"Coffee makes you GO!" Why, and what to do?
May 21, 2005 4:00 PM   Subscribe

My brother-in-law used to run a coffee shop. He sold mugs with the slogan, "Coffee makes you GO!", alluding of course to that common side effect of coffee, diarrhea. My question is: 1. Why does coffee cause diarrhea? 2. What can be done about it, apart from (a) giving up coffee, or (b) taking a daily dose of Imodium / Loperamide? Coffee is like physics: we love it, and yet we hate it. Please help me hate it less. Bottoms up!
posted by rwhe to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Coffee makes you poop. I think it's the stimulant effects of the caffeine. I think that one's body adjusts to coffee over time, so if the effect is problematic for you, drink less and slowly increase your intake. Or drink decaf.
posted by bonheur at 4:02 PM on May 21, 2005

Caffeine is a diuretic that also stimulates your digestive system.
posted by cmonkey at 4:17 PM on May 21, 2005

And since it's a diuretic, it also makes you go #1!
posted by abbyladybug at 4:25 PM on May 21, 2005

Best answer: 1) Caffeine inhibits an enzyme that is thought to regulate mucosal secretions in your small intestine. Secretions go up, so fluid in your bowel goes up, and if the amount of fluid in your colon is greater than the amount of fluid you can reabsorb, splat, you get diarrhea, or at least looser stools.

2) I'm with bonheur. Drink it slower, dilute it, or try tea.
posted by gramcracker at 4:37 PM on May 21, 2005

Try yerba matte instead, much smoother buzz with the added
bonus: 30%rda of calcium. It however, does make you go, as well.
posted by hortense at 5:21 PM on May 21, 2005

Or go completely over to the darkside, like me, to the point where you cannot poop at all without it, but poop glorious poops with clock-like precision when you do get it.
posted by scarabic at 5:28 PM on May 21, 2005

Response by poster: gramcracker: So if diarrhea occurs because your colon can't absorb all the fluid available, would drinking less fluid and staying less hydrated stem the diarrhea? I drink several Nalgene bottles of water a day, as it happens.
posted by rwhe at 5:37 PM on May 21, 2005

too much information, scarabic
posted by nanojath at 5:37 PM on May 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

This caffeine addict hasn't had diarhhea in years. I certainly didn't think it was common knowledge that coffee makes you poo, or poo in liquid form. Maybe the coffee's different in america...
posted by dash_slot- at 5:41 PM on May 21, 2005

I don't know the effects of caffeine on the gut when you're dehydrated, but I don't think that's a good idea; dehydration can lead to much more significant problems. And part of the reason you're probably drinking so much water is because you're peeing and pooping out so much fluid already.

Your body will do whatever necessary to maintain your homeostatic blood volume and electrolyte concentrations; if you try to just drink less water, it's just going to just make you thirstier and retain more water; you'll still have plenty to be secreted into your gut.
posted by gramcracker at 5:50 PM on May 21, 2005

be careful switching to yerba matte. first time i drank it, from a gourd half full of leaves, without pouring off a few fills, i was quite ill. it's powerful stuff.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:13 PM on May 21, 2005

I'd never heard that coffee gives your diarrhea. It doesn't seem to do that to me. Of course, it doesn't seem to wake me up, either.
posted by kindall at 6:26 PM on May 21, 2005

Scarabic, what's amazing is that once you're properly trained, you can force yourself to go 3-5 hours early. I learned this as a graduate student in Montana. I would go out elk hunting in the fall, this consisted of trudging up and down hills and mountains in knee deep snow from before sun rise till after sun down.
Below zero temps and a brisk wind made it uncomfortable to go in the woods. However, 2 cups at 4:30 am had an almost instantaneous effect, just like it normally did at 8:30 am on a non-hunting day.
posted by 445supermag at 6:44 PM on May 21, 2005

too much information, scarabic

You've got no business clicking on a thread about diarrhea and then busting out this attitude.
posted by scarabic at 6:46 PM on May 21, 2005 [4 favorites]

At our house, we call it "coffee colon." I don't think that there's anything to do for it, other than, uh, being prepared.

Oh, and dehydrating yourself is never a good idea. Unless you like the idea of your blood pressure dropping to the point where you pass out.

posted by ambrosia at 7:21 PM on May 21, 2005

It keeps me regular, but never gives me diarrhea.
posted by sluggo at 7:27 PM on May 21, 2005

Yeah, can we please distinguish diarrhoea from "strong impulse to shit?" Diarrhoea is thin watery stool. Never had that from coffee. Stimulation to poo? Why yes, especially from the fiendish strong French press coffee I make at work.

Not quite as stimulating as the first cigarette of the day, though.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:04 PM on May 21, 2005

This is a shitty thread.
posted by wsg at 8:47 PM on May 21, 2005

yeah, I always go to starbucks when I feel a bit constipated. But diahorrhea? Never.
posted by gaspode at 9:28 PM on May 21, 2005

(The diahorrhor... The diahorrhor...)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:14 PM on May 21, 2005

I would do some google searches, but from what I've read in various studies:
  • Caffeine is a diuretic, but it does not cause dehydration (the body retains some of the fluid you drink from coffee, so there is a small net gain of fluid)
  • Caffeine improves endurance and performance in many aerobic athletic activities
  • When used before exercise, the diuretic side-effects seem to go away, so it is overall a pretty good thing
  • Caffeine increases blood pressure, so if you have high BP don't go taking caffeine before exerting a lot of energy and then blame me when you die

posted by knave at 11:17 PM on May 21, 2005

Best answer: I can definetly second the coffee = diarrhea phenom - I've noticed it's easily avoided as long as I don't drink coffee on an empty stomach, so always make sure to get breakfast in before your coffee rounds and you should be fine.
posted by rabble at 1:17 AM on May 22, 2005

What scarabic and sluggo said.
posted by languagehat at 7:06 AM on May 22, 2005

« Older X font problem!   |   Botched Data DVD Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.