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Why Is Coffee a Laxative?

For most coffee lovers, morning coffee is more than just an ordinary beverage—it’s the caffeine buzz they need. And while it can primarily keep the brain awake and alert, there’s another story to this wonderful drink. Some claim that a cup of coffee stimulates bowel movement.

So, if you’re someone who doesn’t feel the urge to poop after taking coffee, you may be wondering why coffee is considered a laxative. Well, you’re not alone, and even the people who feel the urge to head to the bathroom after drinking coffee every morning wonder why that happens.

If you want to know why is coffee a laxative, please read on…

Does Coffee Affect Bowel Movement?

bowl and coffee beans image

Generally, there aren’t too many scientific studies confirming the effects of coffee on bowel movement. However, a study published in the American Society of Colon-and-Rectal Surgeons’ journal in 2015 asserted that coffee is a laxative. The study was focused on patients with postoperative ileus.

Postoperative ileus is a digestive issue that occurs after undergoing abdominal surgery. The study focused on individuals who had colon surgery, and it confirmed that decaf was more effective than water and caffeinated coffee.

Another study conducted in 1998 confirmed that decaf and caffeinated coffee could stimulate the colon. Caffeinated coffee stimulated the colon 60% more than water and 23% more than decaffeinated coffee.

So, while a cup of Joe may have a laxative effect on some folks, it isn’t clear if it’s the caffeine or the coffee that’s causing that effect. That’s because even decaf coffee has the same effect on some people.

The IFFGD (International Foundation for Gastrointestinal-Disorders) still claims that coffee is a laxative. In particular, the group says that caffeine-containing beverages have laxative potential. In fact, a few cups of coffee can often cause bowel movements. However, this cannot be stated conclusively because it may be true for some coffee drinkers, but it doesn’t have the same effect on most people.

Why Is Coffee a Laxative?

friends drinking coffee in a coffee shop

A number of studies suggest that caffeine can activate your gastrointestinal tract. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same effect on everyone. Other studies confirmed that caffeine might not be the only ingredient that can trigger a bowel movement.

For the people who experience the laxative effect, coffee triggers bowel movement in the following ways:

Coffee Can Stimulate Your Gastrocolic Reflex

Drinking coffee after waking up stimulates a form of defecation reflex that is referred to as gastrocolic reflex. This defecation reflex jump-starts the bowel system every morning after drinking coffee.

Gastrocolic reflex can be triggered by your stomach stretching after you have consumed some food or coffee. This will cause your colon to increase its mobility and eventually push the old food out to create space for what you have just consumed. This reflex occurs in the morning, which explains why only the morning cup of Joe sends you to the bathroom.

There are few studies confirming that you get gastrocolic reflex after drinking coffee. But for patients with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), coffee can trigger gastrocolic reflexes. After all, people with IBS have a hypersensitive gastrocolic reflex.

On the other hand, some believe that drinking a hot drink—not necessarily, coffee—is what is stimulating bowel movement. In fact, some experts believe that the warm/hot liquid widens our blood vessels, which in turn increases GI activity and blood flow. Still, not everybody goes to the bathroom after taking a hot beverage. So, scientists think that there has to be something in coffee that activates our bowel movement.

Another study with 10 participants explored how caffeine affects the functions of the anus and colon. The study confirmed that caffeine could trigger muscular contractions in the rectum and anus.

Coffee Can Stimulate Hormone Gastrin and Cholecystokinin

Decaf and caffeinated coffee are known for stimulating the production of the hormone gastrin in the body. This hormone prompts our stomachs to contract while releasing some enzymes and hydrochloric acid.

Gastrin relaxes the sphincter between the small intestines and stomach. It also relaxes the valve between the large and small intestine.

All these actions caused by the release of gastrin can promote digestion and bowel movement. So if gastrin stimulates digestion, then it can make us poop.

Another hormone stimulated by coffee and can trigger bowel movements is cholecystokinin. Cholecystokinin is released in the intestines, and studies have confirmed that it can cause bowel movements. However, it’s not clear which components of coffee can trigger the release of cholecystokinin.

Cream or Milk Added to the Coffee Promotes Bowel Movement

It’s a known fact that over 65% of the population cannot process lactose after infancy. Lactose intolerance is a deficiency associated with the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. Remember, lactose is usually broken down by the lactase enzyme produced in the small intestines.

In adults, lactose intolerance is triggered by reduced production of the enzyme lactase. In infants, the inability to digest lactose is referred to as congenital alactasia. Therefore, lactose intolerance can trigger bowel movements in people who can’t digest lactose. 

Thus, lactose-intolerant people who add milk and sugar to their coffee can be affected by both caffeine and the lactose in milk. And this will trigger bowel movements within minutes.

Coffee Can Help Cleanse Your Colon Via Coffee Enema

Just like a regular enema, a coffee enema is a colon cleansing procedure. It is the best solution for reducing body toxicity and relieving constipation. The process of coffee enema involves pumping water and freshly brewed coffee into your colon using enema bags and then releasing it.

With a coffee enema, any subsequent bowel movement will be stimulated by the volume of fluid getting out of your rectum.

There is no evidence that coffee enema can cause detoxification. But just like a regular enema, a coffee enema can relieve constipation.

Can Coffee Make You Poop?

Scientists are yet to confirm that coffee can make some people defecate in the morning. But some folks are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and this can cause them to defecate. So you shouldn’t worry if coffee doesn’t have this effect on you. And that is because a survey conducted in 1990 confirmed that coffee could only induce defecation in about 29% of the population.

Other studies on the laxative effects of coffee have been conducted on smaller groups of people. But none confirmed what component caused bowel movement in some people. After all, even decaffeinated coffee caused bowel movement in some folks. So, no researcher has so far proved that caffeine is what caused the laxative effect.


Can Coffee Make You Poop?

Yes, coffee can make some people poop in the morning. In fact, many old studies have confirmed that both decaf coffee and caffeinated coffee can trigger bowel movements. But, the main reason why it doesn’t affect everyone is still unknown. Some experts believe other stimulating compounds in coffee may force you to poop. Others think it depends on the quantity of coffee consumed.

Can Coffee Cause Diarrhea?

Generally, caffeine can increase your bowel movement and cause you to poop. But too much coffee can trigger morning diarrhea. So, if you struggle with diarrhea after taking coffee, you should reduce your consumption.

How Fast Does Caffeine Work as a Laxative?

If you are trying to make yourself poop right before leaving the house, then you should drink some coffee. For some people, coffee works within 10 minutes, and for others, it can take up to 45 minutes for them to poop.


Coffee lovers have been enjoying the laxative benefits of coffee every morning for centuries. In fact, studies have confirmed that both decaf coffee and caffeinated coffee can trigger bowel movements. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone as some don’t feel the need to poop after a cup of coffee; thus, results remain inconclusive.

You might also want to know: Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

Krista Haws

Known among her friends as 'the caffeine fiend', Krista loves all things coffee. From an extremely short, strong espresso to a 3 day cold brew, Krista loves them all.

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