The Truth About Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach: Is It Bad for You?

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a steaming cup of coffee on a contemporary kitchen counter with morning sunlight streaming in

Starting your day with a hot cup of coffee is a cherished morning ritual for many. 

But you’ve probably wondered if indulging in your favorite brew on an empty stomach is okay. The debate on this topic is as robust as a dark roast, stirring up a mix of opinions and myths.

While some swear by their pre-breakfast caffeine fix, others caution against it, suggesting it could irritate your stomach or exacerbate digestive issues. 

But what does the science say? 

Your body’s reaction to a morning coffee might be more personal than you think.

 Let’s dive into what the experts say about your early-hour espresso habits.

Key Takeaways
  • Personal Tolerance is Crucial: Individual reactions to drinking coffee on an empty stomach vary significantly.
  • Stomach Acid Production: Coffee can increase stomach acid, potentially leading to discomfort or indigestion in sensitive individuals.
  • Gastric Emptying Stimulation: Coffee may speed up stomach content movement into the small intestine, which can be both beneficial and problematic.
  • Myth Debunking: Common beliefs about coffee causing ulcers or severe digestive issues are not consistently supported by studies.
  • Nutrient Absorption Effects: Coffee, especially on an empty stomach, can impact the absorption of nutrients like iron and calcium.
  • Moderation and Adaptation: Adjusting coffee consumption, such as adding food or switching to decaf, can mitigate potential negative effects.
  • Listening to Your Body: Monitoring personal symptoms after drinking coffee can guide whether it’s suitable to consume it on an empty stomach.

Is It OK to Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach

a person in a modern kitchen, early in the morning, contemplating a cup of black coffee

Starting your morning routine with a steamy cup of coffee might fuel you for the day ahead, but have you wondered if it’s good to drink coffee on an empty stomach? 

The debate has many angles, but let’s explore what can happen when caffeine meets your empty stomach lining.

First, consider the role of stomach acid. Although coffee is less acidic than other substances like ibuprofen and aspirin, it can still cause a significant rise in stomach acidity. 

But it’s not all alarming news; for many people, the stomach adapts by creating a protective layer of mucus to shield the stomach lining from irritation.

Another point to remember is the timing of coffee consumption in relation to your cortisol levels, a hormone that regulates metabolism and stress response.

Downing a cup of coffee when your cortisol levels are peaking might not be the best idea, as it could enhance the stress response and contribute to digestive discomfort.

However, on the flip side, coffee is also known to stimulate gastric emptying, where the stomach passes its content to the duodenum faster. This can translate to fewer problems related to heartburn or indigestion in some individuals.

What about the link between ulcer risk and drinking coffee on an empty stomach? 

Studies suggest that symptoms like heartburn, nausea, and vomiting remain consistent whether coffee is consumed on an empty stomach or with food, meaning that coffee may not be the primary trigger.

Paying attention to how your body reacts to morning caffeine is crucial. If you notice any discomfort or signs of stomach irritation, adjusting how you drink coffee—perhaps with food or switching to decaf—may be beneficial. 

Remember, coffee may affect everyone differently, so listening to your body’s signals is essential.

Impact of Coffee on the Digestive System

A transparent silhouette with a highlighted digestive tract and coffee being poured, depicting the effects of coffee on digestion in a kitchen setting.

Increased Acid Production

You’ve probably heard the buzz around coffee consumption on an empty stomach and its link to acid production. 

When you drink coffee on an empty gut, it turns out you’re directly stimulating acid production. 

But why does this happen? 

Caffeine triggers your stomach to secrete more hydrochloric acid, usually needed for digestion. 

However, when there’s no food to digest, this increased acid can lead to feelings of discomfort or indigestion. Interestingly, coffee may sometimes be suitable for some in this regard. 

Still, it’s crucial to recognize that for some, especially those with sensitive stomachs, this heightened acid production could lead to issues like heartburn.

Stimulation of Gastric Emptying

When you enjoy your cup of coffee, particularly on an empty stomach, you’re also ramping up the process of gastric emptying. 

This simply means that coffee helps move the contents of your stomach into the small intestine more quickly. It’s good news for people seeking to kickstart digestion. 

Still, it’s a double-edged sword because speeding up this process can also cause the stomach to empty before it’s had the chance to fully break down the contents, leading to various stomach related discomforts.

Irritation of the Stomach Lining

Many enjoy a steaming cup without any ill effects, yet coffee on an empty stomach raises concerns about stomach lining irritation for others. 

While coffee isn’t abrasive enough to cause an ulcer, its acidic nature can irritate the stomach lining, especially when no other food is present to act as a buffer. 

This irritation can sometimes worsen symptoms of existing gut disorders or contribute to a feeling of nausea or bloating. 

What happens in your case? Only your experience can dictate whether your morning brew is a good idea on an empty belly.

Effects of Coffee on Nutrient Absorption

A transparent human figure with highlighted nutrient areas, and a cup of coffee, illustrating the impact of coffee on nutrient absorption in a kitchen environment.

Reduced Iron Absorption

When you drink coffee on an empty stomach, iron absorption in your body can be significantly affected.

 The polyphenols in coffee bind to iron from food, making it harder for your stomach to take this essential nutrient. Considering that iron is critical for oxygen transport and energy production, this binding action could lead to iron deficiency if coffee consumption is high and dietary iron intake is low.

