Coffee and chest pain

The Coffee/Heartburn Connection — My “Near Death” Experience

TastyHealthProductsFollow Jul 23, 2013 · 4 min read

As somebody who was wonderfully blessed to have never suffered heartburn a day in my life, I was suddenly at a loss for what was happening as I clutched my upper chest and throat thinking I was dying. I had a regular morning routine: a small breakfast of a fresh, organic hardboiled egg, a slice of cantaloupe, a small glass of fresh orange juice, and two cups of black coffee. By mid afternoon, I would be reaching for the coffeepot again, looking for a pick me up after lunch (usually a less healthy option of fast food or even skipping lunch altogether), and one day, just after I finished my second afternoon cup of coffee, I gasped for air feeling like I was having a heart attack.
Thankfully, but embarrassingly, it was not a heart attack I was suffering. Instead, it was heartburn I couldn’t believe it! Heartburn! More specifically, acid reflux or GERD. For somebody who had never had heartburn in 30 years, I was completely shocked that I was having it at all.

After my near brush with death (or so I believed), I decided I didn’t want to suffer from the feeling or the long-term effects of heartburn or acid reflux ever again and started to do more research on the subject to identify and avoid some of the culprits. Among the greatest culprit in my diet: coffee.

Why Does Coffee Cause Heartburn?
There are a few reasons, actually, why coffee contributes to heartburn and why frequent consumption of coffee can lead to more severe long term problems. First of all, coffee actually relaxes the muscles at the top of your stomach, known as the esophageal sphincter. The muscles usually function to tightly close off to prevent stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus. When the esophageal sphincter relaxes from caffeine consumption associated with coffee drinking, the valve does not remain closed, and stomach acid will begin to back up into the esophagus and causes the pain associated with heartburn and acid reflux.

Another reason why coffee causes heartburn has to do with the chemical makeup of coffee itself. The tannins in coffee are known to cause GERD. While tannins are known as powerful antioxidants, they can be extraordinarily acidic and can lead to the onset of worsening of heartburn or GERD. The astringent chemical is found in high quantities in some wines, teas, and particularly in coffee, and is what gives it the somewhat sharp, bitter taste and drying feeling In your mouth.
Coffee is known to trigger more stomach acid production. Aside from having two known contributing factors to heartburn, the added stomach acid secretions can contribute even more largely to coffee causing severe heartburn. When the stomach begins pumping out extra acid, it can begin backing up into the esophagus, particularly after a meal. Extra pressure and an over-filled stomach will demand a place for the extra stomach acid—often the path of least resistance is up and into the esophagus where it causes the symptoms of heartburn and GERD.

Will Switching To Decaffeinated Coffee Cause Less Heartburn?
It is hard to say. In some cases, it might help reduce the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. Decaf coffee still has some amounts of caffeine, and it also still contains the tannic acid which is responsible in some cases for the symptoms associated with heartburn and acid reflux. So while switching to decaf coffee can’t hurt, it also might not help, either. Your best bet will likely be to avoid coffee altogether to prevent heartburn from becoming debilitating.

Not everybody suffers from heartburn as dramatic as mine was. Surprisingly, though, many people do mistake heartburn for a heart attack and vice versa. While I certainly know now what the cause of my heartburn was, I am able to avoid it. While I still enjoy my occasional cup of coffee, I realize that frequently drinking the aromatic beverage may lead to the problems I battled from acid reflux and heartburn. I also learned that frequent heartburn or GERD can actually lead to some permanent damage including esophageal scarring. Even more frightening, my grandfather died of esophageal cancer, which turned out to be the result of frequent acid reflux.

There are a number of factors which can contribute to heartburn, but one of the biggest culprits for many people is coffee. Coffee is a triple threat to invoking the symptoms of heartburn—between the chemical causing the esophageal sphincter to relax and allow stomach acid to back up into the esophagus, the tannic acid, and the increased stomach acid production that occurs from consuming coffee, the likelihood of suffering from heartburn as a result is fairly high.

I always drink an organic coffee substitute now, to make sure I never experience this again. It doesn’t matter what brand, as long it even tastes half as good as real coffee, I just choose to not make my body age any faster than it already does.

Caffeine & Its Cardiovascular Effects: Can Caffeine Cause Chest Pain?

About Caffeine & Its Cardiovascular Effects

Caffeine whether it is in the form of an energy drink, coffee, or tea is safe to use if consumed in moderation. Excess of caffeine can adversely affect the cardiovascular health of an individual. Caffeine tends to contract the blood vessels and thus promotes symptoms like chest pains, hypertension, and other cardiovascular diseases.

