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peptic ulcers and hot drinks

by Peter G. Hanson, M.D.

Are you fond of hot drinks? Well, it turns out that you may be making your stomach do a slow burn.

When one thinks about it, it is peculiar that modern man is the only breed on the planet that chooses to eat and drink substances at temperatures far removed from normal body temperature. The reason is obvious, as the rest of the animal kingdom has not yet mastered the instruction booklets for the refrigerator or the microwave. But our bodies were designed at a time that predated such appliances, and so we are not any more suited to consuming extreme temperatures than the rest of the mammals.

An image a café latte

One study at the department of surgery at the Manchester Royal infirmary found that hot drinks pose a particular danger to the gut, and should be avoided by anyone with peptic ulcers. The authors reported their findings in the journal Gut, (1989, 1201-1205), noting that temperatures much above body temperature are most uncomfortable in the bath, and that temperatures of over 43 degrees centigrade can cause cooking of human tissues. This means that the proteins in the cells begin to denature above this temperature. Only a little hotter, at 47 degrees, and white blood cells, cell cultures, and organs for transplant all die. At 60 degrees, the mucous of our gut, including esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, is irreversibly degraded. But what they found out is that a group of their patients with peptic ulcer disease of the gut all happened to drink their tea or coffee at even higher temperatures, averaging 62 degrees, some even gulping temperatures up to 73 degrees.

A control group of similar people without stomach disorders was tested, and it turns out that they drank their beverages on average ten degrees cooler. So it seems that in addition to the substances in tea and coffee that might be affecting the stomach lining, the very temperature of the stuff could be causing most of the trouble. Even the drinking of plain hot water could, if it is hot enough, cause ulcers.

If you have problems related to ulcers in the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum, chances are you are taking your hot drinks a little too hot. Do yourself a favor, and cool it.

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