We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished your morning oat milk latte when you start to feel some…uh, movement below decks. You need to go to the bathroom. Like, right now. (If this doesn’t sound familiar, you’re just a liar.)
Basically, coffee and pooping seem to go together like vibrators and orgasms—while it’s not a prerequisite to make BMs happen, it certainly seems to speed the process up so to speak. While obviously regular BMs are good for your health…what is it about coffee that makes you head to the toilet ASAP, and does it happen to everyone? Here’s what the experts have to say.
Why does coffee make you poop?
There are actually a lot of things at play here. For starters, the caffeine in coffee causes your intestinal muscles to contract, says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, which helps…ahem, move things along.
However, it’s not just a caffeine thing—there are compounds in coffee itself that can make you poop. “Coffee, both regular and decaffeinated, can stimulate the movements of the distal (the lower end of the large intestine) colon,” says Kate Scarlata, RDN, LDN, a FODMAP and IBS expert. Specifically, Jones says chlorogenic acids and N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamides (try saying that five times fast) both stimulate the production of stomach acid, which helps move food through your digestive system.
“Coffee stimulates the release of two hormones, gastrin (released in the stomach) and cholecystokinin (released from the small intestine),” adds Scarlata. “Gastrin increases colonic movements and cholecystokinin releases bile and digestive enzymes, initiating the digestive process.”
If that wasn’t enough digestive action for you, Jones says the warm liquid of coffee widens blood vessels in digestive system to increase blood flow and GI activity.
Want to know more about your morning joe? A registered dietitian gives the lowdown:
Plus, coffee is an even better laxative if sipped bright and early. “After a full night of rest, the first thing you put in your mouth (for many of us, this is coffee!) will jump start the digestive process via the gastrocolic reflex,” Scarlata says. The gastrocolic response is a physiological response that stimulates muscle contraction down through the intestines, and it happens whenever you eat or drink. But combining that with coffee’s above-mentioned digestive properties and you’ve got quite a BM in the works.
How long might it take to cause the effect? “For some individuals, they can be heading to the bathroom 5 minutes after having their coffee and for others it may be an hour. Everyone responds differently,” says Jones. Even just one cup of coffee can do the trick, Scarlata says.
Does this happen to everyone?
Everyone responds differently to coffee, but its poop-inducing potential could affect anyone. “About 30 percent of people note that coffee makes them poop, [and] more women than men,” Scarlata says. Why? Women are more sensitive to rectal distention, which can trigger the urge to ~go~, and are more commonly diagnosed with IBS, which can cause more of a reaction to that cup of java, too.
If you use Splenda (or any artificial sweetener) or drink cow’s milk and have a lactose intolerance, you could have a more intense reaction to coffee, adds Jones. The same goes for any preexisting GI condition besides IBS, like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, as these diseases may lead to diarrhea, she says.
The takeaway? Drink your coffee and enjoy (perhaps with a little food or later in the day), but if it’s making you poop too much, take it back a notch. And skip the artificial sweetener and milk if you’re sensitive.
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