Whether you skip breakfast or simply prefer not to eat in the morning, drinking coffee on an empty stomach is common. You’ve probably heard it’s bad for your gut, but is it really?

The good news is that drinking coffee on an empty stomach isn’t inherently bad for you. Your stomach can usually adapt, but it might cause some discomfort, prompting a change in your routine.

“There are a lot of benefits associated with coffee consumption when it comes to the gastrointestinal tract,” said Dr. Sunana Sohi, a gastroenterologist in Louisville, Kentucky. “The drink gets vilified because of the caffeine it has and because it’s sugared up a lot now, but medicinally, it has been used for centuries.”

However, coffee interacts with stomach acid in several ways. Some people may experience issues like indigestion, which can be alleviated by avoiding caffeine or drinking coffee with food.

Coffee is an acidic drink. Additionally, caffeine stimulates the production of gastrin, a hormone responsible for gastric acid production, according to Dr. Supriya Rao, a gastroenterologist in Boston. Gastrin helps with digestion but also increases stomach acidity. Phenols in coffee also contribute to this acidity.

“Coffee has a pH level of about 5, while gastric acid has a pH of about 2, making the latter more acidic,” noted Dr. Rao. Our stomachs should be able to handle the acid from coffee, but it depends on the individual.

“Anything you eat causes the production of gastric acid, but coffee [produces] more of it,” Dr. Sohi explained. “If you feel bloated or have upper abdominal pain and nausea after drinking coffee on an empty stomach, you may be having issues with it.”

Dr. Rao agreed, saying, “It’s not necessarily that too much acidity is a problem, because the stomach can handle it and has a lot of mucus to protect it. It’s more about your esophagus not being able to withstand that kind of acid damage. Coffee won’t cause ulcers, but it may make you uncomfortable.”

Studies, including one from the Library of Medicine, suggest coffee may relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing food to escape into the esophagus and cause heartburn.

In short: Drinking coffee on an empty stomach increases gastric acid production. This doesn’t cause problems for many people, but some may feel discomfort. If you’re in the latter group but love coffee, try drinking it with food.

“Food provides a buffer for the acid,” Dr. Rao explained, adding that food with coffee helps offset acidity levels by absorbing some of the fluid. She also suggested having coffee with milk or opting for a cappuccino over black coffee to reduce acidity.

“Some people can tolerate it on an empty stomach, but if it upsets yours, taking it with food can help,” Dr. Sohi agreed.

Do Different Beans Cause Different Reactions?

Decaffeinated coffee contains less caffeine, which is linked to lower gastric acid production. Choosing dark beans over light ones might help, as dark beans are less acidic due to the longer roasting process.

Cold brew is also a lower-acid option. Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University found that “cold brew coffees across all three roast temperatures were slightly less acidic than their hot brew counterparts.”

If coffee still bothers your stomach, consider switching to a different caffeinated drink like tea. “Green tea and black tea have a lot of benefits,” said Dr. Sohi. “They have less caffeine and are less acidic, so if your stomach is bothering you, consider them instead.”

This post originally appeared on Buzzfeed.

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