Why Does Coffee Make You Poop? (+ Potential Solutions to Help You Avoid It)
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We’ve all been there at one point or another: You chug down your morning cup of coffee and the next thing you know, you’re in a full-on sprint to the bathroom. Like it or not, coffee poops are a thing, and while they’re not the hottest topic of conversation, you have to admit: You are curious about why coffee makes you poop. Coffee is just as much of a wakeup call for your gut as it is for your mind, but why exactly do you feel the urge to go number two after drinking your morning cup of joe?
What is it about coffee that makes you sprint to the bathroom in the middle of your morning? Read on and discover possible reasons why drinking coffee has you visiting the bathroom more than you’d like to. From possible causes to potential solutions, we’ve got this one covered.
Why Does Coffee Make You Poop?
While there’s no solid answer as to why coffee makes you poop, there are some theories on the coffee-poop connection.
- Coffee can activate your colon.
Coffee is one of the leading sources of caffeine in the world. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that helps you stay alert – and a single brewed cup provides about 95mg of caffeine. However, while caffeine is an amazing energy booster, it may also stimulate your urge to poop.
Numerous studies have shown that it can activate contractions in your colon and intestinal muscles – and contractions in the colon push contents towards the rectum, the final section of your digestive tract. Research has shown that caffeine makes the colon 23% more active than decaf coffee and 60% more active than water.
- Coffee can stimulate hormones.
According to research, coffee can stimulate hormones that help push food through the gut. For instance, it can increase levels of the hormone gastrin – like caffeine, gastrin makes the colon more active. Another study found that drinking decaf or regular coffee raised gastrin levels by 1.7 times and 2.3 times, respectively, compared to drinking water.
Furthermore, coffee may also raise levels of the digestive hormone cholecystokinin (CCK). Not only can this hormone increase the movement of food through the colon, it’s also linked to the gastrocolic reflex which makes the colon more active.
- Cream or milk may promote bowel movements.
Do you usually stir in milk, sugar cream, or other additives to your cup of coffee? Research shows that cream and milk may promote bowel movements as they contain lactose – around 65% of people worldwide can’t digest lactose properly.
People with lactose intolerance experience symptoms such as gas, stomach cramps, bloating, or diarrhea soon after consuming dairy products. This means that lactose can trigger the urge to poop among people with lactose intolerance.
- The acidity of coffee.
The laxative properties of coffee might also have something to do with its acidity, which helps your stomach produce more gastric acid to break down proteins. Chlorogenic acid, a compound in coffee, boosts stomach acid levels which may stimulate bowel activity. Other factors may also explain why your morning cup of coffee can make you poop.
For instance, the act of drinking can make the colon more active – this is known as gastrocolic reflex. This reflex is the same one that activates the colon after you eat a meal, and while coffee isn’t considered a meal, it may have a similar effect on your bowels.
Here are some potential solutions to your coffee-poop dilemma.
- Choose a low acid coffee.
Choose with inadvertent low acid or treated coffee. Treated coffee has some special processing techniques either before or during roasting that reduces their acid content, while inadvertent low acid coffees have naturally low acid contents. Switching to low acid coffee helps digestion in people who are prone to acid reflux by eliminating its chief trigger. Additionally, low acidity or acid-free coffee reduces the risk of ulcers, which are common in people who consume a lot of acidic drinks and foods.
Bonus Tip: Cold brewing coffee in cold water – instead of hot water like normal – reduces the acid levels of the final drink by about 66%. Once you’ve brewed the concentrate, you can still cut it with hot water to enjoy a hot mug like usual.
- Avoid adding milk, cream, and other additives to your coffee.
If you suspect that your urge to poop has something to do with the additives you stir into your coffee, you simply have to avoid them. Stop adding milk, cream, and other additives to your coffee. You can try milk alternatives, such as almond or coconut or some other non-dairy variety.
If you seriously love the flavor of your creamer, try using non-dairy milk and a syrup as a substitute. There are numerous options out there for extra flavoring that you should definitely be able to find a suitable replacement for your usual additives.
Is This A Common Problem?
According to one study, 29% of participants experienced an increased urge to poop within 20 minutes of drinking coffee – and surprisingly, around 53% of all the women in the study were affected. Women may be more prone to this problem, as digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more common in women than in men.
People with IBS and older adults may be more prone to this problem because their bowels are more sensitive to the effects of coffee. Further, those who are lactose intolerant may also be affected if they add cream, milk, or other dairy products to their coffee. However, while the urge to go number two after drinking a cup of coffee appears to be common, it doesn’t affect everyone.
The Bottom Line
While there’s no solid answer as to why coffee makes you poop, there are some theories on the coffee-poop connection. Some of the research points to coffee activating the colon, stimulating hormones, coffee acidity, and dairy products promoting bowel movements. While the urge to go number two after drinking a cup of coffee appears to be common, it doesn’t affect everyone.
Also, there are some potential solutions to this problem. If it’s due to the coffee’s acidity, you can just look for low acidity or acid-free coffee; or, if it’s due to the additives you stir into your brew, you can just avoid milk, cream, and other dairy products. So, whether it’s the caffeine, dairy, or the acid that’s getting to you, there are potential solutions to address the issue without having to give up on coffee altogether.
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