Steven Chang, MD

Quirky Questions:

Why does coffee make me poop?

Coffee

If you notice that your daily coffee ritual is often accompanied by a timely bowel movement, you’re not alone. For some people this can be an inconvenience, but for others, coffee can be one way of keeping regular. Some coffee drinkers some will readily feel this gastrointestinal effect, some less so.

How Does It Work?

Researchers believe that the bowel-stimulating quality of coffee comes from caffeine and/or other substances contained within the coffee brew. Although there have been no large-scale studies on this subject, what we do know is that drinking coffee can stimulate movement of the colonic muscles, thus promoting peristalsis (the coordinated contraction and relaxation of intestinal muscles that causes bowel movements). One study noted that the magnitude of this peristaltic effect of caffeinated coffee is similar to one induced by eating a meal. It’s also 60 percent stronger than the effect induced by drinking water, and 23 percent stronger than the effect due to drinking decaffeinated coffee.

Aside from promoting bowel movements, coffee can also cause looser stools because increased peristalsis leaves less time for the colon to perform one of its key functions–reabsorbing water from fecal matter to produce well-formed stools. Be aware, however, that other common accompaniments to coffee can be culprits in this matter. Dairy products, excess sugar, even “sugarless” sweeteners like sorbitol (a well-known substance used as a laxative) can cause diarrhea.

How Much Caffeine Is in Coffee, Anyway?

So how much coffee is needed to get results? The above-referenced study used a black Colombian coffee containing 150 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, a fairly average caffeine content for an 8-ounce (oz) cup of joe. A 12-oz “tall” drip coffee from Starbucks contains approximately 240 mg of caffeine, and single-shot latte drinks approximately 90 mg. In the end, the effect will vary by the individual.

But Isn’t Coffee Dehydrating?

You might be wondering about the dehydrating effects of coffee: Shouldn’t drinking coffee cause constipation instead? While we’ve been told for years that coffee (and caffeine in general) is a potent diuretic, research studies show that coffee seems to only have diuretic effects when consumed in larger amounts–more than 500 to 600 mg a day. The most recent studies on this subject show that there is, in fact, no significant difference between urine output among people who drink caffeinated drinks compared to those who drink water or other comparable non-caffeinated drinks. Therefore, the typical coffee drinker shouldn’t experience significant dehydration from a one- or two-cup habit.

So now that you’ve learned more than you may have cared to about your colonic function, perhaps it’s time to test out your newfound self-awareness with a cup of coffee. However, if you care for the mental stimulant effects of caffeine without the gastrointestinal stimulation, try a cup of tea instead. Studies show that tea, by itself, doesn’t seem share the same bowel movement-inducing quality of coffee.

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comments:

  1. a.m. says:

    Yes, I have noticed this about coffee. I have had caffeinated drinks and they didn’t induce bowle movements. Tea does not induce them. But my cup of coffee at lunch time does nearly every time!
    I was told it is because most bowel movements happen in the morning but mine usually happens at lunch time when I have my cup with my husband. I have decided something in coffee is responsible for this. (anecdotal)

    • Lukas says:

      Maybe it is not the coffee but the spending of time with your husband that causes this. I am, however, not a doctor (officially).

    • angel says:

      I wish coffee would make me poop. I have IBS and I would welcome the pooping…..

      • Marcus says:

        You should try drinking Keifer and eating foods that are naturally fermented and contain probiotics. It has fixed my gut. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

  2. KRZKO says:

    COFFEE ALWAYS MAKE ME POOP!!!!

  3. Sawyer the Dominator says:

    i drink 10 cups of coffee every morning. no joke. and when i piss it smells like straight coffee and strong urine. please explain to me this phenomenon. thanks man!

  4. Lindsey says:

    Hi there!
    Is it bad if i do not poop unless i drink coffee? I go almost once every day but its beacuse i drink coffee

    • Hi Lindsey,

      It’s perfectly fine that coffee inspires your daily bowel movement. If you stopped drinking coffee, your body will eventually adjust and you should be able to still go to the bathroom, although it may not be daily. Note that not everyone goes every day, nor is it necessary. Thanks for your question!

