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Coffee & Heartburn

By Elizabeth Jean

Heartburn, often referred to as acid-reflux or acid indigestion, is an uncomfortable, burning sensation felt in the chest or throat. While occasional heartburn symptoms are not a cause for a concern, frequent heartburn can indicate a more serious condition. A number of factors can trigger heartburn. For example, coffee can stimulate acid production causing heartburn in some people, according to the Georgia Department of Health.


Heartburn occurs when stomach acid backs up in the esophagus. A number of factors contribute to heartburn, including a hiatus hernia and an inadequacy in the lower esophageal sphincter. Obesity, diabetes, smoking, tight clothing, smoking, some medications and frequent vomiting can impair the esophageal sphincter, resulting in an increase in heartburn symptoms. Further, coffee increases stomach acid, which can lead to increased reflux and heartburn.


Heartburn symptoms caused by drinking coffee vary by person but generally includes a burning sensation or pain in the chest or throat. The burning sensation usually happens after eating, drinking or in the evening. The burning sensation worsens when you bend over or lie down. Sometimes a sour or salty fluid can be felt at the back of the mouth. However, chest pain can also indicate a heart attack, so seek immediate medical attention, especially if the chest pain is severe.


Frequent heartburn that occurs more than twice per week can lead to a condition called GERD, which refers to gastroesophageal reflux disease. Over time, untreated reflux can damage the esophagus and cause serious complications such as bleeding, ulcers, Barrett’s esophagus--abnormal lining shape or color--or esophageal cancer, according to MedicinePlus.


Over-the-counter antacids treat mild heartburn symptoms caused by coffee consumption. H-2-receptor blockers reduce acid production but do not act as quickly as antacids. Medications that heal the esophagus while controlling acids are called proton pump inhibitors. Both H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors medications are available over-the-counter and by prescription.Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes, such as avoiding coffee and caffeine or may prescribe medicine to treat GERD. When prescription medicine is not effective in treating GERD, surgery is sometimes necessary. Fundoplication is the usual surgical procedure to treat GERD when lifestyle changes or medication fails to relieve symptoms.


Know your triggers. If drinking coffee on an empty stomach causes you increased heartburn symptoms, eat something while drinking your coffee. Sometimes, it is not necessarily the coffee that is causing the reflux but the caffeine. Try switching to decaffeinated coffee to see if your heartburn symptoms are reduced.

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