Drinking Tea on an Empty Stomach is a Bad Idea

At least for me anyway.

It’s lunchtime. I just finished a plate of mediocre Thai food. I thought eating would help. It didn’t.

I had a few sips of tea this morning, about 1/2 a cup. Nearly immediately, I felt nauseous. I tried to ride it out, but it wouldn’t go away. It hasn’t gone away. I still feel like I’m going to throw up at any moment. I should have known better. This happens about 80% of the time.

Whenever I drink tea, especially on an empty stomach, I start to feel very sick. I don’t know why. A Google search didn’t bring up many answers though it revealed that lots and lots of people experience this too. It’s not the caffeine. I can drink coffee (usually), Coke or an energy drink and be fine. But there’s something about tea that makes me ill. It’s not a specific type of tea either; it can be green tea, black tea, or a blend. By the way, I’m talking about real tea, made from tea leaves, not herbal teas which usually don’t contain tea leaves and are actually a blend of dried herbs, fruits and flowers.

Well, it’s been a couple hours since I drank half a cup of tea and I don’t feel any better. Ugh. When will I learn? I guess I was hoping that this would be the 20% of the time it doesn’t happen. To make matters worse, I had forgotten about my cup and my tea bag had been steeping for nearly 2 hours! Why did I still drink it anyway? I’m sure the extended soaking time contributes to me getting sick, though I do get nauseous after just a normal cup.

Bleck.

  • John Black

    I cam across your entry as I am going through the same thing. Whenever I drink tea in the morning or on an empty stomach I get sick to the core. Normally if it’s bad enough tea or I mix it with sugar or milk it’s not so bad. On this particular morning I’m drinking a combination of mint and green herbal tea that is really potent. I haven’t felt this bad in a while.

    • Siddharth Prince

      I am so glad to know that I am not the only victim of “Green tea on empty stomach” … rather than energising, it sucks the energy out of you… I felt dizziness, nausea, pukish… had to eat 2 parathas and a glass full of milk to get rid of the drowsy feeling  so did my mum…. Assam team with milk goes down so well even on an empty stomach… gonna go back to the ol tea… 

  • Eleanor

    This happens to me too. Whenever I drink plain tea on an empty stomach I become so horribly nauseous I think I might pass out. It’s not the caffeine for me either, so it must be the tannins, or polyphenols. They can cause nausea as well. And I suspect that some of us are particularly sensitive to them.

    The reason that milk in tea will make one less nauseous is because the proteins (casein) bind to the catechins and tannins. Unfortunately, many of the health benefits of tea are found precisely in the polyphenols and while adding a protein will lessen the gut-wrenching, well, gut wrenching, it may also lessen the health benefits. However, some claim that that unlike green tea, the health benefits of black tea are not attributable to the catechin content. Also, because soy protein is not casein, it apparently doesn’t bind (which might make it less effective in preventing nausea as well.)

    Bleck.

    It is frustrating that no one has really written about the nausea effect of tea. Are you sensitive in other ways to foods with high tannin content– like red wine headaches, etc? I wonder if there is a relationship. I’m not a chemist or nutritionist so it’s difficult for me to decipher all of the polyphenol, catechin, tannin stuff (there are so many different kinds) but I suspect the culprit for me is thearubigin which happens when the epigallocatechin gallate in the tea leaf oxidizes in the fermentation process (I’m not so sensitive to green tea).

    Well, hope this helps and I still have plenty of “I should have known better” moments with black tea and not full enough stomach. Next time this happens to you immediately find some dairy to eat, this seem to help me.

  • Judy

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone! It’s not caffein for me either and tannins in red wine don’t bother me. This is the first time I’ve read about polyphenol so they might be the culprit.

    I generally have a sensitive digestive system and avoid wheat and dairy because of reactions to gluten and casein.

    If I start a cup of tea and then feel nauseated I save it to make iced tea later. I assume that the dilution from the melting ice helps.

    What I’m really wondering is whether I should avoid tea entirely? Is it actually bad for me and the nausea is a warning sign?

  • Jen

    I'm so glad to have found this post and comments! I googled as well and found nothing that fit the description. I used to drink tea, any kind, without any ill effects at all. Then a few years ago, if I drank black tea in the morning, I'd throw up. About a year ago, I had iced green tea after work… and threw up. Since then, I've tried many different teas, both hot and iced, and I get sick about 80% of the time. This is such a HUGE bummer for me, as I lived off iced tea in the summer (I made all kinds of different flavored blends). I refuse to give up though! I keep trying (kinda like how I'm lactose intolerant and haven't entirely cut out dairy, just suffer the consequences).

    Like others, I have absolutely no problem drinking coffee or soda with caffeine. Also, I can drink bottled iced teas like Snapple or any other brand.

