Coffee is a part of a lot of people’s morning routine.

For a proportion of these people, so is pooping, and the two seem to go hand in hand.

Coffee contains a load of beneficial micronutrients, antioxidants, and vitamins, and the general consensus is that it’s a healthy beverage to consume.

But what is the deal with this little bean making some of us need to rush to the bathroom? Well we’ve written this article to try and help you understand this phenomenon.

Is Coffee A Laxative?

Although a large portion of the people that drink coffee report having to dart to the restroom within 20 minutes of consuming the beverage, the research on why this happens is limited.

Nobody is too sure what exactly causes this. Whether it’s the caffeine content, other chemical compounds in coffee, or the amount of milk in your brew, is up for debate.

The definition of a laxative is this: (chiefly of a drug or medicine) tending to stimulate or facilitate evacuation of the bowels.

So by this definition, although coffee is not necessarily a drug or medicine, it could be classed as a laxative.

Let’s have a look at a few reasons why coffee could have this affect on you.

woman holding her stomach in pain

Why Might Coffee Cause Bowel Movement?

There have been some studies into coffee’s effect on our gastrointestinal tract, and how it can activate movement in the bowels, gallbladder, and intestines.

Gut Stimulation

This study found that coffee, decaf coffee, and a substantial meal of 1,000 kcal caused more colon contractions than water alone.

In fact, the researchers concluded that coffee stimulated colon movement 60% stronger than water, and 23% more than decaf coffee, indicating caffeine may have a role to play.

They also concluded that coffee causes around about as much movement in your bowls as a meal. 

It’s hard to take these results and generalise them to the entire population, as there were only 12 participants involved. However, it is a good indication that coffee certainly has an effect on your bowel movements. Although we don’t need a study to tell us this!

A publication in the World Journal of Gastroenterology stated that coffee might actually increase the production of acid in the stomach, and therefore having an effect on the movements in the colon.

When looking at just caffeine, 10 participants were studied looking at the effects of caffeine on the colon and anus. They found that caffeine on its own caused stronger contractions in the anus and rectum.


People who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome are sensitive to certain foods, which may cause them to have to run to the bathroom quickly.

If you do suffer from this, which is quite a common condition, coffee may make your symptoms even worse. A study from 2016 found that coffee was a trigger for people suffering from IBS.

Researchers haven’t been able to conclude what exactly it is in coffee that flares up these symptoms.


A hormone called cholecystokinin has been found by researchers to stimulate movement in our bowels. It’s thought that coffee may cause this hormone to be released in our intestines.

However, once again, no research has been able to conclude what exactly it is in coffee that causes this hormone to be released.

Milk and Cream

The ability to fully digest lactose was the result of an evolutionary mutation, that not everybody in the world possesses. Around 65% of the world’s population cannot totally digest lactose after infancy. That’s a lot of people.

Therefore, people who add milk or cream, or any dairy products to their coffee, who can’t fully digest lactose, are going to have problems in the bathroom.

Try drinking black coffee, or an espresso, or dairy alternatives and see if this helps.

What About Decaf Coffee?

Decaf coffee has still been found to affect the movement in peoples bowels, just not as much as caffeinated coffee.

This suggests that caffeine does have an effect on it’s own, but is not solely responsible. Other compounds in coffee can still contribute to having to rush to the bathroom after your morning cuppa.

French press coffee being brewed

Possible Solutions

If you’re wanting to try and figure out a way to consume your beloved beverage without needing that toilet stop, here are a couple of things you can try.

What If It’s An Acid Problem?

You have plenty of options for reducing acid in your morning brew, from low acid coffee, to brewing methods.

There are two ways coffee can become low in acid. Treated coffee have special processing techniques that are done during or before the roasting process, which reduce acid content.

Inadvertent low acid coffee is naturally low in acid content. These beans are normally grown at lower altitudes. Dark roasts also tend to have lower acid content, but that isn’t always the case.

Some single origin coffee comes with a low acidity content, for example, coffee from Brazil, Sumatra, Peru, Mexico, and Guatemala produce low acid content coffee beans.

100% arabica coffee will also contain less acidity than a blend will. Plus the flavours will be better too, so win-win.

Brewing To Reduce Acidity

If you’re not wanting to mix up the coffee that you buy to reduce acidity, then you can switch up your brewing method.

The single best brew method to go for to reduce acidity is the cold brew method. It reduces acidity content by around 70%. The downside is that your coffee will be cold, and it takes between 10-24 hours to brew.

If you want your coffee hot, the next best brew method is a French press. Reason being is the larger the grind size you use, the less acidity will end up in your brew. Plus you can brew hot or cold coffee this way.

What If It’s A Caffeine Problem

There really isn’t any way to consume coffee without getting a little bit of caffeine in your system. Decaf coffee still contains around 3% of the caffeine a normal coffee does.

So, to reduce caffeine consumption down to a minimum, try going for a decaf, dark roast coffee. A dark roast because it has less caffeine per scoop because the grounds are less dense. You can check out our article on light roast vs dark roast for an explanation.

Try also eating a meal with your morning brew. This can reduce the effect caffeine has on your bowels, assuming that the meal you’re eating doesn’t contain caffeine.

What If It’s A Milk Problem

Try not to add any milk to your coffee, and see if sorts out the problem. If you find that after you’ve drank a full cup of coffee without milk you don’t need to go to the toilet, then you have your answer.

If you prefer to drink your coffee with milk however, then there are plenty of alternatives to dairy out there today.


So, is the fact coffee makes a large number of people around the planet need to go shortly after drinking it a problem?

Well, a regular pooping pattern isn’t a bad thing. Having a poop schedule is a good thing more than a bad thing.

The only problems that could occur is if you find yourself in dire need of a toilet, when there’s not one around… but until that happens, don’t let your regular pooping pattern put you off having another cup.

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Tom Bolland

Tom Bolland

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