Under normal circumstances, the words coffee and poop shouldn't be in the same sentence. However, there is a real connection between these two topics and finding out why coffee makes you poop speaks to a major health benefit of drinking one of the world's most popular beverages.
Many of us rely on our morning cup of coffee to kick-start our brains into high gear and give us a boost to get the day started. But it’s not just the brain that receives a kick-start; coffee can get your digestive system up and running too, with many coffee drinkers relying on their morning coffee to keep them regular. In fact, it’s such a well-known side-effect of coffee that you can even buy various mugs proclaiming loud and proud, “Coffee makes me poop”. Seriously, google it, it’s a thing.
Coffee has long been linked to many health benefits from increased mental focus to extra boosts of energy. One of the lesser known health benefits of coffee is that it effectively stimulates movement and activity in the colon.
What this means in blunt terms is that coffee makes you poop. Because of this, coffee has been known as one of the world's most enjoyable laxatives.
For those wondering why they always feel the need to poop after drinking coffee, there's a reason. And it's not because you're weird. If you’ve ever wondered exactly WHY you can often time your toilet trips for shortly after your coffee breaks, you’re not alone. Scientists have studied this over the years and, although they haven’t found the definitive, go-to answer, they have managed to narrow it down a bit and offer up some interesting facts to ponder.
Why Do I Poop After Drinking Coffee? Seriously.
Firstly, if it’s your morning coffee that sends you racing to the porcelain telephone to make a call, your coffee might not actually be to blame. After a night of inaction, it only takes a bite of food to stimulate the digestive system into activity; so, the fact that you’re up and moving, eating and drinking is enough to get that traffic moving along the intestinal highway – not to mention the fact that in the morning the colon is twice as active as normal, due to the natural circadian rhythms the body follows.
Most of the results cited in today’s research are from a study done back in 1990, the results of which were published in “Gut” magazine. This particular research program took some brave participants, wired them up with some anal probes, and studied the reaction of their colonic muscles to various beverages.
Let’s take a pause here and fill in the blanks with some basic education about the far end of our digestive system. Food, which later becomes stool, after some advanced magic in the upper digestive system, is moved through the lower intestinal tract and colon by peristalsis, which is the contraction of the walls of the stomach and intestinal tract. When you eat something, this triggers the gastrocolic reflex to kick in, which gets things moving right along. If those contractions move things along more quickly than normal, as can be the case with a strong cup of coffee, then the resulting stool can tend to be a bit looser than one would expect. This is because it hasn’t spent enough time in the colon, where the excess moisture would normally be reabsorbed.
Does Caffeine Make Me Poop?
Many people assume that it’s the caffeine in the coffee that causes this effect. Caffeine certainly does stimulate the digestive system per the NIH study referenced here. However, other studies have also provided proof that decaffeinated coffee has the same effect, although to a slightly lesser extent, and that high-caffeine energy drinks and sodas do not have the same outcome. This leaves us in a quandary.
So, having ruled out the caffeine aspect as being the sole reason why some people poop after drinking coffee, that only leaves, oh, about 1000 other chemical components to sift through, all of which are contained in a single cup of coffee.
Now, scientists haven’t precisely narrowed down exactly which compound/s do the dirty work (so to speak), but they do know that something in your cuppa joe triggers the release of two key hormones: motilin, which stimulates those gut contractions, and gastrin, which triggers the secretion of acid in the stomach.
Gastrin is a peptide hormone which activates the colon and relaxes the muscles required to move waste through the body.
Within as little as 4 minutes of drinking coffee, you can experience the near immediate effects of one of the world's most effective and best tasting laxatives.
Does Coffee's Acidity Cause Me To Poop?
Which leads to the second theory: coffee itself is quite acidic. An average cup of coffee has a pH of about 4.7 (with 1.0 being the highest acidity possible, and 14 being the lowest). For comparison, lemon juice has a pH of 2.0 and water a pH of 7.0. This higher acidity, along with the extra acid stimulated by gastrin, in turn gives the distal colon a wee push-start, leading to faster excretion of wastes from the body.
Recommendation: Most coffee typically prompts me to use the bathroom. However, one brand called Bio Coffee will trigger my need to go to the bathroom almost immediately. I consider this a good thing and have used been drinking Bio Coffee for over 3 years now.
Do All Coffee Drinkers Have to Poop After Drinking Coffee?
Not all coffee drinkers experience this digestive phenomenon: studies showed that only 3 out of 10 coffee imbibers experience this laxative effect, and many regular coffee drinkers build up so much of a tolerance to the daily dose that the effect may wear off. For the lucky (or unlucky?) minority, a cup of coffee causes the digestive system to react in the same way as it would if they were to ingest a large meal, all within four minutes of ingestion. Research also found that a cup of coffee stimulated peristalsis 60% more than a glass of water.
So if you're one of these lucky 3 out of 10 drinkers you have a most enjoyable way of maintaining regular bowel movements. Getting rid of waste is a cornerstone to health and coffee used in moderation can be an integral tool to keeping your body cleansed.
For people who aren't as “regular” as they'd like to be or aren't getting enough fiber, coffee can be a big help. And if you ask me, staying regular is a good enough reason to keep drinking my morning coffee every single day.
What if I don't want to Poop After Coffee?
Some experts say that your colon is twice as active during the morning hours. This is due to your body's natural circadian rhythms. If you add a breakfast and a cup of coffee to your morning routine, you're effectively super charging colon activity. Scientists suggest that in order to lessen this effect, drink your coffee about 2 hours after waking up. This will give your colon time to transition into the day ahead instead of catapulting you toward the toilet.
So, there you have it! If you’re one of the special few who experience the coffee/poo chain of events, you now know exactly what’s happening as your coffee works its way from the mouth on downward, and why your favourite beverage helps to keep you regular. You can now impress your co-workers during your coffee break with your newfound colonic knowledge, and maybe even go ahead and buy a “coffee makes me poop” mug for your next office Secret Santa.