    It's just so weird.

  • lucy

    i drank 1/2 cup of chai tea on an empty stomach and started feeling queasy. so i drank some water. then i drank some seltzer. those liquids only helped propel some projectile vomit into the toilet. it was so alarming and gross.

    thought i'd share.

    • coop127

      I had the lipton tea with a touch of lemon juice and it made me sick … This happen with any hot tea on my empty stomach … I have to remember to “Always” eat something first… Horrible feeling.

  • Mikearmani

    You guys…I have this problem too. I am 100% sure it is the polyphenols or tannins (colorless tangy volatile substance). I can say for sure that darjeeling causes the most potent for of this problem and people know it for its astringent tannic properties. On the other hand, teas with very little tannin (cheap teas, lipton, assam, etc) do not cause this problem for me. I never have the problem with any other kind of caffeine. In pill form, green tea extract is probably bound to enough stuff that it is slow release, or make it partly through the stomach. Eitherway, who eats just a green tea extract pill without some kind of food?

  • Conan

    Haha…I could have written this article myself. I have searched Google in the past only to find no real information on this. I have always been sensitive to tea on an empty stomach since I was a kid some 30 years ago. I've never actually gotten sick from tea, but I do feel pretty awful for 30-45 mins. I've learned my lesson and don't do that anymore. I drinks lots of tea still, but not an empty stomach. I enjoy my coffee in the morning anyway. :)

  • Bridget

    Yes, I've experienced the same thing for years too. It takes about 5-10 minutes for me for the nausea to take hold and lasts about 20-30 minutes. Without fail on an empty stomach and sometimes if I have too many cups close to each other. It can also make me feel very faint.
    I had a food sensitivity test done and tea showed up, so it was recommended that I try decaffinated tea. This made no difference whatsoever, and like you I can drink coke without any problem. Unfortunately I do not like coffee but really enjoy tea (apart from this).
    There are suggestions it is the tannin in the tea or the acidity of it without milk. Can anyone spread some more light on this?

  • Jackblakesmith

    It happens to me as well…. tea + empty stomach = agony. Good news is that if you can get food into your stomach after your done vomiting you will be back to feeling normal in less then 30 minutes or so.

  • Bobbie

    So glad I am not alone in my inability to drink either Lipton Orange Pekoe or green teas on an empty stomach. Google search did not help me, either. I get VERY nauseated until I sneeze a couple of times, then immediately feel much better, although the wiped out feeling lasts 30 min to an hour. When I discovered it was tea, I had been getting sick when drinking iced tea while waiting for food to be served in restaurants. Then, I become VERY sick after drinking a large “to go” iced tea, and immediately knew it was the tea. Then I discovered that green tea does it to me, too. Like the rest of those who posted here, I am wondering whether to quit tea drinking altogether.

  • Chiaotzu

    Tea is meant be taken between two successive daily meals, usually in the middle of the afternoon between lunch and dinner, but I take it after breakfast. It is not usually had with a meal but as a standalone or with a snack. Tannins, which are nauseating on an empty stomach due to their astringency, can interfere with the absorption of iron if taken with a meal, so it is wise to drink your tea at least an hour after a meal and no more than four hours after. Hope that helps.

  • John

    Thanks for this forum.  I just drank half a cup of fresh-brewed ice tea on the way to work on an empty stomach and had to vomit after about 20 minutes.  Now, about 30 minutes later, I am feeling better and eating a tiny bit of food to make sure the remaining tannins get diluted some.  It was definitely the tea… I NEVER drink tea in the morning except for today because I didn't have time to make coffee.

  • Susangzales

    Oh dear..you're not the only one experiencing those things about drinking tea on an empty stomach, we are on the same boat  waahhhhhhhh :-(

    • Ashleychandel13

      Any news or found out why? I do too.

  • Mike

    My mother boiled Lipton tea and poured it in a large pitcher.  After a day in the fridge I came home from work, drank two glasses of tea with sugar and twenty minutes later threw up the tea and part of my lunch from two hours ago.  This is not the first time I have become sick from regular tea.  I use to be able to drink tea but now I stay far away.  So much for my dream of tea and scones with the Queen.

    Mike

  • Ashleychandel13

    I also get sick & throw up if I drink tea in the morning. I can drink coffee, cokes, etc without getting an upset stomach. I have no clue what it is. Help.

  • Jon_blaze

    Whoever mentioned about the tannins is correct.  Unless you have a strange hypersensitivity to caffeine or something (which is not in large quantity in tea compared to many other caffeinated beverages) this is the likely culprit.  I experienced the same thing once, so I did some experimenting on myself with things like straight black coffee, pure caffeine powder, etc… and it turned out only tea or green tea extract pills would upset my empty stomach.  I also noticed it more with teas that were more “astringent” (ie higher tannin content).  The advice about adding a little milk/cream works perfectly  or having some food, although milk in green tea is kindy nasty to me.  Good luck on enjoying your tea relaxingly.

