Coffee And The Ritual Bowel Movement

I recently switched from caffeinated to decaf coffee. It’s done wonders for my sleeping and calmed my anxiety too. There is, however, one particular benefit from high-octane coffee that I deeply miss. Hint: It used to occur in my bathroom each morning.

morning coffee

Frankly, I would have been happy to keep this intimate joy of coffee-drinking to myself, but then I saw this post on Twitter and had to share. Here, Steven Chang, M.D responds to the question: “Why Does Coffee Make Me Poop?

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.

After reading this, I’m considering a slight alteration to my morning ritual: maybe a half-caf would do the trick.

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