Is It Bad to Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach? The Short Answer Is Yes

First you drink the coffee. Then you do the things. Most of us drink coffee for that jolt of energy we need to be human start our day. Studies show drinking coffee has many other health benefits, such as easing muscle pain, improving memory, keeping you regular, and protecting against diseases like Parkinson's and diabetes. If getting coffee into your body is your absolute top priority in the morning, is there anything unhealthy or detrimental about drinking coffee on an empty stomach?

Paul Kaba

The only issue with enjoying your soy latte before eating a single bite is that coffee (even decaffeinated coffee) can increase the production of stomach acid. If your digestive system tends to be sensitive, it could damage the lining of the stomach and make your indigestion, heartburn, or IBS symptoms worse.

Drinking coffee on an empty stomach can also heighten anxiety symptoms, causing jitters, an increased heart rate, irritability, and an inability to focus.

Another reason not to drink coffee first thing in the morning has to do with our internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. It's responsible for the release of the hormone called cortisol, which is released under stress but which also effects your energy levels.

Your body's cortisol levels peak between 8 and 9 a.m., helping your body to wake up naturally. And while it makes sense that consuming caffeine would be the perfect companion to cortisol, scientists have found that consuming caffeine can decrease cortisol levels and greatly diminish the caffeine's buzzy effect. What?!

That means you'll need to drink more and more coffee to feel that jolt, and your body will become more and more dependent on that morning cappuccino. (Are you already experiencing this?!) When it comes to cortisol, the best time to drink coffee is actually between 10 a.m. and noon.

So the answer is, yes, drinking coffee on an empty stomach can be bad news. If you're reading this and thinking, "I've been drinking my coffee on an empty stomach for years and it doesn't bother me," then you're probably fine to keep doing what you're doing.

On the other hand, if you're experiencing some of these digestive or anxiety symptoms, but you don't want to give up your coffee mug first thing in the morning, try drinking a huge glass of water beforehand. Certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition, says it's a good idea to drink your coffee with your breakfast instead of before it — try this coffee protein smoothie. If you're concerned about your cortisol levels, but you wake up many many hours before 10 a.m., then wait at least an hour after waking to get your coffee fix.