      Malcolm Thaler, M.D.
      Clinical Editor
      One Medical Group

  5. Pooper says:

    Actually i am a tea d trinker and I notice that tea has a very similar effect on my bowels. I stopped drinking coffe pretty much solely because it makes me poop so much. I suppose I must be really sensitive to caffine in this way for it to still happen with tea. Although I don’t seem to experience even a noticeable fart from high-caffine energy and soft drinks.

  6. Hmmm.. Thx says:

    Thanks for the article. Coffee makes me poop too, but I thoughtit was because I’m lactose intolerant and also uber sensitive to caffeine. I got a Soy Caramel Macchiato this morning and I’ll be up all night!

  7. Jake Brake says:

    I have found that coffee has this effect on me as well but also that any hot liquid can induce a bowel movement… my ex-wife could not stand coffee but suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and when it caused her to be constipated, the doctor ordered her to drink hot water (similar to the temp of a cup of coffee) and it worked for her just like coffee works on me.

    Thanks for a great article!
    JB

  8. Anna says:

    Drinking coffee it cause me of having pain in stomach what symptoms is this?

    • Hey Anna,

      Good question. Coffee is naturally acidic and can cause the stomach to secrete additional acid after drinking a cup of Joe. The additional acidity can cause some people to experience pain. Try a cup of mild blend coffee or adding milk to balance out the acidity. If you still experience pain and you need an energy boost, consider switching to caffeinated teas like green or black tea.

  9. nowhereman says:

    Well I can say for me that is not sugar, I drink shit loads of soda yet an strong coffe makes my stomach hurt like HELL, I would drink enrgy drinks if they werent as expensive, the point is that I need to be awake.

  10. roxanne says:

    Finally an answer to my question! So its normal having a bowel movement after a cup f coffee afterall. I’m the only one in my family who experience this and was thinking maybe something is wrong with my stomache,phew!

  11. Allen says:

    Im actually on the Toilet right now. Drank my coffee about 30 minutes ago. :(

  12. Victoria says:

    Has anyone done some research on the smell of coffee? ‘Cause it makes me want to poop almost immediately after I’ve tasted it

  13. Adnan says:

    Coffee works for me. I used to wake up several times at night to pee or stomach ache from not pooping enough. Now I wake up far less and don’t need to go to the bathroom to pee at night. The only disadvantage is it takes me longer to fall asleep but I wasn’t sleeping well anyways before poffee. I love that drink.

  14. Doug says:

    I’ve been drinking a Venti Starbucks Bold every weekday morning since 2008. However within the last 2 weeks I started getting an almost pure liquid bowl movement mid afternoon. I started cutting things out until I hit the coffee and that was it – no more problem. Why after 5 years has my gut suddenly become intolerant of coffee? It stinks because my productivity at work has dropped off because I am lagging.

    • Hey Doug,

      Thanks for your question. Some people’s metabolism changes over time so it’s possible to lose the ability to digest something that you once handled in the past. Before ruling out coffee completely, you could try some brands that are lower in acidity and caffeine – they may be easier for your gut to handle.

      Malcolm Thaler, M.D.
      Clinical Editor
      One Medical Group

  15. Cody McGinnis says:

    Coffee has caffeine and other stimulants in it that make your intestines work harder. If you drink like over 600mg of coffee, like a medium it can also cause diaretic effects. I highly recommend it for people who have problems with constipation or just too keep you regular. Release toxins (poop) from your body, leaving you feeling clean & energized, what more is there to ask for. Breakfast with coffee, poop, shower, shave.. If you wake up early, do a quick jog before breakfast. Best morning starter ever. The end (:

  16. Joshalyn Jones says:

    Love my coffee but I know when I drink it I better stay close to the toilet lol

  17. Emarie Lupus says:

    I’m here because this just happened haha.
    Had a cup of coffee and ran to the potty.

