Should You Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach ?

Updated on October 28th, 2020
Drinking Coffee On An Empty Stomach

Waking up to a hot and excellent cup of coffee is part of the daily regimen for millions of people worldwide. Coffee can improve our mood, help us feel more alert, and perform well during the day. Even when most people take coffee with their breakfast, many like to grab a coffee on an empty stomach [1].

This may appear like an unhealthy habit, as some might recommend never to have coffee before having eaten something first. This is because it is proven that drinking coffee on an empty stomach can cause digestive problems, raise stress hormone levels, and have other potential side effects.

Coffee is such a renowned beverage that its consumption levels come second only to water in some countries.

Besides helping you feel more alert and less tired, the caffeine in coffee may improve brain function, mood, and exercise performance. It may also protect against illnesses like type Alzheimer’s, 2 diabetes, and heart disease and boost weight loss [2].

Most people enjoy drinking coffee first thing in the morning. Yet, some individuals assert that having it on an empty stomach may risk your health. This article walks you through whether you should drink coffee on an empty stomach.

Does it cause digestive problems?

Studies show that coffee’s bitterness may stimulate stomach acid production. As such, most individuals believe that coffee irritates your stomach, worsens symptoms of gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and causes ulcers, heartburn, acid reflux, nausea,  and indigestion [3].

Some indicate that drinking your cup of coffee on an empty stomach is specifically harmful since there’s no other food found to prevent the acid from damaging the stomach lining. Yet, studies fail to find a strong association between coffee and digestive troubles   — regardless of whether you sip it on an empty stomach [4].

While a small proportion of people are susceptible to coffee and regularly experience vomiting, heartburn, or indigestion, the severity, and frequency of these symptoms remain constant regardless of whether they drink it with food or on an empty stomach.

Still, it’s essential to pay attention to how your body responds. If you experience digestive problems after drinking coffee on an empty stomach but not when drinking it with a meal, consider altering your intake accordingly.

[Also Read: Foods to eat on an Empty Stomach]

Does it raise stress hormone levels?

Another common argument is that having coffee on an empty stomach can increase the stress hormone cortisol levels. Cortisol is developed by our adrenal glands and helps regulate metabolism, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.

Yet, chronically excessive levels can trigger health issues, including bone loss, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Cortisol levels naturally peak around when you wake up, decline over the day, and peak again during the early sleep phases. Surprisingly, coffee stimulates cortisol production. Thus, few individuals claim that drinking it first thing in the morning, when cortisol levels are already high, can be fatal.

However, cortisol generation in response to coffee appears much lower among individuals who drink it frequently, and some trials show no spike in cortisol at all. Plus, there’s little proof to indicate that taking coffee on a full stomach minimizes this response.

What’s more, even if you don’t have it often, any spike in cortisol levels seems to be momentary. There is little reason to confirm that such a short peak would result in long-term health complications.

In short, the adverse effects of chronically high levels of cortisol hormone are more likely to result from a health condition like Cushing’s syndrome than from your coffee consumption.

[Also Read: How to reduce Cortisol Levels]

Other potential side effects

Coffee may also have a few adverse side effects, regardless of whether you consume it on an empty stomach. For example, caffeine can be addictive, and few individuals’ genetics may make them specifically sensitive to it.

That’s because regular coffee consumption can alter your brain chemistry, requiring progressively more massive amounts of caffeine to produce similar effects.

Drinking excessive amounts may lead to restlessness, anxiety, worsened panic attacks, and heart palpitations. It may even result in migraines, headaches, and high blood pressure in a few individuals.

For this reason, most researchers agree that you should cap your caffeine consumption at approx 400 mg per day — the equivalent of 0.95–1.12 liters (4–5 cups) of coffee. Since its effects can last up to seven hours in adults, coffee may also disrupt your sleep, mainly if you consume it late in the day.

Lastly, caffeine can easily cross the placenta, and its effects can last up to sixteen hours longer than normal in pregnant women and their babies. Hence, pregnant women are encouraged to restrict their coffee intake to 240–480 ml (1–2 cups) per day.

Remember that consuming coffee on an empty stomach does not appear to affect these effects’ frequency or strength.

[Also Read: 7 Best Coffee Substitutes]


Most people relish coffee as the initial thing in the morning before they’ve eaten. Despite persistent myths, little scientific proof suggests that drinking it on an empty stomach is harmful. Instead, it likely has the same effects on your body, no matter how you take it.

All the same, if you experience digestive problems when consuming coffee on an empty stomach, try having it with food rather. If you observe an improvement, it may be best to adjust your regimen accordingly.

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