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8 Problems All Coffee Lovers Understand—and How to Fix Them

Your afternoon latte might seem like a lifesaver, but its actually wreaking havoc on your teeth, stomach, and more. Here's how to avoid coffee-related issues.

Common coffee pitfalls

Coffee is all deliciousness until you can’t sleep or have to deal with stained teeth. There are all sorts of issues like those that can come with your morning cup of joe. But luckily there are ways to make your coffee habit healthier and avoid these common pitfalls. Here’s what health experts recommend.

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Stomach problems

Coffee lovers, is your daily mug of coffee making you rush for the bathroom? You might have to play detective to figure out if you need to blame the milk or the coffee itself. “While some actually welcome caffeine to help produce a bowel movement in the morning, the effects of caffeine as a stimulant on the bowels can cause cramping and bloating,” says registered dietitian Fiorella DiCarlo. “To lessen pain or cramps, one can try to avoid drinking coffee on an empty stomach and drink it during or after breakfast.” The problem also could be lactose intolerance. Find out by eliminating milk some mornings to see if it makes a difference.

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Trouble sleeping at night

Luckily for java fans, experts say drinking coffee is mostly a healthy choice. Still, you have to exercise common sense. “Coffee can be part of a healthy diet as long as it is in moderation. Coffee contains antioxidants, increases cognitive skills in studies, and contains minerals like magnesium and chromium which helps body use insulin that controls blood sugar,” says DiCarlo. But that 3 p.m. cup of office coffee can leave you tossing and turning all night long. “Try to stop drinking coffee between noon and 2 p.m. and keep in mind that it could take 10 hours for caffeine to oxidize out of the body.”

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Tolerance

Is that iced coffee not doing it for you, anymore? First, make sure you’re not indulging in any of the most common foods that drain your energy levels. Then consider the fact that when you’re used to sipping on coffee all day, every day, you might need more than a cup or two to achieve alertness. “The stimulatory effects of caffeine diminish in most people with continued use, so the initial increase in energy and alertness that follows caffeine ingestion becomes less pronounced with repeated use,” says Alan Gaby, MD, author of the textbook Nutritional Medicine. “The best thing people can do is to discontinue caffeine for a while and then use it only occasionally after that.” Learn more about the weird things that happen to your body when you stop drinking coffee.

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Withdrawal

If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you might experience a familiar headache on days when you sleep in late or decide to have orange juice instead of coffee at breakfast. Whether you avoid caffeine intentionally or not, withdrawal symptoms can sneak up on you immediately. If you’re experiencing extreme dizziness and nausea, you should visit your doctor, but mild withdrawal symptoms like crankiness are harmless albeit incredibly annoying. If you are weaning yourself away from caffeine, know that the initial symptoms won’t last forever. “These symptoms usually resolve after a couple of days, and then people often feel better than before they were consuming caffeine regularly,” says Dr. Gaby. (If you have trouble making it through the day, try yoga instructors’ tips for beating the afternoon slumps.)

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Jitters

Like alcohol and sugar, everyone’s body reacts differently to caffeine. You even might feel perfectly normal one day and then experience anxiety, shakiness, and jitteriness the next. You might think that an extra cup of strong coffee will make up for a couple of lost hours of sleep, but loading up on caffeine when you’re tired can actually burn you out. Listen to your body and limit yourself to one or two cups if you experience shakiness or a racing heart. 

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Stained teeth

Have you noticed stains on your teeth from coffee? “Over time, your teeth can go from white to not-so-bright for a number of reasons and coffee is a major staining culprit,” explains Jim DiMarino, dentist and director of medical affairs in the Oral Care division at GSK Consumer Healthcare. “Coffee has intense color pigments called chromogens that attach to the white, outer part of your tooth enamel when consumed frequently.”

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Bad breath

The smell of coffee brewing in the morning is easily one of the loveliest scents around. So why is it that after a couple of cups, your breath is horrible? Besides the usual gum and mints, try keeping some breath-freshening snacks at your desk. You can even recruit your lips in the bad-breath battle by using mint-scented gloss. Just don’t brush right away, warns Dr. DiMarino. Your tooth enamel will need at least 30 minutes to harden after being exposed to coffee acids.

hot coffeetaa22/Shutterstock

 Burnt tongue

That cup was fuller than you thought. You inadvertently took a big sip of hot coffee and now your tongue and mouth are burning. Quick, reach for some cold milk (2 percent or regular), which will do two things: The cool liquid will soothe the pain, and the fats in the milk will coat the tender areas, providing some protection. Check out these other quick first-aid fixes to common problems.

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