You might’ve noticed that shortly after your morning cup of joe, nature comes a-calling. And yes, we’re talking call #2. Coffee’s gastrointestinal effects are stronger in some folks than others, but it’s not unusual for coffee drinkers to use their brew as a way to keep regular.

So why does coffee make you poop? One Medical’s primary care doctors answer a question that you may have wondered but were too shy to ask.

How Does It Work?

Researchers believe that the bowel-stimulating quality of coffee comes from caffeine and/or other substances contained within the coffee brew. Although there have been no large-scale studies on this subject, what we do know is that drinking coffee can stimulate movement of the colonic muscles, thus promoting peristalsis (the coordinated contraction and relaxation of intestinal muscles that causes bowel movements). One study noted that the magnitude of this peristaltic effect of caffeinated coffee is similar to one induced by eating a meal. It’s also 60 percent stronger than the effect induced by drinking water, and 23 percent stronger than the effect due to drinking decaffeinated coffee.

Aside from promoting bowel movements, coffee can also cause looser stools because increased peristalsis leaves less time for the colon to perform one of its key functions –reabsorbing water from fecal matter to produce well-formed stools. Be aware, however, that other common accompaniments to coffee can be culprits in this matter. Dairy products, excess sugar, even “sugarless” sweeteners like sorbitol (a well-known substance used as a laxative) can cause diarrhea.

Read on for more on how, exactly, coffee makes you poop.

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