The most well-known effects of drinking a cup of Joe are linked to caffeine’s energizing properties.
Nevertheless, apart from waking us up, coffee influences our bodies in other peculiar ways, one of which has had me wonder why coffee makes me poop.
I know that many of my readers get the urge to visit the bathroom instantly after having a full cup or just one sip of coffee in the morning.
So I decided to share a post on this delicate topic to shed some light on the causes of why coffee affects digestion and our bowel movements in such a way.
Caffeine may be the culprit, but some consumers report that even drinking decaf, be it black, or with milk, also makes them poop.
Maybe the coffee condiments that you add, such as creamer and flavored syrups, influence your peristalsis.
Nevertheless, a pure shot of espresso also affects many individuals in the same way. Furthermore, believe it or not, the need to go in a number of coffee drinkers is triggered solely by the smell of coffee in the morning.
In this post, you will learn why some consider coffee a natural laxative, and how it affects digestion in a way that makes you poop.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Why does coffee make me poop: The Causes
There are several causes of why coffee may be making you poop.
The effects of the beverage on your digestive system and bowel movements depend on your individual organism and the way you process the compounds in your morning cup of Joe.
Many factors play a role, including the sensitivity of your stomach, your caffeine metabolism, your go-to type of coffee drink (espresso/filter/black/with milk), whether you smoke, take medications, etc.
Furthermore, all these considerations determine how long it takes for coffee to make one defecate.
Some consumers get the urge to go immediately after drinking their morning cup, while others aren’t influenced in such a way at all.
The intensity of the effects of coffee on gastrointestinal motility varies from one individual to another.
Nevertheless, by going over the information in this post, you will get a much better understanding of how drinking a cup may be affecting your digestion.
To present all of the potential causes, I did thorough research, based on scientific reports and anecdotal evidence.
So here’s why coffee makes you poop:
Coffee compounds, such as chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, have been linked to increased release of digestive hormones like gastrin and cholecystokinin. It’s also been suggested that substances in coffee like caffeine have a stimulating effect on colonic motor activity. Therefore both caffeinated and decaffeinated black coffee can affect your digestive system and consequently make you poop after having a cup. This effect of coffee can be enhanced by condiments that you add to your drink, such as milk, creamer, flavored syrups, and artificial sweeteners.
The magnitude of the effects of coffee on your urge to defecate, and how long it takes for you to experience these effects, are influenced by other factors as well. I will go over them in detail in the following sections.
So let’s explore further the causes of why coffee makes you poop.
1. Coffee stimulates colonic motor activity.
The consumption of coffee may lead to increased activity in the colon which is one of the most commonly discussed causes of why it makes people poop.
According to this study ingestion of caffeine results in stronger anal sphincter contractions.
Furthermore, this article reports that 29% of respondents who have completed a questionnaire claim that coffee induces the desire to defecate.
In the same report, in 8 of 14 healthy subjects, it was observed increased motility in the colon (rectosigmoid area) following coffee consumption. This reaction lasted for at least 30 minutes and occurred within 4 minutes after drinking both regular and decaffeinated coffee.
So if you’ve been wondering why coffee makes you poop so fast, keep in mind that it’s been documented it can activate your bowel movements in just a few minutes after having a cup. It doesn’t take long for its compounds to do their magic.
There is also evidence that coffee consumption may impact the gastrocolic reflex. But what is that, actually?
Well, usually, after you eat, your stomach stretches, which triggers said reflex. Your gastrointestinal tract starts working harder to empty out room for more food.
As a result, the colon has increased motility after the ingestion of food. Consequently, you get the urge to poop after a meal.
According to this study caffeinated coffee stimulates colon motor activity with a magnitude similar to that of a meal.
Decaffeinated coffee also triggers such a reaction but to a lesser degree compared to a cup of fully caffeinated coffee.
This leads to the conclusion that caffeine does affect our digestion, but it’s not the only compound in our morning beverage that makes us defecate. But more on that later.
It’s also worth noting that the aforementioned gastrocolic reflex is most active during the morning – the time when coffee is predominantly consumed. This may further explain why coffee triggers your urge to visit the bathroom to such an extent.
This consequence of drinking a cup in the morning may be present no matter if you drink coffee on an empty stomach or have it alongside your breakfast.
Furthermore, some scientific reports suggest that the bioactive compound in coffee – caffeine, may influence the time it takes for substances to move through your digestive tract. Many habitual coffee drinkers are pleased with this effect. Along with taking advantage of other benefits related to coffee consumption, they use their morning cup as a natural laxative to maintain bowel regularity.
2. Coffee stimulates the release of digestive hormones.
In the previous section, it became evident that coffee stimulates colonic motor activity.
Moreover, this report, suggests that coffee stimulates gastrin release and gastric acid secretion.
This means that your stomach starts producing more stomach acid which helps you break down food and eases digestion. Naturally, as a consequence, you may get the urge to go quickly after coffee consumption.
Apart from gastrin, there is evidence that drinking a cup can result in an increased release of another digestive hormone – cholecystokinin.
One of the main functions of this hormone is to trigger peristalsis.
Intriguingly, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee affect the release of said hormones. So there must be compounds other than caffeine, that are present in coffee and make a person defecate after drinking a cup of Joe.