  • http://mitchelljkohl.tumblr.com Mitchell K

    It literally just happened to me 5 minutes ago when I took a drink without realizing I hadn't eaten yet today and I started searching for others online. It's happened several times and I know that if I drink tea (specifically black tea) too quickly without food in my stomach I will get nauseous and will never forget the one time I learned how fantastic tea would be for a bulimic person. I just drank about 4 ounces of iced tea that was strongly brewed Lipton. Within 60 seconds I had that feeling I so fondly remember. I ran to the fridge, chugged a small glass of milk. It always helps. If you're not a milk person, try a handful almonds or orange juice, or just a plain piece of bread followed by water, but eat/drink it quickly before the nausea has time to sink in. THe milk killed the nausea after another minute and I was fine right away.

    It rarely happens with green tea, or expensive teas (actual teas, I don't think it happens with herbals). But it DEFINITELY happens anytime I consume even a tiny amount of black tea (specifically Lipton or cheaper brands). I know the tannins and acid cause problems, but think about it from an alcoholic point of view. Do you get a worse headache from over-consuming the same amount of  premium vodka or cheap crappy Skol vodka? Do you get a worse headache from cheap red wine that contains excess sulfates  or wine that has been decanted. It's possible one is worse.

    Maybe the cheaper the black tea, the more garbage that's in it and the worse stomach reaction. Still, it happens with most, just more intense problems when it's cheaper quality.

    Don't drink tea without food, sip it slow, or add stuff too it (milk or lemonade) and don't drink it too fast or too concentrated unless you have milk or bread on hand to stop nausea.

  • Gfife

    I am so glad that i looked up this information on the net!  I love green tea and drink a lot of it especially hot tea in the mornings.  I have finally learned “do not drink green tea on an empty stomach”, it will make you sick.  I really thought there was something weird going on with me when it happened for the first time.  I have to have a good full stomach before i drink it.  Yesterday morning i ate some yogurt and thought i would be ok—well, guess what?  I got so nauseated that i almost threw up.  I immediately grabbed some bread and a piece of lunch meat and swiftly gobbled it down.  After about 20 minutes i felt fine.  Lord knows i am never going to drink green tea on an empty stomach or partial full stomach in the mornings again.  That is the only time in the morings that it bothers me! You would think how could something good for you could make you sick!

    • http://www.vuthy.com vuthy

      Isn't it crazy how super sick we get? It's not even “ugh, I feel a bit icky” but actually like “ohgawd I'm gonna puke!!” After my last incident, I've stayed away from tea in the mornings (I usually don't eat breakfast) but I'm okay with drinking tea at night since I'm full with food from the day.

  • ssbourbon

    I brew my iced tea using decaffeinated tea with a Mr. Coffee iced tea maker.  So I know it's not caffeine, but something makes me sick when I drink iced tea on an empty stomach.  I don't experience any nausea when I drink iced tea after I've eaten.  I have never been a coffee drinker, and while I like a glass of orange juice in the morning, there are more calories in a glass of orange juice than in my iced tea that doesn't contain sugar.  I do use a non-calorie sweetener in my tea, though.  I also get nausea if I have hot tea on an empty stomach.  Weird.

  • Jdw345

    I drink pure organic green tea each morning which I've noticed for weeks it makes me have to poop real bad before I'm even half way done with a glass. Normally I'm eating breakfast and I just poop real fast but no pain or any other symptoms. But the last two days I've had my tea on empty stomach. First day was normal with quick bathroom run little to no stomach pain. But today it messed me up so bad I thought I was going to die that's how awful I felt. Dizzy, shakes, stomach pains, runs, it was terrible but lasted 10 minutes and I just laid on bathroom floor.

  • coop127

    Yes, I am experiencing this sudden illness now .. Dizzy, felt like I was going to get sick, and still alittle unsteady now, I had to get a slice of bread to help settle the nausea … Wow I thought it was just me, um um um… Why does this happen? Crazy.

  • Popadaniel

    now you know why the English put cream in their tea.  The cream helps keep you from becoming sick to your stomach.

  • Leo_levandoski

    i just ran 18 miles and came home and drank a crap ton of green tea it sounded awesome, tasted so freaking good. then i went in shower, yeah i started getting nausea and laied down, then startled from the quesy feeling barley made it to bathroom, and let chunks fly aqll over the wall the shower curtain, everywhere, i even hit the ground because i slipped on the tea that went down so good but tragicaly returned and wanted my life!