Immediately after consuming caffeine, there may be a slight increase in blood pressure and heart rate due to temporary constriction of blood vessels but this is generally seen in people who are not regular consumers of caffeinated beverages.

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However, a study has shown that moderate consumption of caffeine does not affect heart health in any way and in fact has some health benefits but again it should not be consumed in excess as then it may start affecting the overall cardiovascular health.

Can Caffeine Cause Chest Pain?

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The answer to this question is yes. In some cases where an individual relies on caffeine heavily and is prone to drinking caffeinated beverages in excess then it may lead to a variety of symptoms like fast heartbeats, insomnia, and even chest pain.

Individuals who have a history of GERD may have worsening of their condition after consumption of caffeinated products the symptoms of which may mimic chest pains.

Thus, some individuals who have an extremely fragile immunity system may have chest pains after consuming caffeine. There have been some rare cases where caffeinated drinks have led to an individual having severe chest pains and a myocardial infarction as a result of drinking caffeine but such incidents are few and far between.

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An immune fragile individual may have chest pain with excessive consumption of caffeinated products; however, there are no reports to suggest that moderate or little consumption of caffeine have been related top chest pains.

Also Read:

  • Caffeine Overdose Symptoms: What Happens if You Drink too Much of Caffeine?
  • Myths & Facts about Caffeine
  • How Much Caffeine is Considered Safe & Does Decaffeinated Coffee Contain Zero Caffeine?
  • What is Caffeine & Is There Anything Such as too Much Caffeine?
  • Is Caffeine Addictive|Does Caffeine Cause Weight Loss or Bone Loss|Is Caffeine Safe for Women, Children
  • What is Caffeine Intoxication or Caffeine Overdose & How is it Treated?
  • What Is The Relationship Between Pericarditis And Caffeine?

Caffeine Allergy: Top 20 Symptoms

Allergic to caffeine? It seems like you aren’t alone as hundreds of people have now testified to strange reactions experienced after caffeine consumption.

This article has been compiled from anecdotal evidence. Some people do not metabolize caffeine as well as others. Others are also sensitive to adrenaline. It pays to know your limits with caffeine. If you suspect that caffeine is causing problems, this can be tested by eliminating it from the diet.

Some time ago, we published a short post about the possibility of allergic reactions to caffeine.

That post received hundreds of comments from those who claimed to have experienced some type of adverse reaction to caffeine.

We have painstakingly sifted through all those comments, compiling the top 20 caffeine allergic reactions in order from most common to least common.

In most cases, these symptoms were reported after only having a little to moderate amount of caffeine through coffee, tea, soda and/or energy drinks.

Most Common Allergic Reactions to Caffeine

  1. Skin problems such as hives, eczema, rashes, acne, severe itching
  2. Headaches or migraines
  3. Anxiety and panic attacks
  4. Can’t focus or concentrate
  5. Tongue, glands, or throat swelling
  6. Heart racing or palpitations
  7. Angry, irritable, bad mood
  8. Fatigue
  9. Dizziness
  10. Extreme jitters
  11. Chest Pain
  12. Depression
  13. Numbness in face, hands, or feet
  14. Muscle pain
  15. Shortness of breath or tightness of chest
  16. Delusions or hallucinations
  17. Flu/ cold-like symptoms
  18. Vision problems
  19. Cold sweats
  20. Eyes swollen shut

Need to quit caffeine? Get expert help here.

Is this Scientific Evidence?

At least one scientific study has shown that people can have anaphylactic reactions to caffeine and is confirmed by a skin prick test.1

There is evidence regarding the inability to process caffeine as some people lack the genes responsible for this or the genes aren’t being expressed as they should be. This allows caffeine to build up in a person’s body rather than being broken down properly. These people are described as hypersensitive to caffeine.2

The above data is entirely based on anecdotal evidence, so don’t take it as gospel or scientific, but rather consider these caffeine allergy symptoms as possible since they were reported by a large number of people. If a person suspects a caffeine allergy, he/she should cease caffeine consumption immediately and then assess as to whether it was indeed the caffeine. The symptoms should subside after caffeine is eliminated.

Did you know that rutaecarpine can remove caffeine from your system faster? Find out how here.

There is a fine line between what would be called caffeine sensitivity and what would be called caffeine allergy, but overall we’re dealing with the body not being able to correctly process the caffeine molecule, so whether it’s called sensitivity or allergy is up for debate.

Most people who commented on the original article reported several of the above symptoms and some of the caffeine allergy symptoms were quite bizarre. The symptoms that were the strangest included itchy ears & anus suffered by one poor soul and a sweaty butt crack reported by another…

Caffeine allergy has also been linked to a form of ADD and dementia in adults. The claim is that caffeine-induced anaphylaxis impairs people’s abilities to concentrate and remember things. (Src.)