  18. Sabrina says:

    So if you’re constipated, coffee will help?

    • Thanks for your question Sabrina.

      Coffee might help but there are other ways to address constipation that can offer other health benefits. For example, adding more fiber to your diet–especially soluble fiber–and drinking lots of healthy liquids like water may do the trick. Check out our “All About Fiber” blog post for more details: http://www.onemedical.com/blog/live-well/all-about-dietary-fiber/

      There are also a number of over-the-counter medications that can help with constipation, but would suggest discussing with your doctor first before going down this route.

      Malcolm Thaler, MD
      Clinical Editor
      One Medical Group

    • J says:

      Sabrina,

      If coffee gives you bowel movements when you aren’t constipated, I would say yes it will help.

  19. sue says:

    I’m not so sure that tea is less likely to cause those similar bowel issues. English breakfast tea sent me to the loo, just the same. I thought it would be an alternative to the Joe!

  20. J says:

    When I was a teen and in my 20′s, I sometimes drank coffee in the morning, but then in made me urinate like crazy. Today in my mid 40′s, I started drinking more coffee and yes it makes me poop.

    I find this to be more healthy for me than before. I used to be out of shape with a pot belly from eating with weaker bowel movements. Now when I drink coffee first thing in the morning, it seems some assurance that I am getting cleaned out from the day before, and I’m now in much better shape.

    No complaints here. Whats wrong with a natural colon cleansing?

  21. crystal says:

    I’ve suspected this for years. Every morning I have coffe and a cigarette. Half way through my first cup I have to go, almost like clock work.

  22. Rikki says:

    I’m really happy this article was posted. I’m a bit concerned though, because when coffee makes ME poop, it’s normally a little while after I’ve had the coffee, painful, and more like a bad case of diarrhea. I’ve abstained from coffee for a long while (I’m supposed to stay away from caffeine due to some anxiety issues), but recently (over the past two weeks), I’ve started drinking either .5 – 1 cup of coffee in the mornings. It was fine at first, but over the past week my coffee poops have gotten worse. Is it my metabolism/an extreme sensitivity to coffee now?

    • Hey Rikki — please see Malcolm Thaler, MD’s answer to a similar question by Doug. Malcolm says that some people’s metabolism can changes over time, so it’s possible to lose the ability to digest something that you had no issues with in the past.

  23. poopygirl says:

    i am pooping as i read this. Had to google. Wooooooo

  24. briandelaney says:

    i find i have a normal bowel movement on awaking in the a.m. then when i have my two cups of coffee it causes diahrhea and lasts till about 11 a.m . is this normal or should be checked out. my dr. put me on immodium but they dont work fast enough

  25. Shak says:

    Saw this on WebMD:
    “Coffee can actually make stools harder to pass because it is also a diuretic, so it draws liquid out of stools. If you are constipated, avoid coffee and other diuretics such as alcohol and caffeinated tea and cola.”

    I’ve had constipation issues for years and coffee will consistently make the constipation much much worse. Just thought I’d mention this for people who may jump to the conclusion that coffee is good for reliving constipation.

    • Absolem Lee says:

      This was answered WITHIN the article itself and earlier in this thread:

      Coffee has been observed to induce a diuretic effect on doses over 360mg (more or less 3 cups of black coffee) and a more than slight effect on doses over 500mg [single blind study - 12 person control, 12 person impact group, undergraduate, my person leading the study]

      So… great comment on your experience, BUT it does NOT reflect the tendency described above … COFFEE can be of help with constipation due to its tonic effect on intestinal peristalsis, but nothing beats professional care (including who’s comments you choose to give weight to).

