You've just settled into bed when nature calls. You dash for the bathroom and return to bed. Half an hour later you're back in the bathroom again. Frequent bowel movements consisting of loose, watery stools is called diarrhea. Acute diarrhea lasts for one to two days, while chronic diarrhea continues for a minimum of four weeks, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Unfortunately, your morning cup of java may be at least partly to blame for your frequent trips to the toilet.
The caffeine in coffee is a muscle stimulant that can cause mild to severe diarrhea in sensitive individuals. Caffeine stimulates the muscles of the digestive tract to contract more rapidly than they would otherwise. Consequently, food and fluids move through the system too quickly to be properly absorbed, resulting in runny stools. Unfortunately, decaffeinated coffee also stimulates gastric motility and can cause diarrhea, according to Meri Rafetto, RD. Decaffeinated coffee's laxative effects could be due to its high acid content or the trace quantities of caffeine in the beans.
If you have diarrhea, eliminate coffee and other caffeinated beverages from your diet until you recover. You may need to reduce your caffeine consumption if you experience frequent bouts of gastrointestinal upset. Contact your physician if the diarrhea lasts more than two days, or if you have severe abdominal pain, a fever above 102 or stools containing blood or pus. You should also seek medical attention if you have black, tarry stools or are experiencing symptoms of dehydration.