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Coffee and nausea: why your favorite beverage may be bringing you down

Coffee and nausea: why your favorite beverage may be bringing you down
Coffee is here to stay.

In 2019, the ever-popular morning beverage remained a staple in the routine of most Americans. Nearly half of those between the ages of 18 and 24 reported regular coffee consumption, while over 70% of seniors did as well.

So, what happens when the key to firing up your mental and physical mechanisms starts making you nauseous? You love the way your morning cup-o-joe tastes but dread the way it makes your stomach feel.

You’re not alone.

Feeling nauseous after coffee consumption is reasonably common and an experience from which regular coffee-drinkers often suffer. If you’re one of these, you probably want to know why your drink of choice is making you feel so unpleasant and what you can do to alleviate the issue.

Java’s Anatomy

To understand why our morning cup of coffee makes us nauseous, we’ll first need to understand its composition. Though the general brewing process is simple enough for us to handle, the coffee bean itself is quite complicated.

Chemical Compounds

Chemicals are a key component in the composition of our coffee. There are over 1000 aroma compounds present, with CGA’s (chlorogenic acids) accounting for up to 12% of the dry weight of unroasted beans.

Chlorogenic acids are phenolic compounds rich in antioxidants, a major health benefit of coffee.

Primary Acid Content in Coffee

Coffee is mainly composed of the following acids:

  • Quinic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Chlorogenic acid
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Acetic acid

Sometimes we wrongly assume that acids are harmful. Our bodies need them! Acids play a key role in our digestive systems, and we’d not be able to survive without their help.

One common misconception is that coffee is highly acidic, which isn’t true. Coffee lands at a “5” on the pH scale, which is less acidic than popular drinks such as soda or orange juice.

Acidity, on the other hand, is a crucial component relative to the overall taste. Acidity refers to a flavor note and is a desirable quality rather than one that creates stomach upset.

However, it’s not necessarily the acidic property of your coffee itself that creates surplus production of acid in the stomach. Instead, it’s more likely the caffeine, which brings us to our next key component of coffee.

Caffeine

Ah, the lifeblood of our coffee. The substance that gets our brain gears cranking and our bodies moving so we can get to work on time and perform our best while we’re there.  

Sure, you could opt for decaf. For most of us, coffee is how we kickstart our day. Without the caffeine, it’s just a nice-tasting beverage without a boost.

Unfortunately, caffeine can be our best friend and our worst enemy.

If you’re struggling with nausea and stomach upset shortly after consuming your morning coffee, caffeine may be to blame.

We alluded to the relationship between caffeine and acid reflux earlier. Caffeine can, in some cases, be the culprit for acid reflux, heartburn, and even GERD.

Caffeine can trigger these issues by weakening the lower esophageal sphincter and irritating the esophagus, leading to a backward flow of stomach contents.
 
Alas, acid reflux, and stomach discomfort.

How Much is Too Much?

The amount of caffeine intake can play a vital role in how you feel. Nausea is one of the most common symptoms of excessive caffeine consumption.

If your coffee is making you feel nauseous, the first thing you may want to consider is whether or not you’re consuming too much.

According to Mayo Clinic, the baseline for most healthy adults appears to be around 400mg of caffeine or less, the equivalent of about four cups of coffee.

Caffeine intake is generally safe to that point but should be limited well below those levels in children, adolescents, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Each of the following may be signs that you need to cut back:

  • Insomnia
  • Migraine headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability

If you’re a heavy coffee drinker and are experiencing any of these symptoms in conjunction with stomach upset and nausea, it’s important to consider lowering your overall intake or cutting it out entirely.

What Else Goes in Your Mug?

Another key consideration is what else is part of your morning coffee.

While many of us enjoy a nice, natural black cup, there are a whole lot of people dumping additives, flavors, and extra calories into the mix.

Whether it’s basic milk and sugar, artificial sweeteners, heavy creams, or syrups/concentrates used to make fancy mocha Frappuccino drinks at retailers like Starbucks or Dunkin; there are a lot of potential culprits that can exacerbate stomach upset.
 
Lactose intolerance, for example, can indeed cause nausea. So, if you’re the “light and sweet” type, it may not be the coffee that’s to blame, but rather, what you’re putting in it.

Counteracting Nausea from Coffee

We get it. You’re probably not here because you want to switch to decaf. You want to understand why your coffee is making you nauseous and find out what you can do to fix it.

A few basic suggestions:

  • Try a low acid coffee
  • Try cold brew coffee
  • Opt for darker roasts
  • Add a dash of salt

You could also try a smart coffee.

Noocaf is designed to give you that morning buzz you need to jumpstart your day without all of the drawbacks that can accompany it.

For example, Noocaf includes taurine, which in some preliminary studies has been shown to reduce nausea in chemotherapy patients when taken orally.  

Noocaf also contains Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12. Each of these B-vitamins has demonstrated anti-nausea properties. These vitamins appear to work particularly well for morning sickness in pregnant women but may also work well to curtail the unpleasant feelings of nausea associated with coffee consumption for some drinkers.

You Don’t Need to Give Up Your Morning Cup

If nausea and stomach upset have been accompanying your morning coffee consumption, it doesn’t mean you have to switch to decaf or cut out your coffee entirely.

Consider what you’re adding to your cup – whether it be milk, sugar, or other bloated sweeteners – and experiment with alternatives. You might be surprised, for instance, to see that switching to lactose-free milk or a natural sweetener such as stevia makes a world of difference.

Try different roast types, monitor your caffeine intake more carefully, and keep a log so that you can track and eliminate the potential causes.

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