Why Does Coffee Make Me Poop?

Coffee Makes You Poop

I'm not a coffee drinker, but I find coffee to be a staple in my life. This isn't because I drink it, but almost everyone else does. 

69% of Americans drink 2 or more cups of coffee every day – everything from Folgers to craft coffee roasters carefully curated in a home coffee maker or at the local coffee shop. 

Some people find that it keeps them alert, while some use it as a ritualistic catalyst to create conversation and socialize. From coffee hour to coffee break, we are obsessed with doing things while drinking coffee. This is why I find coffee to be one of the most interesting beverages ever. Over the years of observing coffee drinkers, I have noticed one common habit that tends to happen every single morning. 

 

Coffee makes people poop. 

According to a study on the effect of coffee on distal colon function, coffee makes about 29 percent of the population need to poop soon after drinking. Women tend to be more prone to this effect than men, with 53 percent of women in the study and 19 percent of men reporting coffee giving them the urge to go to the restroom. 

This effect also occurs most often in the morning as 52 percent said that coffee only caused bowel movement in the morning. Similarly, 58 percent said that coffee only had this effect if they hadn't defecated yet that day. It took about 20 minutes after drinking coffee before the participants had to visit the toilet. Other studies have indicated a 30-minute window between their morning joe and heading to the workplace stalls. 

So why does coffee make you poop? 

Coffee makes people poop because of its reaction with the distal colon, located at the end of the colon. Scientists aren't 100% sure why this happens, but they did come up with a few possible reasons. 

Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that helps you stay alert.

Coffee is a great natural source as a single brewed cup provides approximately 95 mg of caffeine.

A great energy booster, caffeine may also stimulate the urge to poop. Several studies have shown that it can activate contractions in your colon and intestinal muscles. Research has shown that caffeine makes the colon 60% more active than water and 23% more active than decaf coffee. More contractions in the colon cause more content to be pushed towards the rectum, which is where all the magic happens. 

Decaf Can Also Make You Poop

We know that caffeine is a contributory factor, however, we also have studies that show decaf can also send you running to the restroom. What other factors are at play?

Chlorogenic acids and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamines.

It is believed that these compounds can stimulate the production of stomach acid. Stomach acid helps churn food and move it quickly through the gut. 

Several other factors may explain why your morning cup of java can make you poop.

For example, the act of drinking can make the colon more active. The effect occurs not only when you drink coffee but also when you drink water. This is called the gastrocolic reflex.  It’s the same reflex that activates the colon after you eat a meal.

Circadian Rhythm

Coffee-induced bowel movements may simply be a coincidence.

This is because the bowels are twice as active when you first wake up, compared to while you’re asleep, so you're more likely to take a poop first thing in the morning regardless of when you have your coffee. 

Your body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, helps regulate many processes, including bowel movements. 

Coffee Can Stimulate Hormones

Coffee has also been shown to stimulate more than just energy, it can help stimulate the hormone, gastrin. Gastrin helps push food through the gut.

Like caffeine, gastrin makes the colon more active.

Compared to water, drinking regular or decaf coffee raises gastrin levels by 2.3 and 1.7 times respectively.  

Coffee may raise levels of the digestive hormone cholecystokinin (CCK).

Not only can this hormone increase the movement of food through the colon, but it’s also linked to the gastrocolic reflex, which makes the colon more active 

 

Milk or Cream May Stimulate Bowels

Freshly brewed coffee is naturally free of additives and preservatives.

However, over two-thirds of Americans stir in milk, cream, sweeteners, sugar or other additives.

Artificial sweeteners, cream, or milk in your coffee can trigger defecation if you're sensitive to lactose. Close to 65% of people worldwide cannot digest lactose properly. Some people have lactose intolerance with symptoms that can include loose stools when they consume dairy products. Alcohol sugars such as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, and maltitol found in some artificial sweeteners have a laxative effect and can cause diarrhea.

Summary

Coffee is a rich source of caffeine, which can make your colon and intestinal muscles more active. This helps your body push food quickly to the rectum. Other compounds in coffee, such as chlorogenic acids and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamines, may stimulate bowel activity. Additional factors include the gastrocolic reflex and your body’s internal clock. Coffee has been shown to raise levels of gastrin and cholecystokinin, two hormones linked to increased colon activity. Coffee that contains milk or cream may trigger digestive issues in people with lactose intolerance. This may increase gut activity and stimulate the urge to poop. Not everyone needs to visit the bathroom after a cup of coffee, but it may be quite common. People with digestive conditions, such as IBS, and those who are lactose intolerant may be more prone to this experience.

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