If you jump start your day with a cup of joe, you are not alone. A 2018 Reuters study found that 64% of Americans drink coffee each day. The cheery sounds of percolating, the fragrant aroma, and the rich flavor combine with the jolt of caffeine to wake you up and get you on your way. However, downing your cup of coffee on an empty stomach may not be the best way to start your day. Check out these four reasons to avoid consuming coffee on an empty stomach, followed by six tips for making the most of your daily cuppa.
10. Increased Cortisol Levels
According to the Society for Endocrinology, cortisol is a hormone that plays a part in metabolism, immunity, and stress response. Levels of this hormone are generally higher in the morning than at other times of the day. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests that the caffeine in coffee can stimulate additional cortisol production in your body. Higher levels of cortisol can leave you feeling overstimulated and stressed. Drinking coffee on an empty stomach means the caffeine is less diluted and can have a greater, more noticeable effect on your cortisol levels.
When your body produces excess cortisol, it can cause you to feel panicky and anxious. Cortisol is associated with the flight or fight response to perceived danger. When you experience this reaction, you may be left feeling anxious, uneasy, and out of sorts. According to Psycom, other side effects of caffeine can include sleep issues, increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. To dampen these effects, make sure to have some food in your stomach before reaching for a cup of coffee.
Other distressing, stimulating side effects of cortisol and caffeine include agitation, restlessness, and jitters. You may have pulled an all-nighter while cramming for a college exam, or perhaps you have spent a sleepless night prepping a report to meet a deadline. If so, you may have experienced the shakiness and jitters that come from consuming excessive amounts of caffeine on an empty stomach. Again, coating your stomach with a layer of wholesome food can prevent the jitters while providing your body with the nutrients it needs to sustain your energy.
In addition to triggering an increase in cortisol levels, coffee can stimulate your stomach to produce extra acid. Another PNAS study suggests that caffeine causes increased stomach acid production by stimulating certain gastric cells. High levels of stomach acid can lead to symptoms of acid reflux, heartburn, and indigestion. Meanwhile, lining your stomach with a layer of food before consuming your coffee can cushion your stomach against the effects of excessive acid production. Consuming a healthy breakfast or snack will also provide your body with the nutrients it needs to fuel you for the day.
6. Wait Until Mid-Morning
You can enjoy your morning cup of coffee without the unwanted side effects of excess cortisol and stomach acid. One way to achieve this goal is to wait until mid-morning to consume your first cup of joe. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that a United States Army sleep study has come up with an algorithm to determine the optimal time for caffeine consumption. This algorithm is based on an individual’s sleep-wake cycle. However, waiting until after breakfast or until the early afternoon doldrums set in may be helpful for making the most of the dose of caffeine in your coffee beverage.
5. Consider Dark Roast Coffees or Cold Brews
If you are looking to prevent the irritation and discomfort of excess stomach acid, you may want to try switching to a dark roast. An American Chemical Society report suggests that dark roast coffees may be easier on the stomach. Dark roasts may contain chemical substances that signal the stomach to decrease acid production. Furthermore, cold brew coffees may be less acidic and higher in antioxidants than traditionally brewed coffees. Enjoying a cold brew may be less irritating to the lining of your stomach and provide antioxidant protection against damage from free radicals.
4. Add Milk to Your Coffee Cup
You can help decrease the acidity of your coffee by adding a splash of milk or cream to your mug. The calcium in dairy products can help neutralize stomach acids while also providing a dash of calcium and protein. Avoid using highly processed artificial creamers, which usually contain chemical additives. If you enjoy flavored creamers, check out this recipe for Homemade French Vanilla Coffee Creamer at 365 Days of Baking. All you need to make this recipe is whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and pure vanilla extract.
3. Stick to a Maximum of Two Cups Per Day
The more coffee you drink each day, the higher the risk of irritating your stomach or increasing your anxiety. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping caffeine consumption to less than 400 mg per day. With one cup of coffee averaging about 95 mg of caffeine, this equates to about four cups of coffee. However, other beverages and foods, including sodas and chocolate, also contain caffeine. Your personal susceptibility to the stimulating effects of caffeine can help you gauge when you have had enough. The challenging part is listening to your body’s cues.
2. Avoid Drinking Coffee Later in the Day
Keeping coffee consumption to mid-morning or early afternoon can prevent you from suffering the sleep issues associated with caffeine consumption. Some individuals find it difficult to fall asleep at night if they consume coffee after 6 pm. Others find they need to quit the java as early as 2 pm. An early afternoon cup of coffee can help stimulate your brain and keep you alert through the afternoon. Later in the evening, stick to soothing, decaffeinated herbal teas to prevent interrupting your sleep cycle.
1. Consider Adding Cinnamon or Cocoa Powder
Coffee can provide health benefits in the form of hydration, antioxidants, and possible protection from disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and heart failure. However, coffee loaded with sugar, fats, and additives can be detrimental to your health. Instead of stirring sugar into your coffee, try sprinkling in healthful ingredients such as cinnamon, cardamom, or cocoa powder. These spices add flavor, flavonoids, and antioxidants without artificial ingredients or sugars. Detoxinista has a recipe for Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte. This recipe calls for coffee, almond milk, pumpkin puree, real maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice.