I found it interesting that this month that the ENTIRE issue of Delta Airline's Sky Magazine is devoted to our fascination with coffee. Everything from caffeinated lip balm to the world's great java-related destinations are covered. But if you are living with acid reflux disease should coffee really be the drink of choice?
Researchers at Stanford University recently tried to answer this question. They looked at all of the research published between 1975 and 2004 pertaining to the effect of lifestyle modifications on persons with acid reflux disease. Included in their search was the impact of coffee, chocolate, alcohol, obesity, and bed elevation on acid reflux symptoms. What they found was that the only lifestyle changes that made a difference for GERD symptoms were weight loss and head of bed elevation. In their search, they found no evidence of improvement of acid reflux symptoms after the cessation of tobacco, alcohol or coffee.
An earlier study (1999) looked specifically at the effect of coffee on patients with GERD. These researchers used a very small sample of 15 persons in their study, with one group of eight persons having acid reflux disease, and one group of seven persons without acid reflux disease. The researchers had each group alternate between drinking warm water and coffee, and then measured the acid reflux in each group. They found that drinking coffee had no significant effect on acid reflux in either the individuals with or without acid reflux disease.
The most interesting part for me is that many individuals report that coffee makes their acid reflux symptoms worse, even though these research studies show that coffee doesn't even for those individuals with acid reflux disease. I think the point the anecdotal information and the research information support is that individuals vary in their reaction to certain foods and beverages.
The bottom line is that if you have acid reflux disease, your reaction to coffee or any other beverage will be very individualized. If someone tells you that coffee will definitely make it worse you now know that is not necessarily true. However, the research to date on the topic is very thin and so when it comes to coffee and acid reflux you need to determine what works best for you.