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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
9 minute read

For many coffee drinkers, their morning cup of joe 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?

It turns out there’s actually a physiological reason why coffee makes some people poop. Coffee’s chemical makeup can affect gastrin, a hormone that stimulates the colon muscles. This gets bowel muscles moving, explaining why coffee makes some people poop.

There are other reasons why coffee makes you poop, too. Some people are sensitive to the things they put in their coffee, like dairy products. Others are more susceptible to the acidity of their coffee. Let’s break down everything you need to know about why coffee makes you poop.

The Science Behind Coffee & Poop

If you experience the rush to the restroom after drinking coffee, you may have wondered why it happens. Many people assume that coffee makes you poop because it can have a lot of caffeine in it, depending on how the coffee beans are roasted. Surprisingly, caffeine’s not the culprit.

If coffee stimulates your bowels, you’re not just feeling the effects of caffeine. Coffee can make you poop regardless of its caffeine content. In fact, decaf coffee has the same laxative effect on some people.

Coffee contains thousands of compounds, but none have been definitively linked to the urge to defecate after drinking coffee. Although some have suggested molecules such as exorphins may be behind these effects, science hasn’t confirmed anything yet. 

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

  • Milk or creamer
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Warmth
  • Acidity
  • Certain health conditions
  • Artificial sweeteners

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 hoping to find healthier ways to make coffee, we have some ideas.

Hormonal Fluctuations

Scientists have been able to tease out some of the ways that drinking coffee affects your digestive tract. 

Within minutes of drinking coffee, 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.

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.

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 if you need to.

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

Acidity

Most coffee is very acidic, which can irritate your stomach. Coffee stimulates the production of gastric acid (stomach acid), although decaffeinated coffee has less of an effect.

Too much gastric acid can cause problems later in the digestive process. Food may not be broken down and absorbed correctly, which can lead to diarrhea.

Health Conditions

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.

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 go, not the coffee itself.

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

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.

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!

Does Coffee Make Everyone Poop?

No, coffee doesn’t make everyone poop. Not everyone reacts to coffee 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.

Is Pooping After Coffee Good Or Bad?

Pooping after coffee can be good or bad, depending on your body and your circumstances. There are times when a post-coffee 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’re feeling a little constipated — coffee can help get things moving without needing to use a stool softener or harsh chemical laxative
  • 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.

Are Certain Coffees Worse Than Others?

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 of the coffee itself. As discussed above, coffees with milk, creamer, or additives can trigger a trip to the loo.

Drinking warm, acidic coffee can leave you with an even bigger urge to go. The urge could also hit you more suddenly, or you could have less time between drinking your cup of coffee and needing to go. Choosing the wrong kind of coffee can be a bit of a gamble.

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 coffee gives you the urge topoop, you’ll want to choose your coffee carefully so you can avoid discomfort.

Look for coffee that’s easy on your digestive system. Remember, coffee sends many signals to your digestive tract. It alters hormone levels that signal to your colon that it’s time to move. It can also boost stomach acid production, which can make things move a little too much.

Coffee served at a cooler temperature may not create the same poop problems as a piping hot cup.

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).

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. Lactose malabsorption and intolerance: a systematic review on the diagnostic value of gastrointestinal symptoms and self-reported milk intolerance.
  5. The Effect of Warm Water Intake on Bowel Movements in the Early Postoperative Stage of Patients Having Undergone Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. 
  6. Effect of regular and decaffeinated coffee on serum gastrin levels.
  7. Approach to the Patient with Diarrhea and Malabsorption.
  8. 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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