Starting your day with a flavorful cup of Joe always seems a good idea until you realize that your favorite caffeinated beverage may trigger an unpleasant bodily reaction.
Some individuals suspect that a cup may have an undesired influence on bowel movements, so it’s natural for them to wonder if coffee can actually cause diarrhea.
Even though most habitual consumers don’t experience such severe digestive reactions, a number of coffee drinkers report having bloating, diarrhea, and gas issues after having too much coffee. Others would experience such discomfort immediately after drinking just one cup of Joe.
Your concerns may even be bigger if you’ve never experienced such a reaction before. It’s quite disappointing when the sudden discomfort after having an espresso or a latte doesn’t let you enjoy your morning ritual. Could the culprit be the milk in your cappuccino or the creamer that you add to your black coffee? And if it’s coffee itself that gives you diarrhea – can you prevent this from happening? Or you should stop drinking it if it influences your digestive system in such an unpleasant way?
After thorough research, I gathered the facts. In this post, you will find out if coffee can cause diarrhea and why this may be happening. Furthermore, you will get some helpful tips on how you can prevent getting such digestive issues after drinking a cup or two.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Can drinking coffee lead to diarrhea?
In my article on why coffee can make a person poop, it became clear that some substances in a coffee beverage may trigger one’s urge to defecate.
Such substances are caffeine, chlorogenic acids, or condiments, such as artificial sweeteners, milk, or creamer.
The severity of the influence of these drink components on a person’s gastrointestinal tract varies from one individual to another.
Some coffee consumers even find the laxative properties of coffee favorable, as they help them maintain healthy bowel regularity.
Nevertheless, others experience digestive discomfort after drinking coffee, such as severe bloating or gas.
Furthermore, some individuals think their morning cup of Joe may be causing loose stools.
So here’s whether coffee can cause diarrhea:
Substances in coffee, such as its caffeine and acids, can cause diarrhea in some people with sensitive stomachs. Diarrhea after drinking coffee may also be triggered by higher caffeine sensitivity and other factors, such as stress. Furthermore, coffee often leads to watery stools in individuals who suffer from digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Coffee with whole milk or dairy creamer may also trigger abnormal bowel activity in lactose-intolerant individuals.
Moreover, some sugar substitutes that are often added to coffee have also been linked to laxative effects and may be the reason why your zero-calorie iced cappuccino triggers diarrhea.
So let’s explore the causes of why coffee may lead to diarrhea in detail:
1. You have a sensitive stomach.
There is individual variability when it comes to the way people process the compounds in their foods and drinks. The same applies to coffee and its substances.
There is evidence that acids in coffee, such as chlorogenic acids, can stimulate gastric acid secretion, and consequently affect your digestion and peristalsis. Furthermore, colon motor activity is also influenced by caffeine.
Some individuals with higher stomach sensitivity would experience these gastrointestinal reactions more frequently and severely.
If you have a more sensitive stomach, coffee compounds can, in fact, cause diarrhea. Especially if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is an ongoing intestinal disorder and its symptoms include abdominal cramps, abnormal bowel movements, bloating, and gas. Coffee often causes diarrhea in people with diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D). If you suffer from this condition and you’re not paying attention to how much coffee or caffeine you’re consuming, you may aggravate IBS symptoms.
Furthermore, in this paper which reviews the effects of coffee on the small intestine, it’s reported that an IBS patient cured his chronic diarrhea after stopping daily consumption of over 1000 mg of caffeine.
So if you’re drinking too much coffee or consume an excessive amount of caffeine from other sources, such as tea and coke, you may experience unpleasant consequences, such as severe diarrhea, and even nausea. Especially if you have issues with stomach sensitivity.
Related post: Coffee makes me nauseaus: Causes and Tips
2. You metabolize caffeine slowly.
Genetics and other factors, such as whether you smoke, or take medications, play a role in the speed of caffeine metabolism.
The slower the rate at which you metabolize caffeine, the more sensitive you are to this bioactive compound.
You can learn more about how caffeine works and what factors influence caffeine metabolism in my post about how long caffeine lasts.
Since individuals who are slow caffeine metabolizers are more sensitive to its effects, caffeine may affect their bowel movements more intensely and cause loose stool. Furthermore, slow caffeine metabolizers are more likely to experience caffeine jitters, increased heart rate, and elevated anxiety levels after drinking strong coffee. Stress may cause hormonal and chemical bodily reactions that can lead to changes in gut bacteria. This may explain why caffeinated coffee causes abnormal bowel activity in individuals who often experience anxiety diarrhea.
Stress and anxiety may also aggravate IBS symptoms, so if you’re sensitive to caffeine and suffer from IBS-D, you should definitely monitor your caffeine intake. This way you can prevent getting diarrhea after coffee consumption.
The FDA recommends limiting daily caffeine intake to 400 mg for healthy individuals. This is roughly 4 regular shots of espresso or 2 cups of drip coffee. For more insight into your morning cup’s caffeine content, you should check out my article on which coffee has the most caffeine.
With that being said, if you’re sensitive to caffeine you may consider limiting your caffeine consumption to 200 mg a day.
Furthermore, you should try avoiding caffeinated drinks when you’re stressed out. This way you will lower the chances of getting anxiety diarrhea.
3. You have lactose intolerance.
If you’re getting diarrhea after drinking coffee with milk or dairy creamer, the culprit may be lactose.
Impaired lactose digestion is also known as lactose intolerance. Its symptoms include watery stool, abdominal pain, and bloating.
This digestive issue often develops at a later age, which is why many habitual coffee drinkers are left surprised when their morning latte suddenly starts causing diarrhea.
To rule out lactose intolerance, avoid adding dairy products to your cup of Joe. Instead, you can switch to plant-based milk alternatives and non-dairy creamers.
4. You add sugar substitutes.
Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, and other zero-calorie sugar substitutes, such as stevia and erythritol, may disturb your digestion.
If you’re adding these types of sweeteners to your coffee drink, they may be causing diarrhea.
Many sources suggest that the artificial sugar substitute sucralose (marketed as Splenda) may affect the gut microbiome and cause abnormal bowel movements.
Sucralose is present in many zero-calorie flavored syrups that are often added to coffee drinks.
So if you’re wondering why you have diarrhea a few hours after drinking a skinny latte from Starbucks, you may blame the sugar-free syrup they’re adding.
Natural alternatives to sugar also have laxative properties and may cause diarrhea in some individuals with more sensitive stomachs. Even more so if consumed in excess.
Such natural sugar substitutes are stevia and erythritol.
Even though they’re generally a better alternative to artificial sweeteners, you should try avoiding them if you’re looking for ways to stop your morning coffee from causing diarrhea.
Author’s Note: Stevia and Erythritol are often recommended as the best sugar substitutes to use for keto coffee drinks.
This is so, as there is evidence that they don’t trigger an insulin response.
What’s worth noting is that some individuals on a keto diet would still suffer from abnormal bowel movements after drinking bulletproof coffee with no sweeteners whatsoever.
I hope that you found my article helpful. Knowing whether coffee can lead to diarrhea and being aware of the reasons why you may be getting loose stool after drinking a cup can help you avoid such unpleasant digestive conditions.
You can check out my post on how to stop coffee from making you poop for more helpful tips on how to minimize its effects on your gastrointestinal tract.
This way you will get more ideas on how to minimize the negative consequences of drinking coffee, which is particularly useful for those of you with sensitive stomachs.
Anyway, should you have any further questions, do not hesitate to ask me in the comment section below.