Coffee is one of the most popular beverages to drink in the morning, and many people depend on it for an energy boost to get them through the day in one piece. Not only does it provide energy, but coffee has also been proven to provide many lasting health benefits when consumed in moderation. However, some coffee drinkers may also notice that they make more trips to the bathroom after enjoying their morning cup of coffee, which brings us to the question “why does coffee make you poop?”
If you’re someone who’s ever felt like you needed to run to the bathroom after finishing your coffee, you’re not alone. For example, some people have turned to things like coffee enemas for constipation relief. Additionally, a study of 92 participants – 58 men and 34 women – found that 29% of the total cohort reported needing to poop within 30 minutes of finishing their cup of coffee.
To better understand the reasoning behind these digestive effects of coffee, we turned to two doctors, Adil Maqbool, MDresearcher affiliated with the team at the University of Toho, Japan, and peer-reviewer at Lancetas good as Onyx Adegbola, MD, Ph.D., physician-researcher, lifestyle medicine physician, and founder of Casa de Santé, a virtual IBS clinic that provides gut-friendly, low-FODMAP products, supplements, and resources for IBS . Maqbool and Adegbola explain that there are two main factors behind the effect of coffee on our bowel movements: one is related to how coffee interacts with the muscles in our colon, and the other is related to the impact of this drink on our production of stomach acid.
Coffee can stimulate your colon
The movements and contractions of your colon cause bowel movements. For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, the walls of your colon separate and stretch, which not only physically pushes stool further down your rectum, but also signals your body that you need to poop. One of the main reasons coffee makes you feel like it’s bathroom time is how it interacts with this process in your colon.
“Drinking coffee can stimulate the muscles in your colon, which can make you feel like you need to go to the bathroom,” says Maqbool. “That’s because coffee contains caffeine, which is a natural compound and stimulant, which triggers movement of the muscles in the colon, resulting in bowel movements.” In other words, coffee loosens things up so you can use the bathroom more easily.
Interestingly enough, even decaffeinated coffee, which still contains a small amount of caffeine, can stimulate the colon. According to a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and food were more effective than water in inducing colon contractions. Although the decaffeinated coffee caused some colon movement, the caffeinated coffee was still 23% more effective.
It releases stomach acid
Another common way coffee can make us poop is by interacting with our stomach acid.
“Coffee acts as a natural laxative because it stimulates the production of gastric acid in our stomachs and intestines,” says Adegbola.
“This increased acidity helps speed up the digestion process, which can lead to the urge to poop.” This interaction can also “lead to stomach discomfort or cramping in some people,” adds Maqbool.
Some research suggests that the triggered production of stomach acid in your body may actually be determined by the level of acid present in the specific type of coffee you drink. Common types of acids in coffee include N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamides, trigonellin and N-methylpyridinium, and some coffees contain these acids in different numbers. In a study published in Molecular nutrition food researcha dark roast coffee that contained smaller amounts of three common coffee acids resulted in lower stomach acid production than another blend on the market.
If you feel like coffee pushes you to the bathroom too often, or if you occasionally experience acid reflux symptoms after drinking your cup of coffee, the Cleveland Clinic suggests a few types of coffee options that are less acidic: roast dark, espresso, cold brew or mushroom blends.
It depends on the individual
What both doctors want you to know is that ultimately the extent of coffee’s impact on your gut really does vary depending on the individual.
“Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others,” says Adegbola. “Those who are particularly sensitive may experience stronger effects from drinking coffee, including an increased urge to go to the bathroom.”
“In any case, it’s always a good idea to stay well hydrated and listen to your body,” adds Maqbool. “If you feel the urge to go to the bathroom after drinking coffee, you can do that.”
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