Should You Really Be Relying on Coffee to Stay Regular?

Photo: Stocksy/Rob Cros
Coffee is the secret to a productive morning in more ways than one. If it's part of your daily ritual, then you know that it stimulates every part of your body—from your brain to your, um, intestinal tract.

No, it's not just you: One of the less often-discussed perks of an a.m. cup of joe is that it can help facilitate regular bowel movements, for reasons that scientists don't fully understand. In fact, many drink coffee simply for that reason. But is it really a safe and efficient way to get things moving?

According to Kristin Kirkpatrick—MS, RDN, and manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic—drinking coffee in moderation isn't likely to hurt you, and as long as you're 18 or older, it's a healthy way to help yourself stay regular. That said, everyone metabolizes caffeine differently and it's important to know your threshold. "Fast metabolizers clear caffeine quickly from their systems, while slow metabolizers keep caffeine in their system longer, making themselves more at risk for high blood pressure and heart attack," she says.

It's also important to investigate the root cause of your sluggish number twos. "A healthy individual with a normal digestive system should not have frequent bouts of constipation," says Kirkpatrick. If your bowels simply won't budge without a sip of coffee, it might mean that you're not drinking enough water—you should aim to drink two liters a day.

Your eating habits may also be the culprit. "[Constipation] may indicate a poor diet filled with processed foods and sugar—and perhaps even too little food," says Kirkpatrick. To get in more fiber, she recommends eating whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits, and vegetables throughout the day. "I also suggest including fermented foods or probiotic supplements in the diet to promote good gut health," she adds.

And if you're doing all of the above and still feel stuck, try a good run or workout class. "Movement is the key to longevity," Kirkpatrick proclaims—in life, that is, not time spent in the bathroom.

These magnesium-packed brownies are another particularly delish cure for digestion that's dragging. And here's what to do if constipation hits while you're traveling

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