You probably think of caffeine as that cup of coffee you have in the morning or afternoon to “ wake you up.” While caffeine does provide a jolt of alertness, it can also cause issues with your digestive system. Coffee, tea, cocoa, soda, and some medications all contain caffeine. It is used to help you feel more alert, boost your metabolism, and enhance your mood. After consuming caffeine, you’ll likely notice its effects within an hour, although it can stay in your body for up to six hours.
Caffeine increases the amount of stomach acid, which can cause heartburn or an upset stomach. If you ingest extra caffeine, it isn’t stored in your body for a burst of energy at a later time. Instead, it is processed through your liver and exits via your urine, which is why you feel the urge to go after you enjoy your coffee. If you have digestive issues, such as gastric reflux or ulcers, it is important to check with your doctor to find out if it is safe to have caffeine. The same holds true if you have other digestive disorders including irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.
You have probably noticed that caffeine has other effects on your digestive system as well. If you suffer from constipation, you might have tried drinking coffee for its laxative effects. Coffee increases a process known as peristalsis, the muscle contractions that propel food through the intestines. Some studies have shown that caffeine may cause abdominal pain by moving food too quickly through the digestive system. In other studies, caffeine appears to slow down digestion. Caffeine is also a diuretic. Diuretics increase urine output which can lead to dehydration, which, in turn, can cause constipation. Regular coffee tends to contain the highest levels of caffeine. Try switching to decaf coffees or teas to cut down on your caffeine consumption.
See how much caffeine is in your favorite beverage:
- An 8-ounce cup of coffee: 95-200 mg
- A 12-ounce can of cola: 35-45 mg
- An 8-ounce energy drink: 70-100 mg
- An 8-ounce cup of tea: 14-60 mg
It is recommended that normal, healthy adults consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine a day. Although serving sizes vary, 400 mg is roughly the amount found in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola, or two “energy shot” drinks. The amount of caffeine in energy drinks varies widely, which is why it is important to read labels. If you are drinking more than four cups of coffee a day, you should gradually to try to cut back to avoid some of the adverse effects of too much caffeine.