Q: My husband drinks a LOT of coffee and I worry about him getting an ulcer. Is there a way to mitigate all that coffee, and what are the warning signs?
A: No research has shown that coffee drinking leads to the formation of gastric ulcers. Even if a person is diagnosed with an ulcer, there is no reason to stop drinking coffee unless there are specific symptoms associated with its consumption.
While some people may experience heartburn after drinking a cup of coffee, there is no conclusive evidence that coffee makes the stomach produce more acid. However, caffeine may decrease the strength of the muscle that surrounds the esophagus as it enters the stomach. This may allow more acid to flow up into the esophagus causing heartburn. Keep in mind that having heartburn does not mean that you have a stomach ulcer.
Some of the symptoms to watch for if you are concerned about stomach ulcers: A sour taste in the mouth every morning, pain if you press in the area right below the sternum (the bone in the center of your chest); coughing or throwing up blood, or black sticky bowel movements indicating the presence of blood in the stool.
Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.
Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.