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Why Does Coffee Make You Poop? Explaining A Bathroom Mystery

Why Does Coffee Make You Poop? Explaining A Bathroom Mystery

Clark Clark
9 minute read

For many people, a morning cup of coffee has an interesting effect: it makes them poop. (No, it’s not just you.) Coffee doesn’t have this effect on everyone, but for some, it has a laxative effect. It’s a question many caffeine consumers wonder: why does coffee make you poop?

Here’s the science: It turns out there’s a physiological reason coffee makes some people poop. Its chemical makeup can affect gastrin, a hormone that stimulates the colon muscles. This gets bowel muscles moving.

There are other reasons for that morning number two. Some people are sensitive to the other things they put in their cup, like dairy products. Others may react to the acidity of their coffee. 

Let’s break down everything you need to know about why coffee makes you poop.

Does coffee make everyone poop?

No, coffee doesn’t make everyone poop. Not everyone reacts to things the same, and some people don’t feel the urge to poop after drinking coffee. Nevertheless, it is a common reaction. 

Is pooping after coffee normal? Pooping after coffee is normal for many people. In fact, 29% of people (and a whopping 63% of women) feel the urge to poop after drinking a cup of coffee.

Your Colon and Coffee

If you experience the rush to the restroom after drinking coffee, you may have wondered why it happens. Many people assume that post-coffee colon activity results from excess caffeine, depending on how the beans are roasted.

Surprisingly, studies have shown that while caffeine can potentially cause colon contractions, it’s not the only culprit.

If your coffee stimulates your bowels, you’re not just feeling the side effects of caffeine. Coffee can make you poop regardless of its caffeine content. In fact, decaffeinated coffee has the same laxative effect on some people. This may be because coffee boosts gastrin levels, while caffeine alone doesn’t.

Note:While coffee does stimulate bowel movements, it is not recommended as a laxative to relieve constipation. Too much caffeine can dehydrate you, making the constipation worse. If you’re a little backed up, chug some water.

Both caffeinated and decaf coffee contain thousands of compounds, but none have been definitively linked to the urge to defecate. Although some have suggested molecules such as exorphins may be behind these effects, science hasn’t confirmed anything yet. 

Why does coffee make you poop, but not energy drinks? Coffee, but not energy drinks, makes you poop because the caffeine in the drinks isn’t what makes you have to go. Compounds in coffee stimulate the digestive system in several ways, giving you the urge to defecate.

Is coffee a diuretic or laxative? Coffee can be a diuretic and a laxative for some people. Regular coffee contains caffeine, which is a diuretic. For people who feel the urge to poop after drinking coffee, it acts as a mild laxative as well.

Coffee itself may not be the only thing causing your morning trip to the bathroom. Other possible contributing factors to your bathroom blitz are:

Health Conditions and Hormones

Many studies have been conducted on the effects of coffee. Here are some things scientists have been able to tease out about how drinking coffee affects your gastrointestinal tract. 

Within minutes of consumption, your body releases hormones that act throughout the digestive system, including the stomach and small intestine. Coffee makes you poop during the day because it affects your digestive system so quickly.

When you drink a cup of coffee, it stimulates your body to release the hormones gastrin and cholecystokinin. Both gastrin and cholecystokinin trigger the gastrocolic reflex, which stimulates your body to make a bowel movement. 

These hormones also increase the motility (peristalsis) of the colon and rectum. Because coffee activates your gut in a similar way, it also gives you the urge to eliminate as you would after eating a big dinner.

Some health conditions can cause the bowels to empty more frequently, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Patients may think they suddenly need to go because they just drank a few cups of coffee, when really they’re experiencing the symptoms of IBS.

What does coffee do to your intestines? Coffee increases the motility of your intestines, which can make you need to poop. Coffee has a moderate effect on the small intestine, but really gets the colon and rectum moving.

Milk or Creamer

If you have lactose intolerance, your latte or creamer could be causing your extra trips to the bathroom. When you’re lactose intolerant, your body doesn’t produce the enzymes to break down lactose, a sugar in milk, which makes you sick when you drink it.

If you consume a high-lactose dairy product, it can cause many uncomfortable symptoms, including gas, bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, and yes — diarrhea. So, the milk or creamer might be why you’re needing frequent bathroom breaks, not the coffee.

