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Does Coffee Cause Loose Bowel Movements?

author image Diane Marks
Diane Marks started her writing career in 2010 and has been in health care administration for more than 30 years. She holds a registered nurse license from Citizens General Hospital School of Nursing, a Bachelor of Arts in health care education from California University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in health administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
Does Coffee Cause Loose Bowel Movements?
Diarrhea is a common side effect of consuming caffeine. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks of choice to wake up with in the morning. However, the enjoyment you get from your cup of coffee may end if consuming the beverage triggers loose stools. While diarrhea is a common side effect of caffeine consumption, loose stools may be a sign of lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome. If you consistently develop loose stools after a cup of coffee, call your doctor for evaluation.

Common Side Effect

Coffee is one of the most common sources of natural caffeine. The average cup of coffee contains between 40 and 180mg of caffeine per cup, according to Drugs.com. The type of coffee bean, how it’s roasted and the method of preparation can greatly alter the amount of caffeine in the cup of coffee. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that affects your central nervous system and may cause diarrhea, vomiting, fast heartbeats, nervousness and jitters. Reducing the amount of caffeine you consume daily or switching to decaffeinated coffee may help alleviate your symptoms.

Lactose Intolerance

Loose stools may be a sign of lactose intolerance if you drink milk in your coffee. Many coffee-based beverages are made with mostly milk, such as café mocha, café latte and cappuccinos. Lactose is a sugar found in milk that causes digestive complications for some people. MedlinePlus explains that the condition is the result of the small intestines lacking the lactase enzyme that’s needed to break down the sugar. The result of lactose remaining undigested is bloating, gas and diarrhea. Most symptoms occur within 30 minutes or up to two hours after consuming dairy. Loose stools may be prevented with this condition if you take a lactase supplement before your first sip of coffee.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If you’ve been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, avoid consuming coffee. With one out of five Americans diagnosed with IBS, this digestive condition is considered common, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The exact cause of IBS is still not clear, but common symptoms include chronic diarrhea, stomach pain and bloating. Certain foods and beverages may trigger your symptoms, such as coffee, tea and dairy products. If diagnosed with this condition, your doctor may recommend eliminating coffee from your diet.


If you continue to have diarrhea for more than three days, call your doctor. Diarrhea is not a medical condition, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. If you notice blood in your stool, you may have a digestive condition, such as peptic ulcers or Crohn’s disease.

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