Coffee makes you have to go the bathroom. This is not news. In fact, I’m sipping on my morning brew right now, and if past experiences serve me correctly, this means I should be on the john before I’m even finished writing this article (apologies for the visual). But while we all know coffee influences bowel movements in many, no one is exactly sure how this process works within the body.
According to research from Georgia Regents University, coffee increases contractions in your gut, which influences your stool to travel downward, toward the rectum, activating the all-knowing urge that suddenly jerks your body upright, causing you to speed-walk to the bathroom.
One of the most revaling studies on the relationship between coffee and poo involved 12 participants who were somehow convinced to insert probes that came equipped with sensors that measured pressure and activity throughout particular parts of their colon and rectum. Over the course of 10 hours, these subjects were asked to drink the same amount of caffeinated coffee, decaf coffee and hot water. They also chowed down on an envy-inducing 1,000 calorie burger. Hope it was In-N-out.
Surprisingly, the results found that this elephantine burger triggered the greatest activity in the subjects’ guts, though researchers did find that the caffeinated java prompted similar contractions within the body.
The contractions derived from coffee were found to be 60 percent stronger than hot water and 23 percent stronger than decaf. Which is promising. But while these results found that caffeine does indeed play a role in encouraging bowel movements, it also found that caffeine, a known stimulant, is not solely responsible for them.
Another study in 1990 found that only 29 percent of people reported they poop after drinking coffee, and these people also reported increased movement in the “distal colon” (i.e. the last or furthest part of the colon; look at us, guys, we’re learning so much!) for at least 30 minutes after they ingested coffee, which, like other studies, suggests that while coffee isn’t the only contributing factor to a pending bowel movement, it definitely speeds up the process.
While no research has been able to prove exactly why coffee makes us poop, experts hypothesize that some of the hundreds of compounds in coffee trigger the productions of hormones within the body, like motilin, which stimulates gut contractions, or gastrin, which causes the secretion of acid in your stomach. Both of which can influence the urge to poo.
Another popular theory is that it has nothing to do with coffee at all, and your urge to go in the morning merely relies on your colon waking up after hours of inactivity. As a result, your colon is almost twice as active compared to any other time of day.
So if you want to avoid audibly going in the office bathroom, experts recommend you hold off on the coffee until you’ve been awake for about two hours, as this will keep your colon from feeling overwhelmed. That, or you could try snagging a key to the executive john. I hear they’ve got bidets.