Type of CoffeeCaffeine Content
Brewed Coffee (8 oz)95mg
Espresso (1 oz)64mg
Instant Coffee (8 oz)62mg

Pairing your cup of coffee with foods rich in vitamin C can help counteract this effect because vitamin C improves iron absorption. It’s best to wait a while after eating before you indulge in your next coffee break.

Impaired Calcium Absorption

Calcium is another mineral that may not mix well with stomach acid elevated by coffee consumption.

 Particularly, caffeine in coffee can interfere with calcium absorption in the digestive system, which is pivotal for maintaining bone health. If your penchant for coffee on an empty stomach leads to a significantly decreased calcium uptake over time, it could potentially increase the risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis.

The impact of caffeine on calcium absorption is dose-dependent, suggesting that moderation is vital. Here’s a quick snapshot to guide you:

Type of BrewCalcium Absorption Impact
Low CaffeineMinimal Interaction
High CaffeineGreater Reduction

To mitigate this, consider adding a splash of milk to your coffee or ensure your diet includes calcium-rich foods.

Interference with Vitamin B Absorption

Coffee, mainly when consumed without food, can also affect the absorption of specific B vitamins, such as B6 and folate. 

These vitamins are crucial for various functions, including hormonal balance and mood regulation. Elevated stomach acid and caffeine levels may hinder your body’s ability to absorb these nutrients, potentially leading to deficiencies.

If coffee consumption is an indispensable part of your routine, it might be prudent to offset potential deficiencies with a well-balanced diet or supplements. 

Remember, the way coffee interacts with nutrient absorption isn’t just about the presence of caffeine—factors like the type of coffee and the timing of coffee may also play a role.

By being mindful of these interactions, you can enjoy your coffee while ensuring your body’s getting the nutrients it needs to function optimally. 

Keep track of how you feel, and make dietary adjustments as necessary to maintain a balance because drinking coffee on an empty stomach could significantly impact your overall well-being.

Is Coffee Recommended on an Empty Stomach?

Person in a contemporary kitchen holding coffee while reading dietary guidelines, symbolizing the careful consideration of drinking coffee on an empty stomach.

Starting your day with a cup of coffee may be your morning ritual, but have you ever wondered if it’s good or bad to drink coffee on an empty stomach? The answer is complex and largely depends on your tolerance to coffee.

For the majority, the stomach is resilient, developing a mucus layer that shields the stomach lining from aggressive acids. Coffee is lower in acidity than certain medications—such as ibuprofen or aspirin—known to irritate the gut.

However, if stomach acid and irritation are concerns for you when you drink coffee on an empty stomach, consider adding dairy to your brew or pairing it with a meal. This can significantly reduce any discomfort you might experience. 

In cases where coffee consumption still leads to discomfort like heartburn or indigestion, switching to decaffeinated or avoiding coffee may be the best course of action.

Although many believe coffee on an empty stomach worsens symptoms of gut disorders or causes ulcers, nausea, and acid reflux, studies do not consistently support these claims. 

In fact, the relationship between coffee and digestive health is less clear-cut than widely assumed. For a segment of the population that is highly sensitive to caffeine, symptoms such as heartburn or vomiting may persist, regardless of coffee being consumed on a full or empty stomach.

Remember that stomach irritations like ulcers and acid reflux can have a variety of causes, and it’s essential to know your body’s reactions to coffee

Paying attention to your symptoms and their frequency can help you decide whether to enjoy that cup of coffee on an empty stomach or adopt a different routine altogether.

Remember, moderation is key. Monitoring your coffee consumption and how you feel afterward will give you the best indication of whether it’s suitable for you to drink coffee on an empty stomach.


You’ve seen how individual tolerance plays a crucial role in whether you can enjoy coffee on an empty stomach. 

Remember, your body’s unique response is what matters most. If you find that a morning cup doesn’t bother you, no substantial evidence suggests you need to change your routine. But if you’re uncomfortable, consider adjusting how and when you drink your coffee. 

Listen to your body and make the choice that feels right for you. After all, your comfort and health should always come first.


Who should not drink coffee?

People who may want to avoid coffee include those with sleep disorders, anxiety, gastroesophageal reflux, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and glaucoma.

Why do they say don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach?

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach can stimulate stomach acid production, leading to potential discomfort such as stomach upset or acid reflux.

What happens if you drink coffee on an empty stomach?

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach may increase gastric acid secretion, which can be harmless for many, but it may cause discomfort or irritation for some individuals.

Is it OK to drink coffee first thing in the morning?

Yes, it’s generally okay to drink coffee in the morning, as caffeine can help you wake up by stimulating cortisol production, but individual tolerance should be considered.

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Lorena is a writer and coffee lover who has been researching and writing about coffee for over five years. She has a passion for learning about all aspects of coffee, from how it is grown and harvested to the different brewing methods used around the world. Lorena’s goal is to share her knowledge with as many people as possible, and she does this through her writing on the Brew Coffee Daily. In addition to articles, Lorena also writes coffee reviews, offering readers an unbiased look at different brands and roasts. Whether you’re a coffee novice or a seasoned pro, Lorena’s writing will give you a new perspective on this beloved beverage.

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