Does Coffee Make Everyone Poop?
(& What to Do if it DOES it to you!)
No…But it DOES make a lot of people poop.
Does Coffee Make Everyone Poop? It’s another question that I am asked quite often in my professional life. The answer is no. No-one reacts ‘the same’ to everything, and coffee is no exception. But the actual science behind why coffee makes some people (and in some categories, ‘most people’ poop), is truly fascinating! Read on to learn the fascinating reasons why…and to learn what to do if ‘the dreaded urge’ strikes you!
Let’s start with the next most common questions I am asked, after people ask me if coffee makes everyone poop. Are you ready? Hold onto your butts, people, and let’s go!
Is getting the urge to poop after drinking coffee ‘normal’?
Oh the dreaded ‘normal’.
Let’s save the conversation for if ‘common’ and ‘normal’ mean the same thing for another time, and I will answer you that YES, getting the urge to poop after ingesting coffee (even decaffeinated coffee!) is common for MANY individuals.
In fact, there was a super fun study in the viral April of 1990 edition of the journal Gut (access the article here) that actually studied this. The researchers asked nearly 100 healthy 17-27 year olds (58 men, 34 women…I guess it was harder to get gals to chat about their bowel habits) if coffee ‘got their motors running’ when it came to pooping.
They found…that overall, YES!!! 29 % overall reported an urge to defecate (fancy word for poop), including 63% of the women!!! Wow!!! That’s something!!!
Coffee caused 63% of the women to get an urge to poop??
Yep. Now, granted the sample size was small, and maybe the responders were inclined to participate in a study about poop and coffee because they were ‘responders’ and wondered about their urgency, but it’s still telling. And if a sample size of my friends with vaginas is any comparison, the study was under-reporting, if anything.
So, to answer your question, yes, getting the urge to poop after ingesting coffee is indeed common. Whether it’s ‘normal’ or not depends on the strength of the urge. If it’s a healthy, calm, “Yeah, I get to poop!”, then it’s normal. If it’s a Holy CRAP, I need to RUN to the bathroom, or I’m going to poop my pants!” then, it’s not normal, and you should chat with a Pelvic PT.
But WHY does the coffee make us want to poop? It’s the caffeine…isn’t it…
Nope. Not the caffeine. Other studies have studied the effects of decaf and full caffeine coffee, and find that urgency occurs in both groups, so it’s not just the caffeine.
Also, if it was “just” the caffeine, then we’d have to rush to the bathroom after Red Bull, and you never hear about that, do you?? (Made you think, didn’t I? I know I’m right, because I get the urge to poop after coffee, but never after Red Bull or Monster. You’re welcome).
So what is it about coffee that makes us poop?
The Germans studied this long ago (Article summary here) and those smarty-pants compared the effects of putting coffee, decaf coffee and pure caffeine into humans’ stomachs, and then studied the effect on ‘gastric secretion’, which is fancy speak for goop that gets your digestion moving. (Side note, where can I sign up for the pure caffeine? It sounds amazing.)
They found, much to my dismay, that instilling pure caffeine to the stomach did not effect the basal serum gastrin concentration levels.
Again, for those in the back, it wasn’t the caffeine. The pure caffeine didn’t get the digestive juices flowing :(.
BUT…full caffeinated coffee, AND decaffeinated coffee? Yep. There was SIGNIFICANT increase in gastrin levels. Meaning the motors were accelerated, and thus, the urge to poop.
That first study (the one that found that 63% of people with vaginas got the urge to poop after drinking coffee), followed up by measuring the rectosigmoid colon motility (the speed that ‘poop’ moves through the bottom quarter of the digestive tract, before evacuation, or pooping), in 14 people who reported that coffee made them want to poop. They got 12 men and 2 women (again, not sure why they couldn’t get those evened out), and found that there WAS increased rectosigmoid colon motility in this subgroup that lasted about 30 minutes after a cup of coffee.
So what’s the moral of the story?
This can be a double edged sword, really. For some of us, who are responders, we can use coffee responsibly, to help initiate a poop-response, and we know that it will happen within 30 minutes of ingestion, if it’s going to happen. So we could use this as a tool to plan our poops.
For those non-responders (60% of all people and 30% of people with vaginas), read this with curiosity, and wonder what it would be like to drink something and then get an urge to poop…
For “Hyper-Responders”, those who get THE URGE and fear they might poop their pants, first go see a PT (read this post to learn more), because the urge should NOT be this bad. After scheduling that appointment, watch this video for tips on HOW to use your pelvic muscles to temporarily reduce the urge, long enough for you to get your cute butt to the bathroom.
These Hyperresponders should drink coffee cautiously. Be aware of your surrounds and choose to imbibe when a bathroom is accessible. And if it’s not accessible, choose a tea or milk-based drink, (or Red Bull), which won’t have the same urgency response.
And for those of you who DO get the Urge to poop after Coffee…I have a treat for you
Thanks for Reading!
This post was more about pooping. Everybody poops, so let’s talk about it, and let’s poop better. My “Poop Better” course will be available SOON, and will change everyone’s life who has a pelvis. You’re welcome.
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