If you’re not wild about black coffee, but are hoping to find healthier ways to drink it, we have some ideas.

Acidity

Most coffee is very acidic, which can irritate your stomach. It also stimulates the production of gastric acid (stomach acid), although decaffeinated coffee and cold brew have less of an effect.

Too much gastric acid can cause problems for digestive health. Food may not be broken down and absorbed correctly, which can lead to diarrhea.

Warmth

Simply drinking a warm beverage can get your digestive system moving. Research has shown that even drinking warm water can stimulate movement in the intestines. Drinking warm coffee can definitely help you go to the bathroom.

But temperature doesn’t explain all of the effects of coffee. People who need to defecate after drinking coffee don’t always feel the same urge after sipping another warm beverage, like tea. 

Artificial Sweeteners

Some artificial sweeteners can upset your digestive system and make things move. Artificial sweeteners that contain sugar alcohols like xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and erythritol (prevalent in stevia) can cause bloating, flatulence, and other digestive problems.

If you put artificial sweeteners with sugar alcohols in your coffee, your sweetener could actually be giving you the urge to poop, not the coffee itself.

As you can see, there are many reasons why coffee makes you have to go to the bathroom, from the compounds in the coffee to the milk and sweetener you put in that coffee. (That’s why it can even give some people explosive diarrhea.) It’s not all in your head!

Is Pooping After Coffee Ok?

Pooping after coffee can be good or bad, depending on your body and your circumstances. There are times when a post-java bowel movement can be positive, and other times when it’s not good or even dangerous.

Pooping after drinking coffee is good when:

  • You need help maintaining regularity: Drinking coffee can help you make sure you’re making a bowel movement every day.
  • You need to go before a big event: Coffee can help you make sure you go before running that marathon, preventing any pit stops.

Thankfully, pooping after coffee can often be a good thing. However, there are some situations where a coffee-induced bathroom break is not ideal.

Coffee making you poop is not ideal when:

  • You have serious digestive disorders like IBS that already affect your bowel movements
  • You’re expecting coffee to help you poop, but your body doesn’t react well to coffee

If you begin to depend on coffee to make you poop, that can be unhealthy. At this point, you may want to include more fiber and hydration in your diet.

What Kind of Coffee Makes You Poop?

Any coffee that causes more motility in the colon or rectum will make the reaction to coffee stronger. Specifically, warm and highly acidic coffee can amplify the effects. As discussed above, specialty drinks or milk, creamer, or additives can trigger a trip to the loo.

Choosing the wrong kind of coffee can be a bit of a gamble. The urge could hit you more suddenly, or you could have less time between drinking and needing to go.

Coffee For Fewer Poop Problems

Luckily you can pick a coffee that’s less likely to give you a sudden overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom. If your morning brew prompts a number 2, you’ll want to choose carefully so you can avoid discomfort.

You’ll also want to ensure that your coffee has a low acid content. The acidity of coffee varies, but some coffee is made in a way that reduces acid. Low acid coffee makes a cup of joe easier on your stomach (and your toilet).

Cold brew is a low acid option that many enjoy for its smooth taste. Even regular coffee served at a cooler temperature may cause fewer poop problems than a piping hot cup.

We recommend trying our gold-standard Original Gold Coffee to start. It’s one of our bestsellers for a reason: it tastes fantastic, and it’s kind to your GI tract. We aim to give you beans without the burn.

Sources

  1. Effects of Coffee and Its Components on the Gastrointestinal Tract and the Brain-Gut Axis.
  2. Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction. A review.
  3. Effect of coffee on distal colon function.
  4. Effects of caffeine on anorectal manometric findings.
  5. [The influence of coffee and caffeine on gastrin and acid secretion in man (author's transl)]
  6. Lactose malabsorption and intolerance: a systematic review on the diagnostic value of gastrointestinal symptoms and self-reported milk intolerance.
  7. The Effect of Warm Water Intake on Bowel Movements in the Early Postoperative Stage of Patients Having Undergone Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. 
  8. Effect of regular and decaffeinated coffee on serum gastrin levels.
  9. Approach to the Patient with Diarrhea and Malabsorption.
  10. Gastrointestinal Disturbances Associated with the Consumption of Sugar Alcohols with Special Consideration of Xylitol: Scientific Review and Instructions for Dentists and Other Health-Care Professionals.

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