GERD and Drinks: Coffee, Tea
GERD is a condition when either stomach acid or bile is permitted to re-enter the esophagus. This is often due to excessive production of stomach acid and a weak esophageal sphincter- the valve that is located in between the stomach and the esophagus. Certain foods can increase stomach acid production. Others can weaken the esophageal sphincter. Foods that can cause one condition or the other should be avoided to reduce the occurrence and severity of GERD symptoms.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural substance that can be found in tea leaves, coffee beans and coca. Caffeine is also found in colas, energy drinks and some sports drinks – some of them being a synthetic form of caffeine.
Caffeine is colorless and has a bitter taste. Caffeine contains no calories but it works as a stimulant on the body. It can cause rapid heartbeat, restlessness, anxiety, excessive urination, vomiting, sleeplessness, nausea, tremors and depression. It can also aggravate GERD.
Caffeinated Beverages and GERD
Caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea actually affect GERD in two ways. First, it can weaken the esophageal sphincter. This can last up to 90 minutes after consumption and the effect is almost immediate. The weakening of the sphincter can worsen GERD symptoms.
Caffeine can also stimulate acid secretion in the stomach. This can last up to several hours after consumption. Increased stomach acid leads to worsening GERD symptoms.
The amount of caffeine may also have an impact to how severe GERD symptoms are after drinking a caffeinated beverage. According to Mayo Clinic, the amount of caffeine found in a beverage is greatly determined by the way that the drink is prepared. Instant coffees and teas often have less caffeine than brewed coffees and teas.
Decaffeinated Coffee and Tea
For some individuals, limited amounts of decaffeinated coffee or tea may be okay. It is important, however, to remember that both contain small amounts of caffeine and acid secretion may still occur, even with decaffeinated coffee or teas. You should carefully monitor your symptoms to determine if the consumption of decaffeinated coffees and teas are safe for you.
Herbal teas are not actually produced from tea leaves. They are actually produced from herbs and roots. Therefore, they do not contain caffeine. In some cases, herbal teas like chamomile or ginger tea may be soothing to GERD sufferers. Just be careful to avoid peppermint teas because peppermint is considered a trigger for GERD.
Removing Caffeine from Your Diet
Removing caffeine from your diet can be an effective way of helping you reduce your GERD symptoms. However, because caffeine can create a dependency, it can be difficult to stop using caffeine on a daily basis especially if you are used to consuming caffeine in large quantities throughout the day.
Caffeine withdrawals can occur from sudden cessation of caffeine. This can include headaches, irritability, fatigue, vomiting, nausea and other symptoms. To avoid withdrawal symptoms, you should gradually decrease your caffeine consumption each day or as you can handle it. This can be difficult to implement but there are a few techniques that others have found helpful.
One technique is to keep a chart of your caffeine intake each day. Take note of how many milligrams of caffeine is found in the beverage of your choice. Write down how many milligrams you intake each day and check to ensure that your consumption is decreasing consistently.
Another tip is to allot a predetermined amount of caffeine until it is non-existent. You may want to have a friend or family member hold you accountable so that you don’t allot yourself more caffeine than you should be using. Even with this technique, you may find it very beneficial to use some sort of caffeine recording system to help you stay on track.
Other Sources of Caffeine
Caffeine can come from sources other than coffee or tea. Sources like chocolate, headache pills and cough syrups or cold medicines are often overlooked sources of caffeine. Before you purchase any of these items, be sure to check the label for caffeine. This will help you avoid adding extra caffeine into your diet.
Caffeine Not the Only Culprit
While caffeine can play a big part in GERD symptoms, it is not the only factor. GERD can be caused by many different factors and you should talk to your doctor about your lifestyle and your condition so that the two of you can develop an effective treatment plan.
You should also see your doctor on a regular basis or if you do not see any improvement in your GERD symptoms. Regular visits can help to ensure that your GERD stays under control and a visit to your doctor if symptoms persist can ensure that your treatment plan is changed before symptoms and your condition worsen. Medication or surgery may be needed along with diet and lifestyle changes.