Coffee and GERD: Is there a link?
Diet is one of the most common triggers of gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), and in this caffeine-loving country, it may come as a surprise to learn that your morning cup of coffee may be making your reflux symptoms worse. Sure, that morning cup of Joe may give you a little more energy and pep to get through your busy day, but studies have shown that coffee can trigger GERD symptoms and exacerbate reflux, primarily by irritating the stomach and esophagus, causing acid to wash over the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and eventually causing it to become weaker. A weak LES allows stomach acids to back up – or reflux – more easily, which causes further LES irritation and weakening.
Coffee isn’t the only culprit you need to worry about. Soda can contain its own fair share of caffeine, and if you’re one of the nearly half of all Americans who drink at least one soda every day, you’re habit could be contributing to your GERD symptoms. In addition to its caffeine, soda has a couple of other components that can exacerbate GERD. First, it’s carbonated, and all those bubbles can increase pressure in your stomach. That pressure in turn causes an increase in LES pressure, a primary cause of GERD. Second, soda is full of sugar-packed empty calories, which can make you gain weight. When you weigh more, all that excess weight in your stomach places more pressure on your LES, and that exacerbates GERD and its symptoms.
What about tea?
While studies have been pretty clear on the relationship between coffee and GERD, the evidence is less conclusive for tea. Some studies have shown little cause-and-effect with tea and GERD while others have shown that drinking tea can cause symptoms in some people. When it comes to tea, your best bet seems to be to know how it affects you, so you can decide whether you can include it in your diet or not.
If you’re experiencing heartburn or other symptoms of GERD, don’t ignore them. Left untreated, GERD can cause other serious issues, including changes in the esophageal tissue that can lead to cancer.