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I am wondering why coffee makes my stomach turn to the point where it feels like there's a third world war going on.
October 5, 2006 9:40 PM   Subscribe

I am wondering why coffee makes my stomach turn to the point where it feels like there's a third world war going on.

I don't drink coffee often, I'd like to say I do it maybe once or twice per week, if that. However, whenever I do drink it, it absolutely destroys my stomach. Sorry to get graphic, but after about an hour of consuming a cup of coffee, it leads to diarrhea. Everything goes directly through me.

Now in the past, my doctor said 'don't use milk or cream' and I tried that, but it did not do me any good, so milk/cream obviously werent factors in this problem.

I've done an ultrasound twice in the past 2 years, and the doctors kept repeating that everything is fine with my stomach.

What could it be?
posted by cheero to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does it happen with other foods? How does soda affect you? What about other highly acidic stuff? Other things with caffeine? Do you use sugar? Do other sugary drinks cause problems?

The milk/cream experiment was to rule out lactose intolerance. There are all kinds of other gastrointestinal problems that it could be, but without more info, there's not much we can tell you.

If coffee's your only problem, I'm going to state the obvious and say "don't drink it anymore".

Oh, and consider yourself lucky that it's just one beverage. People with IBD/Crohn's get that way after eating damn near everything - not much fun, let me tell ya... :)
posted by chrisamiller at 9:54 PM on October 5, 2006


I can guess why it happens, but will leave that to the experts.
However, I will say that I used to have the same exact problem- especially when I woke up early in the day. Tums helps a lot to negate the ill-effects. And I was drinking coffee as often or less often as you.
Now, I have a job where I drink at least one cup a day. The first day or two, I encountered these same problems which went away after I continued drinking coffee on a daily basis.
posted by jmd82 at 9:59 PM on October 5, 2006


I believe it's the acid in coffee that makes it hell on a lot of people's stomachs. I had to give it up completely about 3 or 4 years ago because I got to the point where I'd have to vomit more often than not within an hour of my morning cup. (I switched to strong black tea + milk in the mornings and haven't had a problem since.)
posted by scody at 10:00 PM on October 5, 2006


It's possible that some roasts will have this effect and some won't. Dark vs light, or beans from different places. I have some anecdotal evidence on that, but if you want to figure out what works for you, experimenting (1/4 cup a day) is the way to go.

But basically, I'll agree with others: drink tea instead.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:12 PM on October 5, 2006


Same problem if decaf=true?
posted by oxford blue at 10:23 PM on October 5, 2006


Have you tried cold-brewed coffee? It's much less acidic, and may be easier on your stomach.
posted by helios at 10:25 PM on October 5, 2006


2 reasons:

Caffeine is a cathartic/laxative and stimulates your poor colon to pump and squeeze like an earthworm on crank.

And something else called the gastrocolic reflex that is particularly aggressive if you get a little extra acid going in the stomach, thus triggering an asplosion thirty feet downstream.

Enjoy the regularity. Constipation is far worse.
posted by docpops at 10:30 PM on October 5, 2006


I have no clue what it could be, but if I get coffee from some places, it can upset my stomach. Other places do not. My guess is the acid thing (not that I am any kind of authority).
posted by synecdoche at 10:49 PM on October 5, 2006


Good coffee from arabica beans may be easier on your innards than crappy robusta coffee. Arabica has about half the caffeine of robusta, too.
posted by QIbHom at 11:01 PM on October 5, 2006


It sucks not to be able to enjoy coffee, I can relate. I have the exact same problems, although not as drastic as you describe. If I have a cup or two infrequently, I don't have a problem but any more then that and its time to find a bathroom and fast.

I've seen a couple articles about naturally decaf coffee beans, however I haven't seen any products coming from these mythical beans. I wouldn't drink decaf myself, if you have some doubts, Alton Brown has a Good Eats episode on coffee and the explaination of why decaf is typically subpar.

The cold brew methods are intriguing, and I'm going to give them a try sometime. From what I've read after reading this article, cold brewing causes a pretty drastic decrease in acid and a limiting of the caffeine. Those two factors combined might contribute to your enjoyment of the brew.

Have you tried cold-brewed coffee? It's much less acidic, and may be easier on your stomach.

Strangely enough I can't find very much information on the process of cold brewing, most of the information is trying to sell you the Toddy cold brewer. As far as I can tell you put a pound of coarse ground coffee and 9 cups of water together overnight. Pass that through a filter and the result is a coffee concentrate that can then be mixed with regular water at a 3:1 ratio.

Otherwise you might try something other then coffee. When I gave up coffee, I found that teas just tasted weak, but Yerba Mate was strong enough to taste enough like coffee that I could drink it. If you find that you can't handle the coffee no matter how it's prepared, you might want to look into something like it.
posted by gregschoen at 11:35 PM on October 5, 2006


I think different people react differently to large doses of strongly caffineated liquid. It doesn't have to be anything especially wrong with you, people can get various coffee side-effects, like sweats, tremors, gas and other problems (possibly in addition to other stomach trouble). It's just a drug like any other, so side-effects are unpredictable and not unexpected.

