Why Drinking Tea on an Empty Stomach Makes You Vomit

My Favorite Iced Tea Glasses by Anchor Hocking!

Here's the answer to why drinking tea on an empty stomach makes you vomit. You're not alone. I had to find out for myself after one too many times of feeling sick after drinking tea. 

Today, I had yet another strange bout of unbearable nausea from drinking my big, delicious large cup of sweet ice tea before eating my bad-for-me-as-all-get-out, chili dog. 

I know I shouldn't be eating such a thing as a hot dog, but that wasn't my problem, rather it was the sweet iced tea I chugged beforehand--on an empty stomach. Imagine that.

Obviously, you have experienced nausea and/or vomiting after drinking tea of any ilk: iced tea, hot tea, black tea, green tea, sweetened tea, unsweetened tea . . . well, you get the idea. 

It doesn't matter what kind of tea you drink, nor does drinking tea hot or cold (iced) make a difference to your stomach in this case. 

 ALL tea has this necessary ingredient even though it tends to make one feel like vomiting when consumed on an empty stomach: tannin. 

YUP, tannin. 

Even if you have a cast iron stomach like I claim to have, drinking a mere 4 ounces of tea on an empty stomach can send you sailing to the nearest bathroom stall to vomit. It's here an empty waste basket comes in handy.

About  this time you're mad-sick to your stomach and wondering what the heck is tannin doing in tea if so many get sick from it?

Well, tannin is that fabulous flavor we so love, that bitter tang we sense on our tongue; the stronger the tea, the more tannin in the cup (suffice it to say, in your gut). 

Here's what happens when tea of any kind--cheap, imported, name brand, etc.--is brewed. It's important for us tea lovers to know: 

During the first few minutes of brewing, caffeine in regular teas, is released. You most likely know that caffeine is the stimulant in tea and coffee (jus' sayin').

Brewing after two minutes, tannin from the tea leaves begins to leach into the brew; the longer the tea leaves (i.e. in the tea bag or ball) sit in the cup or teapot, the more flavorful the tea.

Ever get an iced tea 'to go' at a drive-thru and it's fabulously flavored? Most likely, it's fresh brewed tea with plenty of brew time in it, thus tannin rich. You will have to eat before you drink the tea or you will vomit! For me, even a sip will do it.

If you're like me, you don't have a lot in your stomach at any given time. It's easy to get nauseated from merely drinking a half cup of tea on an empty stomach. You'll need to eat something substantial, like a bagel. I don't think a fruit cup will spare you; there's not enough 'weight' for your gut. I don't know about you, but right about now I'm visualizing my gut, with grapes and kiwi afloat in a sea o' tea, waiting for the 'tidal wave' of nausea.

Not fun. And certainly not pretty.

Here's a little tea tip you might find stimulating (literally): if you only steep the tea leaves for the two minutes I mentioned, regular (caffeinated) tea will be MORE energiZing and may not make you vomit! 

Here's why: When you brew the tea, as I mentioned, the first two minutes release the caffeine. It's not until about five  minutes later, that tannin and another chemical, theanine seep outta the tea leaves, and the tea loses its caffeine. 

That's right: tannin and theanine neutralize the tea's caffeine!

If you drink tea for the 'kick' you'll need to pour boiling water over the tea leaves/bag/ball and only let it steep for two minutes. Yes, the tea is far less flavorful, but chances are you won't feel nauseated or vomit when drinking it on an empty stomach.

If you want flavorful tea, let the leaves hang around in the vessel for whatever duration over five minutes you prefer. BUT, be sure you don't have an empty stomach when you drink the tea.

So, here's my tea-drinking mantra (best when you add a catchy tune): Two minutes; weak tea; big on energy. Five minutes of steeping, only after eating!

I know, that mantra is a bit over the top, but it will be well received if you're like me, and drinking tea on an empty stomach makes you sick.

What can you do if you feel nauseated after drinking tea and don't want to feel like you're going to throw up until next Thanksgiving?

Hmmm, that was a rhetorical question, but here's some things that may keep you from vomiting if you find yourself feeling sick from the tea:

  • Eat a piece of bread or other starch like rice for quick relief 
  • Eat or drink ginger. You can even break a tiny piece off a big root and chew on it; you don't have to swallow that chunk of root (please don't)
  • Drink baking soda and water--1/2 teaspoon stirred into one cup of water

Some folks complain about feeling like they're going to vomit, then throw up, and still feel nauseated. You can buy the ginger I mentioned at any grocery store's produce section, or you can get capsules at any drug or vitamin store. Ginger really works.

I experienced what seemed to be all-day nausea symptoms for some strange reason and only  had pink bismuth tablets on hand. They worked like a charm.

So,  that's it, oh tea-drinking peers. It's most likely the tannin in your tea making you vomit (with an empty stomach), and you're not going to die from some weird-unknown-virus-stomach-thingy.

BUT, PLEASE, PLEASE, NOTE:Why do I keep reiterating, 'on an empty stomach?' Because I don't want to advise/confuse anyone who may be sick in some other respect. This post is strictly about vomiting after drinking tea . . . .

Also, I am NOT a physician, and I sure hope you don't have a stomach bug or other serious reason as to why you are vomiting. This post is my experience and expression of why I vomit after drinking tea on an empty stomach (which I won't be doing anymore) and not to be taken as advice on what may be a serious health matter. Certainly, if you feel like you should see a doctor, by all means go! Vomiting can cause severe dehydration and I'd say, you should talk to your doctor if you are throwing up without relief.


Folks, the moral of this story is, 'don't drink tea on an empty stomach.' That's any tea: hot or iced; sugar or unsweetened; fancy or not. Just don't.

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