Coffee and disorders of the stomach


Dyspepsia is a term covering a group of symptoms including poor digestion, pain, and discomfort in the upper digestive tract. Research to date does not show any relationship between coffee consumption and dyspepsia.

  • Several studies have found no relation between coffee consumption and dyspepsia3-5. One study which considered the effect of alcohol, coffee and smoking on GI symptoms revealed 37% of 500 adults considered coffee to be a cause of dyspepsia. However, further investigations show no association between drinking coffee and this condition. Both smoking and having stopped smoking are strongly associated with dyspepsia3.
  • A UK cross sectional study of 8,407 individuals also suggested that there is no association between coffee consumption and dyspepsia, but showed a significant relationship between the presence of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and dyspepsia6.

Gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

Gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is an uncomfortable reflux condition caused by return of stomach acid into the oesophagus. It is suggested that common causes are the consumption of spicy or fatty food and overeating7. Coffee has been suggested as a possible cause in some cases, however there is no evidence that coffee consumption affects the symptoms of GORD7-15. Those who suffer from symptoms often self-regulate their diet according to their own sensitivities and some patients may choose to limit their coffee consumption7.

  • Although some research suggests coffee drinking is perceived as a risk factor for GORD, several studies have found no association9-11
  • Research from the Netherlands involving monitoring reflux, using a catheter inserted inside the oesophagus of sufferers show that coffee only has an impact when consumed on an empty stomach, and the effect on reflux is smaller than that observed following consumption of a full meal. Coffee was not found to affect other factors associated with reflux such as the functioning of the oesophageal sphincter muscle. The researchers concluded that coffee itself does not affect GORD in healthy volunteers3.
  • A large patient control study in Norway involving 3,153 sufferers and 40,210 controls examined associations between reflux and lifestyle factors. Both smoking and high salt consumption appear to have the greatest impact. The researchers suggest that coffee consumption, together with consumption of high fibre bread and regular physical movement lowered the risk of GORD12.
  • A further study of lifestyle factors and reflux in twins suggests that high BMI, smoking and lack of physical activity at work are risk factors for frequent GORD symptoms13. No nutritional factors, including coffee consumption, have been found to have a link and in fact, in men the consumption of more than seven cups of coffee per day is associated with a lower risk of reflux13.
  • A 2006 review of 16 studies assessing the role of lifestyle factors in GORD shows that modifying eating habits, including coffee consumption, does not affect symptoms of acid reflux14. A further 2013 meta analysis also showed no association between coffee intake and GORD15.
  • One study suggests that consuming decaffeinated coffee at breakfast time reduces acid reflux16, but this has not been confirmed in other studies and conclusions cannot be drawn.

Peptic ulcers

Peptic ulcers are lesions that develop in the mucosa of the stomach wall causing pain and discomfort. Previously, coffee has been linked with the development of peptic ulcers. However, in recent years research has focused on understanding the role of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) in the development of peptic ulcers. Studies investigating the risk factors for the development of stomach ulcers conclude that coffee is no longer considered a risk factor17,18.

  • A Danish cohort study of 2,416 adults assessed the risk factors for stomach ulcers and concluded that pylori, smoking and use of tranquilisers are risk factors. Coffee consumption was found not to be a risk factor17.
  • A 2013 cross-sectional study of 8,013 healthy subjects in Japanalso shows no association between coffee consumption and peptic ulcers18.


Gastritis is a slight inflammation of the stomach wall, which is generally unnoticeable however, more serious gastritis can cause ulcers, with associated pain. There is no evidence that coffee influences the development of gastritis17,18.

Patients who suffer with painful gastritis often choose to avoid certain foods or beverages if they experience discomfort, and self-management is common17,18.

Stomach Cancer

Research to date shows that there is no evidence to suggest a link between coffee consumption and the risk of developing stomach cancer. In 2016 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reviewed all available scientific evidence and found no clear association between coffee intake and cancer at any body site, including the stomach31.

  • A previous systematic review and a meta-analysis of 23 studies found no association between coffee consumption and the development of stomach cancer34.
  • Findings from the EPIC Cohort study suggest that consumption of total coffee intake, as well as intakes of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee are not associated with overall gastric cancer risk. However, total coffee and caffeinated coffee consumption may be associated with an increased risk of gastric cardia cancer35.

Further detailed information is available in the Cancer section of the Coffee and Health website here.

This information is intended for Healthcare professional audiences.
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