Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with over half of the US drinking it daily to get through the day.1 Many coffee drinkers know that their morning cup can send them running to the bathroom, but in some people, it can actually have the opposite effect and cause constipation. Let’s find out more about what causes this, as well as some other relevant info about coffee consumption.
Coffee and Constipation
Coffee is typically classified as a gastrointestinal stimulant, which means it stimulates your intestinal muscles. By doing so, many people who drink coffee and consume caffeine in other ways experience a laxative effect. Cigarette smoking, high fiber diets, and exercise compound this effect.
However, coffee is a diuretic, which means it helps your body expel water and salt. For people sensitive to caffeine, this can dehydrate your body. In turn, your intestines start to absorb water from food waste and produce dry and hard stools that are hard to pass.
The products we add to our coffee can also exacerbate this constipation. Large amounts of whole fat milk, for example, can cause constipation even without coffee. Sugar, too, can accelerate dehydration and make stomach troubles worse.
How to Mitigate Constipation From Coffee
If you can’t imagine giving up coffee but can’t live with the constipation either, there are solutions. Changing the way you prepare your brew, exercising, and consuming enough water and fiber are some of the best ways to curb constipation. Let’s take a closer look at what these entail.
Cut Down on Dairy and Sugar
Using a tablespoon or two of whole fat milk is okay but adding large amounts of any cow’s milk can negatively impact your gut. If you add a lot of skim or 2% milk, switching to a smaller amount of whole milk can make a big difference in your stools.
As far as sugar, it may be worth looking into alternative sweeteners like Splenda. For a twist, consider adding some unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, or coconut milk. Soy and oat milk can help simulate the creamy taste of cow’s milk without binding up your bowels.
Exercise provides so many health benefits that we could write a whole article about it, but for the purposes of this one, it’s crucial to regulating your bowels. A morning walk or jog along with your morning cup of joe is just the thing many people use to keep their stools regular. If you’re noticing constipation and don’t exercise often, consider taking a walk or jog to find out if that could help your stomach.
Water & Fiber
Water and fiber are essential to keeping your intestines healthy. Water keeps your stool soft and helps your intestines move it along, so it may be worth drinking some water while you have your coffee. Coffee can make it hard to gauge how dehydrated you are, so we’d suggest seeing if that improves the situation.
Fiber increases the size of your stools while making them softer and easier to move. Bulky stools are easier to pass than small, dry, and compacted stools. Bananas, apples, and beans are great sources of soluble fiber, while insoluble fiber can be found in whole grain products, nuts, and most veggies.
Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
Reducing caffeine can be a good way to lessen gastrointestinal distress and remedy constipation. If you drink multiple cups of coffee per day, try switching to decaf after the first cup. Dark roast fans may opt to switch to a medium or light roast, which contain less caffeine by volume. Finally, you can simply cut down on how many cups you have in a day.
Limiting your coffee consumption to the day is key, too. Drinking coffee in the evening can throw off your body’s schedule and cause irregular stools, constipation, or even diarrhea. Cutting out caffeine 5 hours before bedtime will also help prevent insomnia.
Coffee is a great way to get over that morning hump and maintain motivation throughout the day, but in some people, it can cause troubling constipation. You can help minimize this by exercising, adding water and fiber to your diet, and changing the way you take your coffee.
Featured Image Credit: Clay Banks, Pexels