Could It Be Mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are essentially chemicals produced by fungi and they can produce all kinds of negative reactions when ingested by humans. A recent study3 from the University of Valencia in Spain found that commercially sold coffee is often contaminated with mycotoxins. They’ve identified 18 different mycotoxins that are commonly found in coffee and found that the levels in decaffeinated coffee are often higher than that of regular coffee.

If you have a reaction to coffee but not other caffeinated products, there’s a good chance that you are sensitive to mycotoxins and not the caffeine.

What To Do If You Are Suffering

  1. Explore our extensive Caffeine in Food database as well as our Caffeine in Beverages database in order to be aware of all the products that have caffeine listed as an ingredient along with the amount they contain.
  2. Eliminate these products from your diet. There may be a period of caffeine withdrawal where you actually feel worse.
  3. Assess whether your symptoms have disappeared. It may take up to 2 weeks for all of caffeine’s effects to wear off.

Please note: A surprising number of products contain caffeine, and some have a lot more than what you think.

Even decaffeinated drinks still contain caffeine – although only a small amount such as decaf brewed coffee.

Education is the best way to prevent an allergic reaction to caffeine.

Written by Ted Kallmyer, last updated on November 15, 2019

Aug. 15, 2006 — That cup of coffee you’re craving might not be such a good idea.

Research in the September issue of Epidemiology suggests coffee can trigger a heart attack within an hour in some people.

Java junkies can take some comfort from the finding that the risk was highest among light coffee drinkers (those who consumed up to one cup a day).

For those people, the risk of heart attack increased fourfold when they indulged.

Couch potatoes and those with other risk factors for heart disease were also at greater risk of having a heart attack after drinking a cup of coffee, the study showed.

As a result of these findings, “people at high risk for a heart attack who are occasional or regular coffee drinkers might consider quitting coffee altogether,” says researcher Ana Baylin, a research associate at Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, RI, in a news release.

Baylin, who works in the department of nutrition at Brown, adds that for these individuals, a cup of coffee could be “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Baylin and colleagues suggest caffeine causes short-term increases in blood pressure and sympathetic nervous activity that could trigger a heart attack.

On the other hand, previous studies have shown coffee drinkers may be at decreased risk for Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancers.

Just a couple of calories a cup, good old black coffee packs quite a punch. It wakes you up, boosts your metabolic rate and decreases the risk of some diseases.

Not that habitual coffee drinkers need convincing, but evidence of its health benefits stacks up quickly:

  • It gives you energy and may help you lose weight and sharpen your mental focus, thanks to the magic of caffeine. Studies have shown that caffeine may improve your mood, help your brain work better and improve performance during exercise.
  • A regular java habit is associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, in one study, caffeine was linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants, which may help protect cells from damage.
  • Higher consumption of coffee – caffeinated and decaf alike – was associated with a lower risk of total mortality, including deaths attributed to heart disease, nervous system diseases and suicide.

More specifically, habitual coffee drinking has been linked to a lower risk of coronary heart disease in women.

For health-conscious coffee lovers then, the most important question isn’t, “Is it good for you?” but rather, “How do you take it?”

If you dress your coffee up too much with cream and sugar, you risk negating the health benefits.

“We know that sugar has adverse effects,” said Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Penn State University. “Even if you add sugar and don’t exceed your calorie needs, you’re still negating some of the benefits because sugar is a negative food ingredient.”

That warning goes double for even fancier coffee drinks. The federal dietary guidelines say three to five cups of coffee per day can be part of a healthy diet, but that only refers to plain black coffee.

“They’re not talking about these large Frappuccinos that have at least 800 calories a beverage,” Kris-Etherton said. “Very quickly, calories can add up, and weight gain will create negative effects on cardiac risk.”

Despite its benefits, caffeine also can be dangerous if consumed in excess.

“We all know how important sleep is,” Kris-Etherton said. “You don’t want to disrupt normal sleep habits and good sleep because you’ve had too much caffeine, so if you want to include coffee in your diet, be sure to think about timing.”

Anyone who’s had one cup too many knows that heart-fluttering feeling that comes next; for some people, those jitters may be a warning sign.

“Some people are slow metabolizers of caffeine,” Kris-Etherton said. “It’s a genetic predisposition. Some people can experience jitters, palpitation, insomnia – sort of like those energy drinks that give you a big boost.”

Caffeine also is addictive, and cutting back too quickly can cause withdrawal symptoms, especially terribly harsh headaches.

“Those migraines are pretty bad,” she said. “If you are drinking a lot and then go cold turkey, the effects will be greater than if you have less caffeine and taper off.”

