We all have seen the jokes, mugs and memes, but have you ever stopped and wondered, why does coffee make people poop? What about coffee will have you prairie-doggin’ on the way to the bathroom? Am I the only one who wonders these things? Well I hope not because you’re about to be educated in a brief run-down of coffee and number two! It’s kind of a gross subject but everyone does it. If you’re of a naturally curious nature regardless of the subject, this article is for you.
What initially made me curious about this phenomenon is that I know the old joke well, but I have never had that particular reaction to coffee. Coffee doesn’t make me poop! So my naturally nosey self wanted to know why. Why was I seemingly the only one this joke didn’t apply to? But more on that later. First, why do ‘normal’ people have this particular reaction? I’m the type who will be right on google reading about 20 different websites about any random question that pops into my head. (That’s normal right?) From what I’ve gathered there doesn’t seem to be a straight answer to the exact mechanics of why this happens, but there are a lot of good theories…
It’s natural to assume caffeine is the culprit but surprisingly that doesn’t seem to be the case. Caffeinated coffee as well as decaf coffee has been shown to stimulate the distal colon, increasing the speed that waste is removed from the body. So amazingly decaf is good for something besides being thrown into the trash; who knew? It seems the caffeinated coffee does show an increased effect, so while it’s not the sole culprit, it seems to work as a boost for this reaction, much like it is a boost for our brain.
It’s been theorized that the acidity of coffee may also be the key, the rise of acid in the body could be a signal to your bowels to get to work. Different coffee beans can have varying levels of acidity, I couldn’t find if studies have been performed comparing bowel reactions from low-acid vs high-acid java. Yet another theory is that there’s a special chemical in coffee that releases hormones to aid digestion. What is that chemical? No one seems to know!
It’s also been shown that drinking coffee affects the gut microbiome. In studies using rats it’s been found that after consuming coffee regularly the body will excrete less bacteria. Now the jury is still out on if bad bacteria is being killed or good bacteria, but it definitely shows that coffee is having an impact on gut flora which likely plays a part in this phenomena. As long as you don’t have bad reactions to coffee, I wouldn’t worry about it much.
It would seem that the answer to the ultimate question would be that there’s multiple reasons why coffee makes us poop. The exact cause has yet to be determined; for now coffee remains as a mysterious magical laxative. One of the last few great mysteries. Now what about those like me who don’t have this reaction? Well despite the popularity of ‘Coffee makes me poop” stickers and mugs, only roughly 30% of the population sees a noticeable increase in bowel movements after consuming coffee.
Now sometimes coffee can actually have the complete opposite effect in some people. Coffee can at times cause constipation, the main cause being dehydration. Coffee is known to be a diuretic, which doesn’t mean what it sounds like, it means it dehydrates us. Which in turn will make it harder to go number 2. Coffee isn’t nearly as much of a diuretic as it used to be believed, but if you’re someone like myself who drinks 6-8 cups of coffee a day, any effects will definitely be magnified. So would cutting back on my coffee solve the problem? No, that’s absolutely not an option, so the best solution seems to be increasing water intake. So while you’re pounding back espresso shots and hooking up your coffee IV’s don’t forget to hydrate!
Now that you know the ins and outs of coffee poop why not have a cup of Iron Bean or two and relax on the porcelain throne a while, you’re coffee royalty, you’ve earned it!