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Does Caffeine Act as a Laxative?

author image Lexa W. Lee
Lexa W. Lee is a New Orleans-based writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has contributed to "Central Nervous System News" and the "Journal of Naturopathic Medicine," as well as several online publications. Lee holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Reed College, a naturopathic medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and served as a postdoctoral researcher in immunology.
Does Caffeine Act as a Laxative?
A cup of steaming hot coffee on a wooden background.

Caffeine is a drug that can have many effects on your body. For instance, because it can cause your gastrointestinal muscles to contract, caffeine has a laxative effect. While some individuals may use the caffeine in coffee for this effect, too much caffeine can also cause sufficient fluid loss to dehydrate you.

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How It Works

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant found in many widely used products such as coffee, tea, cocoa, cola drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and some medications for pain and colds. Caffeine speeds up your overall metabolism, including the processes of digestion and elimination. In small amounts, it stimulates digestive activity and bowel movements, and in large doses, caffeine can cause pain, nausea and diarrhea.

Nutrient Loss

Not only can large amounts of caffeine cause fluid loss and dehydration through diarrhea and increased urination, they can also result in the loss of important vitamins and minerals you obtain through dietary sources. Calcium and vitamins like those in the B family are examples of essential nutrients that can be lost. This can result in long-term detrimental effects on your body if you are in the habit of consuming large amounts of caffeine regularly.

Other Side Effects

Caffeine has many other side effects, such as headache, elevated blood pressure, bladder irritation, sleep disturbances, anxiety, increased stomach acid, gastric reflux and heartburn. If you have chronic heartburn, gastritis or peptic ulcers, you should avoid caffeine. In addition, by overstimulating the adrenal glands, caffeine can cause you to suffer from persistent fatigue.

Additional Information

The amount of caffeine varies widely among different products. Oral medications can contain 200 milligrams of caffeine per dose. You should not take more than 1,600 milligrams in 24 hours, according to Brewed coffee contains up to 180 milligrams per cup; instant coffee, up to 120 milligrams; brewed imported tea, up to 110 milligrams; caffeinated cola and other soft drinks, up to 90 milligrams per 12 ounces; cocoa, 4 milligrams per cup; and bittersweet chocolate, 25 milligrams per ounce.

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