likely Have Reflux

The Koufman Reflux Symptom Index (RSI) is a proven tool to determine if you likely have acid reflux. Note that heartburn / indigestion is just one symptom in the index (which only 20% of refluxers experience).

If you have an RSI score of 15 or greater, you have a 90% chance of having reflux, even if you have never had heartburn or indigestion. This is called silent reflux, and it's very common.

Please understand that it’s important to take steps if you have reflux to manage it through lifestyle changes (explained later). If you let reflux run rampant, you’re setting yourself up for sleep apnea, COPD, chronic respiratory conditions, and a far higher risk of esophageal cancer.

Where to Get More Information

My best-selling book Dropping Acid is a comprehensive place to start. If you’d like an initial primer on reflux, this article is also wonderful.

If you've read at least one of my books and you're following my guidance and you still need help, you can book a consultation with me.

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When Jamie Koufman gives advice, you should listen.

Dr. Koufman has been a world-renowned pioneer in acid reflux for decades. Through her medical practice and scientific research, Dr. Koufman almost single-handedly advanced our understanding of the interaction between digestive and respiratory disease. She has won prestigious awards and is a New York Times best-selling author for her books on reflux and chronic cough.

Dr. Koufman’s Books on Reflux

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The Voice & Reflux Institute of New York | Transnasal Esophagoscopy
Copyright 2020 | Dr. Jamie Koufman | Privacy Policy + Disclaimer
Copyright 2020 Dr. Jamie Koufman
Privacy Policy + Disclaimer
The Voice & Reflux Institute of New York
Transnasal Esophagoscopy
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