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Study Uncovers The Real Reason Coffee Makes You Poop (It's Not Caffeine)

Caroline Muggia
mbg Contributor By Caroline Muggia
mbg Contributor
Caroline Muggia is a writer, environmental advocate, and registered yoga teacher (E-RYT) with a B.A. in Environmental Studies & Psychology from Middlebury College.
drip coffee maker set up with mug on platter

Coffee is a powerful beverage. Whether it's part of your morning ritual or how you get through the afternoon slump, this energy-boosting drink also has a reputation of helping you poop.

A new study presented at Digestive Disease Week found that it may not have to do with the caffeine content (as previous research suggests) and is likely related to changes in the gut microbiome and increased movement of the intestines.

The researchers gave rats coffee with caffeine and decaffeinated coffee for three days and saw that throughout the period, their small intestines had an improved ability to contract, regardless of the level of caffeine content.

They suspected the gut microbiome may also play a role and decided to look at how coffee was affecting bacteria in the gut. To figure this out, they mixed rat poop and coffee in a petri dish and saw that the number of bacteria decreased.

Interestingly, they found that the higher the amount of coffee in the petri dish, caffeinated or not, the fewer microbes were present. They also saw that over three days, the bacteria in the rat's poop had decreased.

More research is needed to determine whether the coffee is eliminating good or bad bacteria, but either way, these findings suggest that the reason coffee makes us poop is likely in part to do with changes to the gut microbiome.

So, what does all this mean for us? Well, experts suggest that we should be pooping one to three times a day ideally, and it's best if our food is actually stimulating the bowel movements. If you have fewer bowel movements or are experiencing pain while trying to poop, then you may be constipated, said Vincent Pedre, M.D., integrative gut health specialist and mbg Collective member, and it may make sense to have some coffee to kick-start some bowel movements.

In fact, the present study highlights the need for more research on whether coffee may be a viable option for constipation after things like abdominal surgery. But before you start guzzling down even more cups of coffee, you'll want to be on the lookout for signs you're already pooping too much, more than three times per day, as this may be a sign of a more significant issue.

As with incorporating any food or drink into your diet, you'll want to listen to your body and monitor how it responds to the changes. Whether you feel like you may need a little coffee to get things moving or are just fine where you are, it's exciting to learn the science behind why this favorite drink makes us poop.

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