Caffeine is a mixed bag when it comes to you and your poop. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or colitis, caffeine can cause flare-ups, according to this study by alternate beverage company Teecino. Coffee can also worsen acid reflux, a condition which affects around 20% of the Western world according to BMC Gastroenterology.
Coffee as a laxative
However, it can’t be denied that, for healthy adults, a morning cup of coffee can help… get things moving. Yep, coffee makes you poop. Whilst some of this can be attributed to caffeine’s laxative effect, there are many chemicals in coffee and scientists aren’t quite sure which one is doing what. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, which is the brain and spinal cord. The vagus nerve links the central nervous system to the digestive tract. So stimulation to the central nervous will also affect digestion. In addition, coffee contains colon stimulating agents theophylline and xanthine which get that colon moving faster than it would otherwise.
The dangers of coffee
Whilst it can be tempting to use coffee to save money on laxatives, this approach has it’s dangers. The Mayo clinic recommends drinking less than 400mg of caffeine a day. That’s about as much as four cups of coffee, though obviously it depends on what kind of coffee you are drinking. If you go above this amount you will likely experience loose stools as well as putting yourself at risk of more alarming symptoms such as muscle tremors and heart palpitations. Be careful as well with other drinks that contain caffeine such as tea and soda; it all adds up. Remember, the best way to promote healthy pooping is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fibre. Be sure to get plenty of fluids and move around regularly as well.
If you’re finding it hard to cut back on your coffee habit you could try some healthier alternatives. Switching to low acidity coffee helps digestion in people prone to acid reflux by eliminating the chief trigger. Low acidity or acid free coffee also reduces the risk of ulcers, which are more common in people in people who consume a lot of acidic food and drinks. This for especially beneficial in seniors, for whom conditions such as ulcers and acid reflux are more dangerous.You could also try decaffeinated coffee, though interestingly scientists have found that even decaf has laxative effects.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with a morning poop after your daily cup of coffee, be mindful of the health effects too much coffee can have. Caffeine is a drug like any other, and if you have a health condition like acid reflux, consult your doctor before drinking any caffeinated beverage.