Does Drinking Coffee Make You Have More Bowel Movements?

If you find yourself hustling to the washroom soon after drinking a cup of coffee, you aren't experiencing an abnormal reaction to your choice of beverage. Although caffeinated coffee affects everyone differently, it commonly results in an urge to have a bowel movement. Coffee's ability to make you have more bowel movements isn't a cause for concern, especially if you frequently experience constipation.

A woman holding a cup of coffee.
Credit: Dave & Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images

Tough to Gauge What's Normal

Because everyone's digestive system works at its own rate, it's difficult to deem a specific frequency of bowel movements as being normal. According to KidsHealth, some people can have three bowel movements per day, while others can have just three bowel movements per week. If your bowels move somewhere within this range, you don't have cause for concern. Constipation, however, is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. The causes for constipation are many and include a shortage of dietary fiber, a sedentary lifestyle and stress.

An Answer for Constipation

It's possible to alleviate constipation through a variety of means, including drinking a cup of coffee. According to Dr. Steven Chang of One Medical Group in San Francisco, coffee helps to stimulate the muscles in your colon, leading to peristalsis. When peristalsis occurs, the colon's muscles contract and relax to push the digested food through your system. It's possible for people to safely use coffee to help have regular bowel movements.

Soft, Easy Stools

Drinking coffee won't just help you go to the bathroom, but it can additionally lead to softer stools that are easier to pass. Because the increased rate of peristalsis doesn't allow your bowel time to absorb a significant amount of liquid from your digested food, you might experience diarrhea. Although decaffeinated coffee can help your bowels, it won't do so at the same rate as caffeinated coffee.

Coffee Isn't Without Complications

A caffeinated beverage such as coffee might be helpful for your digestion, but don't make it a habit to drink coffee before bed with the intention of having an easy bowel movement in the morning. If you drink coffee fewer than six hours before bed, its stimulating nature might result in a difficult sleep. Caffeine can also be habit-forming, and the withdrawal symptoms you might experience range from headaches to nausea.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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