Why does coffee make you poop? At least 2 reasons

Despite the beverage’s popularity, there isn’t much research into why coffee sends many people running to the bathroom minutes after consuming it.

“In some cases, such as with coffee and bowel movements, there may not have been the medical demand to warrant serious investigation,” Dr. Kyle Staller, director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratory at Washington General Hospital, said by email. Massachusetts.

“It may also be a case of the obvious, meaning you don’t need multiple studies to know that coffee induces bowel movements when it’s such a big part of so many people’s daily lives.”

There may be something special about coffee, and the research that exists proves “the patients are right,” said Staller, also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Some small studies have shown that drinking coffee was more effective than warm water in inducing bowel movements; That’s saying something, since “water is an integral part of normal digestion, and large amounts are released and reabsorbed by the digestive tract every day,” he said. .

Of course, this doesn’t mean that adequate water intake isn’t essential to your overall health. “About 60% of your body is made of water,” Jerlyn Jones, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said by email.

And whether the coffee is caffeinated or decaffeinated didn’t seem to matter in all studies, according to other research, suggesting that, in some cases, compounds in coffee in addition to caffeine could be responsible for sudden bowel movements.

The identities of these compounds and how they might interact with the digestive tract are still largely unknown, but here’s what researchers have discovered so far.

Coffee could cause colon contractions

The colon experiences three types of contractions that work together to mix, knead, and ultimately expel poop. The onset, timing, and frequency of these contractions are influenced by muscular, neural, and chemical factors.
Coffee might stimulate this colonic motor activity within minutes of consuming it, based on the limited research available, Staller said. Twelve healthy people experienced this activity during a 1998 study when they agreed to have a sensing probe inserted into their colon. Over a 10-hour period the following day, participants consumed hot coffee, decaf coffee, water, or a meal in random order. Both types of coffee and a meal caused more contractions and pressure in the colon, compared to water. Caffeinated coffee was 60% more effective than water in stimulating colonic motor activity and 23% more impactful than decaf.
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Several participants in another study said that drinking coffee made them want to poop and then went through a similar test. Their colon activity increased within four minutes of drinking unsweetened black coffee, an effect that lasted at least 30 minutes.

Those results probably mean that coffee isn’t in direct contact with the lining of the colon, but instead affects it through a “gastrocolic mechanism,” Staller said, meaning that coffee in contact “with the lining of the stomach triggers a nervous system or hormonal response that causes the colon to start contracting,” he said. “Colonial contractions move stool in the colon toward the rectum and voila, you have the urge to poop.”

Melanoidins, compounds formed during coffee roasting, have dietary fiber, which aids digestion and prevents constipation, Jones said.

It could affect hormones and stomach acid.

Coffee also appears to stimulate the release of the hormone gastrin, Staller said, which enables the production of gastric acid (stomach acid). Gastric acid helps digest food and can stimulate colonic activity. Researchers discovered in 1986 that drinking caffeinated or decaf coffee affected gastrin levels quickly and significantly.
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After fasting overnight, men in a small 2009 study were given either a meal and black coffee, or just a meal. Drinking coffee significantly sped up the time it took for food to leave the stomach and enter the small intestine after meals.

“Some compounds in coffee may also interact with opioid receptors in the GI tract,” affecting bowel function, Staller added.

Dairy and digestive health

If you’re lactose intolerant but still enjoy dairy creamer with a side of coffee, creamer could be to blame for any sudden urge to poop.

“One way to find out what makes you go to the bathroom is to drink coffee without dairy creamer or milk and track your symptoms for a few days,” Jones said.

While research suggests some digestive benefits of drinking coffee, should your regular morning coffee be what you use to stay regular? If you’re constipated, drinking coffee to help get things moving isn’t unreasonable, Staller said.

“But don’t rely on it to move your bowels,” Jones said. “Talk to his doctor if he has trouble going to the bathroom regularly.”

Jones recommended slowly increasing dietary fiber intake “with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.” “The average American adult consumes only 12 to 14 grams of fiber per day, and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day for adults.”

People prone to loose or urgent bowel movements “may want to consider that coffee may also be a trigger for these unpleasant events,” Staller said.

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