The Science of Coffee Heartburn

Do you love coffee, the heartburn you get afterwards not so much? 

Heartburn is the most frequently reported gastrointestinal symptom after drinking coffee. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux, GERD or acid reflux, coffee triggers discomfort for about 68% of daily heartburn sufferers.

A significant amount of research has been conducted on the topic but there's still considerable confusion about how to prevent coffee related heartburn. Based on recent research, here's our take on why coffee causes discomfort for some people and what can be done about it.

Acid: The Wrong Enemy

Many consumers think coffee's acidity, which hovers around pH5, is to blame. However, studies have shown that's not correct. In one experiment, researchers neutralized coffee's acidity and found that those prone to heartburn still experienced symptoms. The conclusion; something in the coffee was causing the stomach to increase acid production.

Complex Beans

Coffee beans contain many complex molecules. Most famous for caffeine, other important molecules include chlorogenic acidpyrogallolN-alkanoyl-hydroxytrptamides and catechol.

Modern biotech techniques have allowed scientists to study the impact of each of these molecules on stomach cells. Remarkably, the presence of any one of these ingredients doesn't seem to trigger stomach acid. In fact, chlorgenic acid and pyrogallol may suppress acid production if present on their own. Instead, it's the unique blend of all these molecules that acts like a signal for stomach cells to start producing acid

Preventing Heartburn

For those with a sensitive stomach, there may be a few ways to avoid the discomfort caused by drinking coffee: 

    1. Avoid brewing methods like espresso or french press that don't use cellulose (paper) filters. Cellulose filters seem to catch oil droplets in the coffee that contain stomach irritants.
    2. Consume darker roasts of coffee (Cultured Coffee is typically a medium roast). The roasting process destroys many coffee molecules including those that irritate the stomach. 
    3. Consume "stomach-friendly" coffee, or beans that have undergone a steam treatment prior to roasting. This eliminates a wax layer naturally found on the outside of the bean, which harbors many of the irritant molecules. However, steam treatments can have a significant detrimental impact on flavor and quality.
    4. Some consumers report finding cold-brewed coffee less irritating, though limited research currently exists to support these claims.
    5. Try fermented coffee! Fermentation digests away many of the irritants found in coffee without impacting flavor. 

Why Try Something Different?

Coffee is a very complex beverage, but we're starting to understand its many nuances.  

For Cultured Coffee, we selected natural microorganisms that significantly lower the concentration of irritants in coffee. By working in partnership with these natural microbes, we produce a lighter, more flavorful roast which doesn't trigger stomach discomfort.

That means anyone, acid reflux or not, can finally savor healthier, exceptional coffee without the pain. And we're just getting started...

 

Learn more about eatCultured's first healthy fermented product: Cultured Coffee 

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