  26. Victoria says:

    Coffee always gives me the runs. If I don’t get the runs, I get gas all day long an it’s the worst gas you can imagine…so embarrassing. It’s to the point where everyone at work knows coffee give me gas so they know what to expect right after I drink it. And is not even like I get the shits a whole after I drink it, it seems to be pretty much right after. I’m not a hugeeeee coffee drinker, but I do tend to have it when I work early mornings. It’s pretty gross to be quite honest.

  27. JJ says:

    Hi, good article.
    I’ve been drinking coffee since about 4 years ago. I found with time that after drinking coffee, around 20 minutes after, I’d go to the bathroom, and that was good. However, lately I’ve been dieting and exercising, as I recently found out I suffer from Irritable bowel syndrome, with constipation predominant and very rarely diarrhea. I’ve read a lot about staying away from coffee, but I’m having confusion as to whether I should dump it, seeing it really does help me; sometimes it does upset my stomach though, and I stop drinking for a couple of days. I also just recently noticed that it is causing me palpitations. I haven’t ruled out other possible factors, but was wondering if I could have developed caffeine sensitivity? I also experience extreme weakness and trembling if I have it on an empty stomach. Is there any another thing that could help with constipation as effectively as coffee does, without experiencing the unpleasant side effects of caffeine?

    • Thanks for your question JJ. Yes, you could have possibly developed caffeine sensitivity overtime. The best thing to do is to talk to your primary doctor about your coffee consumption to look further into this issue.

      Some other home remedies that may help with constipation would be adding more fiber to your diet and drinking more fluids.

    • craig says:

      Try Nettle Soup!

  28. Ceejay says:

    Well, I’m so glad other people experience the same problem! I buy myself a latte every morning on the way to dropping my daughter off to school. The journey is quite far and a latte in the morning is a nice treat for the journey, but not long after drinking the latte, it’s a mad rush to find a loo! I didn’t realise it was the coffee actually, I just thought that was the time I needed the loo. My friend has the same problem, I thought it was only me until I saw her dancing about outside the school whilst talking to me. When I asked her what was wrong she said she needed the “toilet” and that it was probably the coffee she had before she came out! How funny…

  29. chimmy chonga says:

    Coffee gives me the frickin runs bad. I drink Starbucks bold, prob is chewing up my stomach. I am addicted tho! Probiotics seem to help?

  30. Me says:

    I wonder if they eat enough protein the day before.

  31. KoolD says:

    My mother in law has this problem but on a larger scale ! that is coffee, tea, pepsi … etc .. she met many doctors and they couldn’t figure it out.
    what could it be ??
    Thanx

  32. Eric says:

    There must be something other than caffeine to cause the issue, at least in me and some of the other people. It’s more like diarrhea for me, but I’ve tried other sources of caffeine–energy drinks, even caffeine pills and it has no effect on my bowels. I’ve also tried decaffeinated coffee and got the runs again. I drink my coffee black. It also seems to be worse with darker roasts of coffee, but I don’t know enough about what I’m drinking to say whether a different strain (robusto or arabica) would help. I also have very soft stools in general (since I was about 20, I’m 36 now), and get diarrhea now from other things too like hot peppers and fresh apples (go figure!). I used to think I had a mile case of inflammatory bowel disease but maybe it’s just IBS.

  33. gian says:

    People hu experience stomach pain after drnking coffee are either have acid reflux(gerd)or sign of ulcer, hyperacidity..nowadays, pipol love to eat acidic fuds like meat, dairy products and sodas bec its tasts gud..plant kingdom was taken for granted..caffeine is an alkaloid slytly acidic but alkaline..wen it gets in ur stomach it only stimulates acid productiion..after drinking coffee one way to offset it is by taking 500mg of calcuim carbonate 10 mins after drinking coffee it reduces stomach acid since calcuim is alkaline..tke note cows milk is acidic..only goats milk is alkaline..its also the truth that pipol hu loves to eat meat are prone to cancer..since meat is acidic, its a fud for cncer cells..so my advice is to embrace the plant kingdom, appreciate he veggies since its all alkaline..meat and other pleasure fuds wont mke us healthy..godbless

  34. heather says:

    Been drinking coffee for years! I love the taste. Regular most of the time, and iced on really hot days. Yes, it makes me poop, but i rarely need anything for constipation. Funny thing is, when i do get constipated, i eat cheese! And it works as well as any medication- otc or prescribed! :) My friends say i’m weird cuz cheese unplugs me, and benadryl doesn’t knock me out:)

  35. Abe says:

    I go every morning when I wake up without coffee. This is bull. Alot of people who are clogged have other problems that coffee wont solve.

