Waking up to a nice and warm cup of coffee is part of the morning routine for millions of people all around the world. Coffee can help us feel more alert, improve our mood, and perform better during the day. Even when most people drink coffee with their breakfast, there are many who like to drink coffee on an empty stomach. This sounds like an unhealthy habit, as some might recommend never to have coffee before having eaten something first. This is because it is believed that drinking coffee on an empty stomach can cause digestive issues, raise stress hormone levels, and have other potential side effects.
Can This Cause Digestive Issues?
To begin with, we will look at what the evidence show regarding drinking coffee on an empty stomach and whether or not it can cause digestive issues. Many people believe that coffee can irritate your stomach because it stimulates the production of stomach acid. As a result, it is common to hear people saying that coffee worsens symptoms of some gut disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, causes heartburn, nausea, acid reflux, and even indigestion.
However, existing research has not found strong evidence suggesting that coffee is a direct cause of digestive issues. Even when some people might be extremely sensitive to coffee, the vast majority of coffee consumers do not experience any of these problems.
Can It Raise Stress Hormone Levels?
Another issue that tends to be related to drinking coffee with an empty stomach is that it is supposed to raise stress hormone levels. Cortisol is a hormone that helps regulate metabolism, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. On the other hand, excessive levels of this hormone can lead to some health problems, like bone loss, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Since coffee can stimulate the production of cortisol, some say that drinking this beverage in the morning, when cortisol levels are already high, can be harmful. However, the production of this hormone among regular coffee drinkers appears at much lower levels. Plus, there is little to no evidence that supports these claims.
What Are Other Potential Side Effects?
Besides digestive issues and high cortisol levels, people claim that drinking coffee on an empty stomach can cause other potential side effects. These include developing an addiction to caffeine, anxiety, restlessness, headaches and migraines, and even high blood pressure. Just as it happens with digestive issues and cortisol production, these potential side effects are yet to be supported by strong evidence.
As a matter of fact, existing studies have found that all these issues are related to the individual’s sensitivity to coffee. However, there hasn’t been evidence of drinking coffee on an empty stomach being directly linked to any of the issues mentioned above.
Nonetheless, experts recommend limiting the amount of coffee we drink to no more than a couple of cups a day. Also, being aware of the time of the day at which we drink coffee is recommended, since it may interfere with our sleep cycle, especially if we drink it late in the day.