  • http://adamprowse.com.au/hints-a-tips/217-maitland-boxing-will-help-discover-your-inner-boxer.html Maitland Boxing Club

    Yes, it is right drinking tea on an empty stomach may be very harmful for the health.
    It may disturb the stomach and cause the stomach heating.
    So avoid the bed tea and save yourself from diseases.!!!!!

  • Mastermind

    This is very interesting, I was raised drinking all natural organic teas not the prepackaged big name brands type that lack quality. I drink black tea after morning exercise with just water in my stomach and I feel perfectly fine. I drink 1 cup of green tea during the day, and Roiboos tea at night. I don't consume any store bought processed foods including beverages. My husband's reaction to the tea was the same as the previous postings. I strongly believe, for his diet was different than mine before we were married. His was the typical that leaned towards convenience and taste who consumed coke, pizza, fast food, and big name store bought process foods with a side pesticide filled fruits and veggies at home. After changing his diet by eliminating big brands store products to locally grown organic products, non-processed foods, and working out in the morning, tea doesn't make him sick anymore. Remember tea is a great source of antioxidant it can eliminate and prevents free radicals that damages our cell growth. Tea on an empty stomach can prevent many other illneses including slowing our aging process. Think about this, many people drink big label low quality coffee with cream or milk from a sick, poor diet, filled with antibiotics cows on an empty stomach and feel fine, but do the research of all the ingredients that are being put in the empty stomach. My conclusion is don't add toxins to our bodies and carefully take care of it, the changes can be greatly significant but very rewarding. I know this post may be long with some extensive information, but I strongly believe it's important to share knowledge with each other when possible.

  • mwag

    Wow. I just became a tea drinker-have been drinking coffee for a few years and felt that it was necessary to make the switch to tea. I normally skip breakfast and drink coffee instead so today I had a cup of green tea before eating food. It is amazing how nauseous I have felt all day-even to the point of throwing up the food I attempted to eat to coat my stomach! Moral of the story: DON'T DRINK TEA ON AN EMPTY STOMACH!

    • http://www.vuthy.com vuthy

      It really is incredible how strong the nauseous is, isn't it?  Once it happens, there seems to be nothing that'll make it better except for riding it out.  I've learned my lesson!

  • Tom

    I get the same thing. Drink black tea with milk, it works like a charm, and I prefer the taste.

  • tanyakristine

    I jsut googled this.  at first i'm like “why am i so nauseous??” Then i realized i was drinking iced black tea from Starbucks…isn't that weird?  I think it has something to do with the tannens?  I dunno but i am on an empty stomach too.

  • lindz

    I just chugged a cup of black tea with no milk in it before leaving for work. Guess who threw up all over their steering wheel? Glad to know I'm not the only one who gets sick from tea on an empty stomach -_- …

  • Nancy Berntsen

    Glad to know see that my hypothesis about tea rings true with others. This has happened 3x with Duncan Donuts iced tea; I'm traveling and thirsty. I thought it was maybe brewed too strong since I seem to handle home made iced tea (from bags and from powder mix) without any trouble. Next time, it's lemon and ice water or an iced coffee for me when I'm on the road and want something cool, icy and refreshing. (Tea with cream does not bother me at all either, but I don't think I'd want to add cream to iced tea!)

  • Guestemail

    Same here!  I'm 27, male, athletic runner.  I can drink caffeine in many forms, but I get very nauseous from just a small amount of hot tea.  Interestingly, I can drink yerba mate and other organic loose-leaf forms of tea without issue.  But Lipton, or other pre-packaged tea bags typically found in restaurants or hotels, make me feel like vomiting almost immediately.   

  • Mastermind

    Certainly, to discontinue the consumption of low quality mediocre “food” including tea rom public establishments and big or pretentious super markets that are non-organic, the effects of drinking tea will change.
    I strongly recommend to READ the ingredients on the packages and RESEARCH the unknown ingredients. It is crucial to educate ourselves about what we put in our bodies.
    Ultimately, purchasing or growing high quality food meaning free of chemicals, GMOs, and synthetics are the best and seriously the safest choice for our bodies and our brains, that definitely includes our tea.

  • claudiagold

    I get nauseous from Lipton tea. I have no idea why but I assume it’s a preservative or some chemical additive. At home, I drink good quality loose leaf organic tea and I never have a problem. (I usually buy my tea from Rainbow Grocery in SF because it’s in bulk so I can get a lot of different varieties in small amounts.) Loose leaf is best because you won’t get any flavors or chemicals from the plastic bags. It’s better for the environment, too!

    Incidentally, if you over-steep your tea, you can still use it to make great iced tea. Wait until the tea is cool and pretty strong. Put some ice into a pitcher. Pour the tea over it. Add a little water and taste. Keep adding water until it tastes like the strength of tea you want and isn’t too bitter. Add some sugar or lemon if you want. Refrigerate until cold.