Some people need that glorious cup of coffee for a jolt of energy each morning. Others swear by it to get both their brain and their bowels moving at the start of each day.
You likely either fully welcome or completely dread coffee’s magical potty powers, depending on your personal needs. Either way, we were wondering—and assumed you were, too—why a cup of Joe can sometimes feel more like a capful of human Drano. So we asked a few gastroenterologists to share the dirty details.
Warm liquid + caffeine = a really effective laxative.
In the morning, drinking a warm liquid like coffee right away essentially wakes up your GI tract and gets it going. As we’re sleeping, our GI tracts are sleeping also. Drinking coffee is like a morning stretch. It just helps start the motor and get it running There’s a two-part explanation, meaning that coffee has two characteristics that can stimulate your bowels. Experts believe that caffeine causes a direct reaction in the colonic muscles. Not everyone experiences it, and some people are more sensitive to it than others, but the thought is that the caffeine in coffee kind of irritates the colon and stimulates bowel movements.”
In addition, sipping on a warm liquid adds an additional laxative-like effect. Liquids in general help keep your GI tract lubricated and also can help loosen up stool, prompting a bowel movement. Warmth may enhance the effects.
Coffee can also stimulate the gall bladder, further increasing bowel movements.
The gall bladder is like a pocket or purse that holds bile until the body is ready to digest food. Then, it squeezes it out into the GI tract. Coffee induces contractions in the gall bladder, prompting it to release some bile. The extra bile that gets flushed down [your GI tract] also helps stimulate it and increase colonic activity. That translates to you needing to find a bathroom ASAP.