  36. jason2 says:

    Coffee also makes me poop when I drink it in the morning. I usually get the urge before I even finish the cup!

  37. TLD says:

    The assumption that “dehydrating effects of caffeine” leads to constipation is wrong. Dehydration would be manifest in loose stool or diarrhea because water content would be lost from the body. Constipation is often a sign that too much water has been reabsorbed into the body, resulting in drier harder stools. It’s counterintuitive and an easy mistake to make but it’s essential to understand the logic so that non-emergent cases can really be dealt with at home.

  38. muskalaperla says:

    When i brew a cup of coffee in the morning sometimes i have to run to the bathroom to poop, i can’t wait! its sooo good, also Yoga makes me poop.

  39. J says:

    glad to read these postings… I’ve been a coffee drinking for years, and have loose bowels after drinking my first cup. I drink a lot of water as well… I go at least 3 times a day. Sounds normal after reading all of this. I cannot give up my coffee..

  40. ucc says:

    If a case of diarrhea were to be caused by caffeine, such as in coffee, how long would the effects last? Do most people end with one BM,or could caffeine with supper cause diarrhea late into the night and again upon waking?

  41. Slingblade says:

    Coffee kinda makes me nervous when I drink it. Mmm hmm.

  42. The Majestic Super Constipated Shitbomb Unicorn says:

    I’m often times constipated. But coffee gives me a rather brutal relief.
    Right at this moment, after about a week of not shitting, I am drinking coffee and awaiting its heavenly cleansing ritual. Starting with severe abdominal pain centered in my stomach and intestines, then a long relieving visit to the lou.
    Completely worth it. No regrets.

    • zeehan says:

      sir, that is the comment of the century, nay, the millennium…

      awesome monicker, too…

      I have a feeling the Strategic Air Command could use someone like yourself… bombs away!

  43. Micaela says:

    I actually kind of count on my coffee to keep me regular! If I don’t have my coffee, I might not have a bowel movement at all that day, but the moment I take my first couple of sips… I feel it! Not to mention the serious amount of exhaustion I feel if I don’t have my coffee in the morning, it’s kind of ridiculous. I’m sure I could go through caffeine detox but its so good! I’m one of those people who likes to taste my coffee. Bold dark roast coffee and just a half spoon of sugar.

  44. Ben says:

    i fanted after drinking coffee and cut i head lot blood.

  45. Kay says:

    Is it safe to have a small child drink a small amount of coffee daily to help promote bowell movement?

    Already tried:
    Changing diet
    Exercise
    Warm baths
    Over the counter meds
    Script meds
    “Grandma remedies”
    Water
    Prunes

    When it finally comes out it’s really hard and large , he cries for hours from the pain.

  46. Carol says:

    Help! Lately, after drinking my morning coffee, I cannot get to the bathroom fast enough. Is it the caffeine? Would mixing 1/2 decafe help? Would eating food first help? I also take an omeprazole pill before eating, and have recently added B complex with C, and a fish oil capsule.

  47. Doug says:

    Anyone else get wet farts when drinking a lot of coffee? I had some starbucks, a Venti Italian Roast, this morning and have rushed to the bathroom twice since then and both times let out a huge watery flatulent burst. I cant imagine what would have happened if I was in my car.

  48. Tim says:

    Tea does this for me actually… I don’t drink coffee and thus I am a little more sensitive to caffeine than the average coffee drinker.

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