I'm a gut expert – here's how to avoid having to rush for the loo after having a coffee | The Sun
26th August 2023

IF JUST a few sips of your morning coffee delivers a gut punch that sends you dashing to the nearest toilet, you're not alone.

Coffee is a known stimulant and is thought give about a third of drinkers the urge to poop.

Writing for nutrition platform ZOE, specialist gastroenterology dietitian Sammie Gill said there are a number of reasons for this.

When coffee hits your stomach, it triggers the release of stomach acid and digestive hormones, and stimulates gut muscle contractions that essentially get things moving.

Its effect on people bowels has in fact been researched.

Some small studies have shown that drinking coffee was more effective than warm water at inducing bowel movements.

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This is significant, Dr Kyle Staller – director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital – told CNN, as“water is an integral part of normal digestion".

Participants in another study found that their colon activity increased just four minutes after drinking unsweetened black coffee, staying this way for at least 30 minutes.

Though you might be more sensitive to its effects, your morning drink of choice doesn't have to set your stomach churning every time you drink it.

There are a few things you can change that make drinking your coffee a slightly more relaxing experience.

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1. Timing is everything

If you're in the comfort of your home, a quick loo interlude after your morning cup of Joe might not be too much of an inconvenience.

But if you're out and about or mid-meeting at the office, your frantic scramble to the toilet after a few sips of coffee might come at a bad time.

According to Sammie, your gastrocolic reflex – the wave of movement that pushes stuff through your gut to make room for new food – is strongest in the morning and after meals.

You might be hit by a stronger urge to poo after your morning coffee, compared with your afternoon coffee. 

It might be worth experimenting with timing if your need to number two is messing with your life – try delaying your coffee until a little later in the day, or at least after the time you regularly go to the bathroom.

You could also save your first cup until after you've had a bit to eat.

If you have coffee with a meal containing fibre, protein, and healthy fats, your gut will absorb the caffeine more slowly, according to Sammie.

But go easy on the fibre and fat if you're prone to diarrhoea.

2. Lay off the dairy

If you like your coffee extra milky, that might be one of the reasons you're experiencing strong gut contractions after indulging in it.

You'll know the lactose in milk doesn't quite agree with you if you're getting bloating, gas and diarrhoea, according to Sammie.

Adding something with a lot of fat to your coffee – like cream – could also trigger the release of extra digestive juices in your gut.

Try drinking your coffee without dairy for a few days and see if your reactions are a little less violent.

It's a good idea to switch to a plant based alternative if you think you're sensitive to dairy. to see if it makes a difference

3. Go easy on the sweeteners

If you use non-nutritive sweeteners in your coffee like Splenda, this could be the cause stomach symptoms like diarrhoea, Health reported.

You might want to try a different sweetener like stevia, which isn't linked to gut-related side effects. 

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4. Drink less

Your coffee-induced trips to the bathroom could actually be down to the amount you gulping down.

Diet guru Dr Michael Mosley said that swigging up to five or six cups a day might leave you in some discomfort, as it can become a diuretic in that amount.

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