Coffee and disorders of the stomach

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

  • Research on GI symptoms and alcohol, coffee and smoking in 500 adults suggested that 38% of people considered coffee to be a cause of dyspepsia.1
  • However, further research from the same group showed no association between drinking coffee and this condition.2 Both smoking and having stopped smoking were strongly associated with dyspepsia.3
  • Two further studies similarly found no relation between coffee consumption and dyspepsia.4,5
  • A UK cross sectional study of 8,407 individuals also suggested that there was no association between coffee consumption and dyspepsia, but showed a significant relationship between the presence of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and dyspepsia.6

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 overeating.7 Coffee has been suggested as a possible cause in some cases. There is no evidence that coffee consumption affects the symptoms of GORD. However, those who suffer symptoms often self regulate their diet according to their own sensitivities and some patients may choose to limit their coffee consumption.

  • Research from the Netherlands involved monitoring reflux using a catheter inserted inside the oesophagus of sufferers and controls.3 The results showed that coffee only had an impact when consumed on an empty stomach, and the effect on reflux was 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 volunteers.
  • A large patient control study in Norway involving 3,153 sufferers and 40,210 controls examined associations between reflux and lifestyle factors.8 Both smoking and high salt consumption appeared to have the greatest impact.  The researchers suggested that coffee consumption, together with consumption of high fibre bread and regular physical movement lowered the risk of GORD.
  • A further study of lifestyle factors and reflux in twins suggested that high BMI, smoking and lack of physical activity at work were risk factors for frequent GORD symptoms.9 No nutritional factors, including coffee consumption, were found to have a link and in fact, in men the consumption of more than seven cups of coffee per day was associated with a lower risk of reflux.
  • A 2006 review of 16 studies10 assessing the role of lifestyle factors in GORD showed that modifying eating habits, including coffee consumption, did not affect symptoms of acid reflux.  A further 2012 meta analysis also showed no association between coffee intake and GORD.11
  • Further research in Italy12 and Australia13 also found no effect of coffee consumption on GORD.
  • One studyhas suggested that consuming decaffeinated coffee at breakfast time reduced acid reflux14, 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 have concluded that coffee is no longer considered a risk factor.

  • A Danish cohort study of 2,416 adults assessed the risk factors for stomach ulcers and concluded that H. pylori, smoking and use of tranquilisers were risk factors. Coffee consumption was found not to be a risk factor.15
  • A 2012 cross-sectional study of 8,013 healthy subjects in Japan16 also showed no association between coffee consumption and peptic ulcers.

Gastritis is a slight inflammation of the stomach wall, which is generally unnoticed.  However, more serious gastritis can cause ulcers, with associated pain.

  • A prospective cohort study among 47,806 men found 138 new cases of duodenal ulcers after six years. No relationship was found with caffeine intake, nor with the incidence of smoking or alcohol consumption.17

Patients who suffer painful gastritis often choose to avoid certain foods or beverages if they experience discomfort, and self-management of such a condition is common.

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 stomach18.

  • A previous systematic review and a meta-analysis of 23 studies found no association between coffee consumption and the development of stomach cancer19.

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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