(Un)solved Mystery: Does Coffee Really Make You Poop?
For regular coffee drinkers, a morning without coffee is a grumpy, foggy hell. Until the first sip hits your lips starting the day is out of the question.
But one downside of needing an IV drip of java upon waking is the morning coffee rumble. It can hit as soon as you take your first sip or wait to strike just as you sit down for a 9AM meeting.
The conventional wisdom is the morning coffee rumble is real thing, that coffee makes you poop. But is this really true? And what is it in coffee that causes immediate colon evacuation?
Believe it or not real scientists have studied this phenomenon. One study in Gut, a gastroenterology journal, found 30% of participants reported needing to poop after drinking coffee. With the average American drinking 3 cups of coffee a day, there are a ton of emergency coffee shits taking place every morning.
While it's been proven coffee makes you poop, the idea that coffee is also a diuretic for regular coffee drinks isn't true. A study in the The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found coffee drinkers develop a tolerance for its effects, so it's no different than drinking water when it comes to peeing.
When coffee hits your system it causes contractions, called peristalsis, in your colon. Dmitri Alden, MD, a colon health specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital, told BuzzFeed, "Coffee stimulates the contractions of the stomach and intestinal tract, and it stimulates bile excretion, which itself is a propellant of food particles because the intestines know that when there is bile there is food."
Another study found coffee causes the same amount of peristalsis as eating a meal. These contractions push your stool closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel, causing the morning rumble in your butt.
It also doesn't help that people drink coffee soon after waking, because your colon is twice as active in the morning than the rest of the day, according to Satish Rao, the director of the digestive health center at Georgia Regents University.
If you do the math, food plus coffee plus your body's natural desire for a morning constitutional equals a recipe for a massive dump.
But while we know what happens to the human body after ingesting coffee, it's still a mystery as to what compounds in coffee are responsible for the morning bum rush. This is because coffee has 1,000 aroma compounds, making it insanely hard to identify a culprit.
Some have blamed the amount of caffeine in coffee, but other drinks like soda and tea have plenty of caffeine and don't make you want to immediately hop on the throne. In fact, studies have shown decaf coffee also makes people want to take a #2. However, caffeine does contain theophylline ad xanthine, two compounds that have been found to stimulate the colon.
Others have speculated coffee's hot temperature could be the reason why people need to evacuate after they drink it, but that would mean hot cocoa and soup would cause poops too.
As far as compounds go, the Washington Post wrote that a coffee compound called chlorogenic acid stimulates stomach and gastric acid production, which could force your colon to push quicker than expected.
To review, coffee definitely makes you poop. Once it hits your digestive tract, it causes the morning rumble or contractions that make you run to the toilet. However, scientists still don't know what compounds in coffee cause this poopy reaction.
If you'd like to avoid emergency coffee turds in the future, try to hold off on drinking any coffee for a couple hours after you wake up. By then your body's natural desire to evacuate in the morning will pass, removing a major risk factor in coffee-caused pooptastrophes.
For the fiends out there whose synapses don't begin to fire until coffee hits your bloodstream, you're putting your drawers and dignity on the line every morning. Be sure to pack a DUDE Wipe and thank us later.