Many people love their morning cup of joe.
Not only is this caffeine-fueled beverage a great pick-me-up, it’s also loaded with beneficial antioxidants and nutrients (1).
What’s more, some people find it can jump-start the other end of their body.
In fact, one study found that 29% of participants needed to use the bathroom within twenty minutes of drinking a cup of coffee (2).
This article helps explain why coffee can make you poop.
Coffee is one of the best sources of caffeine on the planet.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that helps you stay alert.
A single brewed cup provides approximately 95 mg of caffeine (3).
Contractions in the colon push contents towards the rectum, which is the final section of your digestive tract.
Research has shown that caffeine makes the colon 60% more active than water and 23% more active than decaf coffee (6).
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.
It was initially believed that the caffeine in coffee makes you poop.
However, studies show that decaf can also do the trick. This means there must be other factors at work (6).
Chlorogenic acids and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamides are both compounds of interest.
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. This is called the gastrocolic reflex. It’s the same reflex that activates the colon after you eat a meal (9).
While coffee isn’t considered a meal, it may have a similar impact on your bowels (6).
On the other hand, 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 they’re primed and ready to go (10).
Your body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, helps regulate many processes, including bowel movements (11).
That said, it’s still not clear how much of an impact these other factors have on stimulating your colon. More research in this area would help determine their significance.
Summary Other compounds in coffee, such as chlorogenic acids and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamides, may stimulate bowel activity. Additional factors include the gastrocolic reflex and your body’s internal clock.
Coffee has also been shown to stimulate hormones that help push food through the gut.
For example, it can increase levels of the hormone gastrin. Like caffeine, gastrin makes the colon more active (2).
One study found that drinking regular or decaf coffee raised gastrin levels by 2.3 and 1.7 times respectively, compared to drinking water (12).
What’s more, coffee may raise levels of the digestive hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) (13).
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 (14).
Summary Coffee has been shown to raise levels of gastrin and cholecystokinin, two hormones linked to increased colon activity.
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 (15).
In particular, milk and cream may promote bowel movements, as they contain lactose. Close to 65% of people worldwide cannot digest lactose properly (16).
People who are lactose intolerant experience symptoms such as bloating, stomach cramps or diarrhea soon after consuming dairy.
This means lactose can trigger the urge to poop in people with lactose intolerance (17).
Summary 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.
According to one leading study on this topic, 29% of participants experienced an increased urge to poop within twenty minutes of drinking coffee.
Surprisingly, 53% of all the women in the study were affected by this urge (2).
Women may be more prone to this symptom, as digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more common in women than in men (18).
While the post-coffee urge to go appears to be common, it doesn’t affect everyone.
In addition, it’s not clear if this symptom fades away in regular drinkers.
People with IBS and older adults may be more prone to it because their bowels are more sensitive to the effects of coffee.
Those who are lactose intolerant may also be affected by this symptom if they add milk, cream or other dairy products to their coffee.
Summary 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.
Coffee contains a variety of compounds that may stimulate your bowels.
These include caffeine, chlorogenic acids and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamides.
Adding milk or cream may further increase this effect, especially if you're lactose intolerant.
However, it’s unclear which of these has the greatest impact.
If you struggle to go to the bathroom regularly, a cup of coffee may be the solution.