I find drinking espresso minimises this possibilty, I guess because you don't have a load of nasty liquid floating around. Also, what QIbHom said; top quality arabica, brewed well, is the way to go. And make sure you've had a decentish meal in the past hour or two before drinking.
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:43 PM on October 5, 2006


Hm. I have the same issue with Coca Cola only. I can drink coffee all day long. A few sips of Coke and BAM, my stomach is torn up for the next several hours.
posted by smallerdemon at 11:56 PM on October 5, 2006


I have the exact same problem and am glad I am not alone. If I stay away from caffeine of any form, and take acidophilus pills and an acid-reducer, I can get myself back to normal in a couple of days.

Regular diarrhea is not fun - can really wear you down and strip you of all the healthy stuff.
posted by zaebiz at 12:35 AM on October 6, 2006


Do you have the same problems if you're drinking the coffee on an empty stomach vs a full stomach? I find that eating a meal first mitigates the stomach discomfort substantially.
posted by platinum at 1:31 AM on October 6, 2006


an acid-reducer

Holy Crap...err... yeah. I never even connected the two. That actually makes perfect sense. I was sick recently, started taking acid reducer and cut coffee out of my diet. The acid reducer was for my heart burn / reflux, and the coffee was because I was having some problems with my bum getting irritated after I went to the bathroom. (its and on and off thing, and tends to get really really bad when I'm stressed, which I am as I'm starting a new job on Monday.).

I was feeling better, so I decided to start having a little coffee, but then, without even thinking, I stopped taking the acid reducer, and now I'm having the bum problem again, after it being gone for a few weeks, from what I thought was me removing coffee from my diet. So it might be that I stopped taking my acid reducer.

I'm going to have to experiment to see if this is the case! Have I mensioned that I <3 Metafilter?
posted by gregschoen at 2:52 AM on October 6, 2006


My wife and I have done well with Sumatran coffee, and badly with Columbian. I've been told the Sumatran is very low acidity. Columbian hurt bad enough we just dumped it.
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:23 AM on October 6, 2006


Though I can't find a link to back this up now, I believe it's Maxwell House that is coming out with a coffee for stomach-sensitive people. I've seen commercials for it every day this week, so I know I'm not just imagining things.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:03 AM on October 6, 2006


Though I can't find a link to back this up now, I believe it's Maxwell House that is coming out with a coffee for stomach-sensitive people. I've seen commercials for it every day this week, so I know I'm not just imagining things.

I think you're talking about this.
posted by gregschoen at 6:45 AM on October 6, 2006


most of the information is trying to sell you the Toddy cold brewer.

A friend of my got a Toddy for Christmas last year and loves it. He says it's smoother, to the point where he doesn't need cream and sugar. I've not tried it, though.

Columbian hurt bad enough we just dumped it.

A different friend told me the same thing when I was complaining about stomach pain from coffee. She said that I would probably want to avoid all Latin American coffees, so I did, and I rarely have issues anymore.

Just to recap other's responses, it's a combination of the acidity and the diuretic effect - the former causing the stomach pain, the latter causing the diarrhea.
posted by cabingirl at 6:47 AM on October 6, 2006


I've always thought it was the acidity. When I brew coffee, it's usually from very dark roasts and strong enough to strip paint. Usually goes right through me, especially with little to eat. I've found eating carbs tends to help, though - toast and bagels are good, cereal not as much. When I buy coffee from the local Dunkin-Horton-Bucks, it usually doesn't happen.

Weirdly enough, this also happens almost without fail anytime I need to travel early in the morning. Get up at four to drive several hours, stop on the road for a bagel and coffee, and I'm suddenly tearing down the highway desperate for the next rest stop.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:18 AM on October 6, 2006


Save yourself from the ass-foam inducing oils and acids excreted from your drip feed coffee supply and get a Toddy ASAP. You will love coffee again, and the end result is a much more versatile base material for any kind of drink you (or your guests) like - bonus, it stays around for two weeks in your fridge so none of it is wasted (who really drinks the last 1/4th of any drip pot anyways? It looks like the bottom of the Mississippi!)

It sounds really silly, but it is the greatest. Makes the best teas too. I can't believe I ever drank standard drip with any regularity... neither can my digestive system.
posted by prostyle at 9:26 AM on October 6, 2006


Yes, just to add my voice to the chorus of acid-blame. Especially on an empty stomach, early in the morning, as backseatpilot says.

A good few places now (Trader Joe's, speciality coffee shops) sell low-acid coffee, which is much easier on the stomach lining. Try it and see does it work for you.
posted by Boobus Tuber at 11:38 AM on October 6, 2006


I have similar problems with coffee, and this thread's been immensely helpful. I don't have much to add, except that certain coffee brands, such as Starbucks, tend to cause more problems for me than other brands.
posted by tickingclock at 11:53 AM on October 6, 2006


Metafilter: stimulates your poor colon to pump and squeeze like an earthworm on crank
posted by joecacti at 11:53 AM on October 6, 2006


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