Coffee is the most commonly consumed beverage after water. Coffee fuels our culture and is readily available around every corner in Houston. Coffee is rich in caffeine and tannins, two substances that are known to cause heartburn. It is believed that caffeine and tannins relax an already weak lower esophageal sphincter favoring acid reflux. If you are like many Houstonians who suffer from acid reflux and giving up coffee is hard, what can you do?
First, if you suffer from recurrent heartburn, giving up coffee may not make a huge difference in terms of heartburn frequency and severity. If the reflux barrier is already too weak, coffee consumption is not going to make it weaker. In this situation, Houston Heartburn and Reflux Center recommends evaluation by a reflux specialist. Following a full GERD workup and staging, hiatal hernia repair and Nissen fundoplication may be offered to restore the acid reflux barrier.
Second, if you develop heartburn only when you drink coffee, Houston Heartburn and Reflux Center strongly recommends reducing the amount and frequency of coffee consumption. Heartburn secondary to coffee consumption is a signal from your food pipe to your brain that something not right is happening. Do not mask the signal with a heartburn pill. Heartburn pills do not cure acid reflux. Rather try to solve the problem to prevent further damage from acid reflux. You may try a lighter cup of coffee, decaf coffee or other caffeinated drinks like tea, and yerba mate. Avoid consuming coffee on an empty stomach or shortly before you go to bed. Most importantly, avoid coffee consumption along with other heartburn trigger items like smoking. For instance, if orange juice gives you heartburn, try not to have a cup of orange juice and coffee at the same time. Lastly, you may want to consider coffee substitutes. These are non-coffee products that may or may not contain caffeine. Coffee substitutes imitate coffee taste and color. The taste may not be to your liking, but heartburn is less likely to occur.