This may explain why coffee makes you poop, but energy drinks – don’t.
Some sources suggest these digestion-stimulating substances may be coffee’s acids, such as chlorogenic and caffeic acids.
The concentrations of these compounds that end up in your cup vary depending on the type of coffee beans and the brewing method you use. For example, espresso has the highest caffeine and chlorogenic acid concentration – three to six times higher, compared to Moka pot coffee and filtered coffee.
This may explain why a shot of espresso has a stronger effect on your bowel movements, compared to Chemex or Hario V60 brew.
The roast profile also matters – the lighter the coffee roast, the higher the concentration of chlorogenic acid in your cup.
Consequently, drinking coffee, prepared with a lighter roast is more likely to make you poop.
I came across a scientific report which supports the statement that dark roasted coffee is less effective in stimulating gastric acid secretion, compared to a medium roast. So one of the ways to stop coffee from making you poop is to switch to dark-roasted filtered coffee.
It’s also worth noting that some articles suggest that hot drinks boost digestive function and therefore can promote defecation.
This means that a hot coffee beverage may activate your bowel movements more intensely compared to a cup of iced coffee.
Nevertheless, many individuals get the urge to poop after drinking an iced decaf latte from Starbucks or Dunkin’.
Other ingredients in these beverages, apart from caffeine and coffee acids, may be making you poop.
3. You are sensitive to lactose
If you’re more sensitive to lactose, a latte or a mug of drip coffee with milk is more likely to affect your digestive system and consequently trigger your urge to poop.
Keep in mind that lactose intolerance often develops at a later age.
This explains why some individuals are surprised when all of a sudden a cup of coffee with a dash of milk causes bloating or triggers their need to visit the loo instantly after drinking it.
To alleviate the effects of lactose sensitivity, you should avoid adding whole milk or dairy creamer to your morning beverage. Simply replace them with plant-based alternatives.
Furthermore, if you’re on a keto diet and you’re a fan of bulletproof coffee you should consider cutting back on the grass-fed butter. Especially if you feel like the laxative effects of your morning cup are too strong for your liking. Replace the butter with ghee which is lactose and casein-free. This way you can stop the coffee from making you poop.
4. You add artificial sweeteners to your coffee
Even if you drink coffee without any lactose-containing ingredients, you may be adding other condiments with substances that affect your bowel movements.
For example, many sugar substitutes have laxative effects.
When added to other triggering foods and drinks, such as coffee, they can make you poop quickly after drinking a cup. For example, many sugar-free coffee syrups contain sucralose – an artificial sweetener that may cause indigestion symptoms such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
So if you order a venti iced skinny latte at Starbucks, you may get the urge to quickly rush into the bathroom after drinking it.
The effects of sucralose in combination with the effects of coffee on the digestive system can trigger a quick bodily reaction.
The severity of one’s response to sucralose or other artificial sweeteners varies from one person to another.
Furthermore, there is evidence that even natural sugar alternatives such as stevia and erythritol may have laxative properties.
Even though they don’t affect the gastrointestinal tract as harshly as artificial alternatives, these natural sweeteners can cause digestive discomfort, especially if consumed in excess.
Therefore, if you’re trying to stop coffee from making you poop, you really need to consider staying away from sugar substitutes.
5. Pavlovian Response
The Pavlovian response, also known as classic conditioning, was first studied by Ivan Pavlov – a physiologist who published his experiments in the 19th century.
His work is widely discussed in the field of behavioral psychology and may explain why, believe it or not, solely the smell of coffee makes many people want to poop.
The physiologist was researching dogs’ salivation in response to feeding. He noticed that a dog would also salivate when it solely sees the food, or when it hears the steps of the person who brings the meal.
In other words, after getting used to the feeding routine, the dog creates associations that trigger actual physical reactions in its body.
The unconditioned stimulus is the food, and the unconditioned reaction is salivation. But apparently, through the feeding routine, the dog gets conditioned to react to the steps of the person who feeds him, which triggered salivation (an otherwise unconditioned reaction).
Pavlov did another conditioning experiment – just before feeding the dogs, he would introduce a clicking metronome. After repeating this procedure several times, the dogs would get conditioned to salivate more after hearing the sound of a clicking metronome on its own.
Now back to coffee and its effects on our bowel movements.
As previously mentioned, the gastrocolic effect is most active in the morning. Furthermore, since the digestive system processes daily meals at night, most people have bowel movements in the morning. The majority of coffee consumers have a cup soon after waking up. The effects of certain substances in coffee further boost your morning peristalsis.
So many people have the habit to start their days with a cup of coffee and visit the loo after drinking it. As a consequence of this routine, they’ll likely get conditioned to feel the need to poop only after sensing the smell of coffee in the morning.
This is a great classical conditioning example in everyday life and demonstrates the Pavlovian response in coffee consumers.
It also explains why the smell of coffee may affect many habitual drinkers’ wakefulness and energy levels, even before taking a sip.
I know that many of us, coffee consumers, have asked ourselves at least once whether coffee actually affects our bowel movements. And if so – we’ve wondered why it makes us poop.
I hope that you found the answers in this article helpful and that you’ve learned the causes of why your morning cup affects your gastrointestinal tract.
Feel free to share your thoughts and experience, or ask me further questions in the comment section below.