Why Does Coffee Trigger Stomach Virus Symptoms?


Coffee is a beverage noted for its stimulating properties. Millions of adults feel they must have their cup of coffee in the morning to function properly. In addition, coffee is a huge industry. Nearly every franchise sells flavored coffees, from Starbucks to McDonald’s. Coffee gives a person energy and makes him more alert. However, too much coffee can have negative side effects. Some people experience symptoms similar to those of a stomach virus when they drink coffee.


Coffee is derived from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, Coffee arabica. The ingredients in coffee are simply water and the roasted coffee beans, which are actually the seeds. The chemical constituents in coffee are the water-soluble compounds in the roasted coffee beans. Coffee contains caffeine and xanthine derivatives. It also contains several types of acids in its unroasted form, including chlorogenic acid and citric acid. Many of the chemicals found in unroasted coffee seeds are destroyed in the roasting process and will oxidize to form new compounds. However, these original chemicals are what give coffee its distinct aroma, and some of these chemicals, such as the caffeine and xanthine derivatives, give it its stimulating qualities.


Symptoms that can occur after ingesting coffee include nausea, anxiety, tiredness, diarrhea, headaches, shakiness, heart palpitations, acid reflux, moodiness, lethargy, insomnia, tension, dehydration, jitters, heartburn and even vomiting. These symptoms range in severity depending upon how much coffee one drinks. Usually one cup of coffee will produce no symptoms. Two or more cups of coffee, however, sometimes produce any of the symptoms above. Many of these symptoms are similar to those caused by a stomach virus.


Caffeine is the primary active ingredient in coffee. It is what provides coffee drinkers with the burst of energy and alertness that they feel after drinking coffee. However, caffeine is also the cause of any negative symptoms they might experience as well. Caffeine combines with the hydrologic acid in the stomach to form a potent toxin known as caffeine hydrochloride. This toxin is what can induce feelings of nausea and might even lead to vomiting. Moreover, the body’s response to this chemical is to flush it out, which causes the liver to excrete more bile. This can lead to a depletion of the essential nutrients the liver needs to detoxify the body. An overload of toxins in the body is what causes feelings of tension, headaches, jitters, moodiness, shakiness, heart palpitations, lethargy and tiredness. Plus, caffeine stimulates the kidneys to flush out water, which can lead to dehydration and diarrhea. Caffeine also increases the secretion of acids in the body, which can cause acid reflux and heartburn.

Decaffeinated Coffee

Many people believe that decaffeinated coffee is safer to drink than caffeinated coffee because it contains no caffeine. However, decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine-free. It merely contains less caffeine content than caffeinated coffee. Decaffeinated coffee is coffee that has had most, but not all, of the caffeine removed. When first picked, coffee beans usually contain one to two percent caffeine by weight. Decaffeinated coffee is coffee that has been through a decaffeination process that removes 90 to 99 percent of that one percent. However, according to a study conducted by Consumer Reports, the milligrams of caffeine in decaffeinated coffee vary. One cup of decaf coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts contained 32 milligrams of caffeine. A cup of decaf coffee from Starbucks contained 21 milligrams, and a cup of decaf coffee from McDonald’s contained less than 5 milligrams. Cups of caffeinated coffee ranged from 58 milligrams to 281 milligrams (See References).


The symptoms experienced after drinking coffee are caused by a caffeine overdose. Doses ranging between 250 milligrams and 750 milligrams of caffeine can cause any of the symptoms listed above. Consuming more than 750 milligrams could lead to a reaction similar to an anxiety attack, such as delirium, ringing ears and light flashes. Generally, two or more cups of caffeinated coffee cause a caffeine overdose. One would have to consume seven or more cups of decaffeinated coffee to experience these symptoms.

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