It’s worth noting that kids shouldn’t drink coffee, Kris-Etherton said. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, in general, kids avoid caffeine-containing beverages.

Kris-Etherton also cautioned that brewing methods can affect cardiovascular risk. For example, she said, paper filters remove a compound called cafestol that increases LDL cholesterol (the harmful type), so unfiltered coffee could pose a higher health risk.

“Most people drink filtered coffee,” she said. “But you know, French presses are so popular too, and that may not be good for you, especially if you drink a lot of coffee.”

Still, Kris-Etherton said, research shows that the health benefits of coffee – even decaf – seem to outweigh the risks: “Just pay attention to how you’re feeling after consuming coffee. Get in sync with how your body’s feeling.”

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected]

Drinking coffee might not be as bad for the heart as previously thought, according to the authors of a new study.

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London, say their study questions past research that indicated the drink could stiffen the arteries, which in turn could heighten the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with strokes coming fifth. Any potential link could be concerning for the millions of Americans who drink coffee every day.

The research involved 8,412 adults in the U.K. who had MRI heart scans and infrared pulse wave tests that measured changes to their blood volume. The participants were also asked how many cups of coffee they drank, and were placed in three groups: those who consumed less than a cup; between one to three cups; and those who knocked back more than three. The scientists excluded participants who drank more than 25 cups of coffee, as well as those who had cardiovascular disease.

Information about the individuals, including their age, ethnicity, gender, weight and blood pressure, as well as lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking habits and diet, were also documented.

Even drinking as many as 25 cups of coffee a day was not linked to stiffer arteries, according to the researchers.

The data also revealed men who smoke and drank alcohol regularly were more likely to be moderate-to-heavy coffee drinkers.

The work was presented at the British Cardiovascular Society Annual Conference and has therefore not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Co-author Kenneth Fung at Queen Mary University of London said: “Despite the huge popularity of coffee worldwide, different reports could put people off from enjoying it. While we can’t prove a causal link in this study, our research indicates coffee isn’t as bad for the arteries as previous studies would suggest.”

On average, the participants who consumed the most coffee drank five cups per day.

“We would like to study these people more closely in our future work so that we can help to advise safe limits,” he said.

Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped to fund the study, said: “There are several conflicting studies saying different things about coffee, and it can be difficult to filter what we should believe and what we shouldn’t. This research will hopefully put some of the media reports in perspective, as it rules out one of the potential detrimental effects of coffee on our arteries.”

Professor Elio Riboli, chair in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention at the School of Public Health, Imperial College London, who has studied how drinking coffee effects a person’s risk of death, told Newsweek the results are compatible with, or at least do not contradict, his own team’s findings.

“It brings good news for coffee drinkers, and a further scientific element in support of our previous findings that coffee, far from being ‘bad for health’ is on the contrary beneficial,” he said.

The findings were related to both caffeinated and non-caffeinated coffees, likely meaning caffeine isn’t the main component explaining the long-term health benefits of coffee of the drink, according to Riboli.

Unfortunately for tea drinkers, he said, the benefits are very specific to coffee.

However, despite the findings and a study suggesting coffee could cut the risk of death, coffee isn’t a panacea for all ills. One study published last year debunked another myth about java: that it helps with weight loss.

In a small, randomized control study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers examined the effect of caffeine on the appetite of 50 healthy adults. The scientists found coffee didn’t dampen the appetites of coffee-drinkers.

Scientists have investigated the effects of coffee on the arteries. Getty Images

Coffee has both positive and negative effects on the body and mind, but the benefits appear to outweigh the dangers for most people.

Let’s start with the positives.

Research has consistently shown that coffee can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a review of 28 studies on the issue published in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers found that drinking six cups per day of either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee can reduce therisk of developing type 2 diabetes by more than 30 percent.

Studies also suggest that copious amounts of coffee may help protect against various types of cancer, including skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma), liver cancer, aggressive prostate cancer and a type of breast cancer called estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer.

Additionally, coffee appears to help ward off stroke, depression in women and cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It has even been shown to lessen the pain of exercise.

On the other hand, unfiltered coffee —such as Turkish coffee, or coffee made with a French press —can increase your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. And women who drink more than five cups of coffee a day may have more trouble getting pregnant with in vitro fertilization than women who don’t.

The caffeine in coffee can have several negative effects, such as temporary insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, stomach issues, rapid heartbeat and muscle tremors, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In addition, a 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that for people who metabolize caffeine slowly, drinking coffee can increase the risk of nonfatal heart attacks.

Finally, if you stop consuming caffeine, you may experience significant, life-interfering withdrawal symptoms, including headache, fatigue, irritability, depressed mood and difficulty concentrating.

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