The Effect of Tea and Coffee on IBD, IBS & Heartburn

Updated: Sep 2

Whenever we get to the 'tell me about your diet' part of a new patient appointment there is always a hesitation before a patient says how much caffeine they drink.

Probably more than sugar, fat, salt or gluten - caffeine seems to be the indulgence we have the most trouble parting ways with.

Fortunately for most, there is no reason to banish caffeine completely. As with most things, when ingested in moderation most people handle caffeine just fine.

Those with digestive symptoms are in a slightly different situation.

There are specific cases when caffeine can be causing or contributing to a condition like Crohn's Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or acid reflux.

a cup of coffee or tea. text overlay The Effects of Caffeine on Digestion. IBS, IBD & Heartburn. Functional Healthcare Institute

Caffeine and Overall Health

On the whole, caffeine (consumed in coffee) has shown significant, long term associations with longevity, even for those who are slow metabolizers of caffeine [1]. The benefits continue up until 5 cups of coffee per day [2].

Tea, and green tea in particular, has remarkable health benefits and has been shown to reduce your chances of diabetes, stroke, abdominal fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and overall mortality [3].

Soda, on the other hand, is so full of dyes, preservatives, added sugar and other cancer causing ingredients that it does not offer any health benefits. In fact, just one can of soda a day [4] increases your risk of dying.

Help Or Hurt Acid Reflux?

Both coffee and tea have been known to cause acid reflux in some, and not be a problem for others.

Here is what the latest science says about both.


The consumption of coffee can increase the secretion of gastric acid [5]. Most assume that this is why coffee can give them acid reflux but the whole picture is a little more complicated.

Low stomach acid is the most common cause of acid reflux. In fact, taking acid-suppressing tablets can actually impair your digestion (and contribute to acid reflux) as gastric acid is a very necessary component of your digestion.

illuminated digestive tract
Coffee consumption can cause irritation in the esophagus and stomach as well as weaken the lower esophageal sphincter

If the acidity in your coffee is a trigger for your acid reflux then 'cold brew' processed coffee or low acid coffee variations have been known to allow acid sensitive patients to still enjoy their coffee without the punishing burn afterwards.

If low acid coffee still causes you symptoms then water-processed decaffeinated coffee may offer relief.

If these variations still cause symptoms, you could do a trial period without coffee.

Coffee is one of the most important things to taper off of slowly, as withdrawal symptoms can be severe and frequently involve gastrointestinal symptoms as well as anxiety and irritability.


Tea has been known to cause heartburn in some and suppress it in others. Often, patients can handle tea just fine when coffee causes them symptoms.

A meta-analysis looking at the relationship between tea and acid reflux found that tea did not cause acid reflux (except in populations in east Asia) [6].

Your reaction, however, may be based on something other than caffeine so always listen to your body.

If tea causes you to have symptoms then try decaffeinated, a different variety, or think about cutting it out altogether.

Read more about The Root Cause of Heartburn

As A Remedy For Constipation

The chemical makeup of coffee encourages regularity - it stimulates the production of stomach acid, which kick starts your digestive system.

highlighted colon
Caffeine stimulates muscle contraction, thereby aiding in perista