Caffeine Effects on Acid Reflux and GERD

Acid reflux is the regurgitation of stomach acids back to the esophagus. It is often caused by consuming drinks with caffeine.  Acid reflux is often characterized by heartburn, which is described as a burning sensation that starts at the stomach and goes up to the throat. Anyone can suffer from acid reflux from time to time. But when this occurs more frequently, it is already a gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD is a disease which can have many complications, among them are narrowing of the esophagus, bleeding and the formation of cancer. The symptoms associated with complications of GERD are swallowing difficulty, some bleeding and frequent choking episodes.

How is Caffeine Related to Acid Reflux and GERD?

Several studies have been done on the effects of caffeine on acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Beverages containing caffeine include coffee, soft drinks, teas and chocolates with coffee containing the highest amount of caffeine in them. The following are some of the findings on how caffeine can lead to acid reflux and GERD.

1. Caffeine can Decrease the Pressure of the LES or the Lower Esophageal Sphincter

The lower esophageal sphincter or the LES is a tight ring of muscle that is usually close in order to prevent the contents of the stomach from going back to the esophagus. Coffee can have a relaxing effect to the LES, thereby causing small amounts of stomach acids and small amounts of food to go back to the esophagus. When acid reflux occurs occasionally, it causes no problems. However, when frequent episodes occur, GERD develops and the lining of the esophagus becomes damaged which may cause many complications later on.

2. Caffeine Increases Secretion of Stomach Acids

Caffeine stimulates the stomach to secrete more gastric acid. When the stomach is filled with foods and acids, and the LES is weakened by caffeine, there is the tendency for food and stomach acids to go back to the esophagus causing acid reflux and GERD. This is why most patients with GERD or acid reflux are advised not to lie down after eating.

3. Caffeine Makes GABA Less Effective

GABA, or gamma-amino butyric acid, which is a substance produced in the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, has an important role in a person’s response to stress and it has a relaxing effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Caffeine interacts with GABA, thus reducing its functional calming capacity in the GI tract. GABA in the brain is also affected, compromising an individual’s capacity to respond correctly to daily stress. Stress has been found to aggravate heartburn, so less effective stress management can lead to frequent acid reflux and GERD episodes.

How to Avoid Complications of Acid Reflux and GERD

Having an evaluation by a physician can give better results because he can explore the root cause of the conditions thoroughly. Meanwhile, try to avoid foods that can worsen the symptoms, such as citrus foods, spicy foods, beverages containing caffeine, cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol.


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