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Is Coffee Good for Diarrhea? What You Need to Know!

man experiencing diarrhea

Many people enjoy a morning coffee, and it’s an essential part of starting their day. The caffeine that it contains provides the energy that they need to tackle their activities. The fragrance is comforting, and this helps people know that it’s time to get moving. However, many people also need to find the nearest restroom after consuming a cup. So, can coffee cause diarrhea? The short answer is yes, some people might experience diarrhea after drinking coffee. Keep reading for more information about this side effect and if there’s anything you can do about it.

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Does Coffee Cause Diarrhea?

Pro-mobility Agent

One of the primary reasons that coffee can lead to diarrhea is that it’s a pro-mobility agent, which is a food that causes the digestive system to start working. When the stomach detects a pro-mobility agent, muscles in the digestive system begin to contract and push food through the intestines, which can cause many people to need the restroom. While many scientists agree that coffee gets the digestive system moving, they aren’t sure if it’s caffeine or another ingredient that is responsible. It also seems more pronounced in the morning and affects occasional drinkers more often than regulars. However, that could be because suffering from diarrhea daily may cause you to choose a different beverage.

Laxative

The caffeine in coffee is a strong diuretic, which can cause it to have laxative properties, especially if you consume it in large quantities. People who drink more than 3 cups of coffee per day are more likely to suffer from problems with the digestive tract, including diarrhea, constipation, and muscle cramps.

cup of coffee and beans
Image Credit: pixel2013, Pixabay

Other Reasons That Coffee Might Cause Diarrhea

Lactose Intolerant

Many people blame caffeine or coffee when they suffer from diarrhea. However, a large part of the population is lactose intolerant, and the milk or cream put in coffee can be the reason for frequent trips to the restroom.

Acidity

Another downside to drinking coffee is that it’s extremely acidic. The acid can cause the stomach to produce excess bile and can lead to bouts of acid reflux. The resulting upset stomach created by the acid often leads to diarrhea.

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How to Prevent Diarrhea

Switch to Decaf

If you think that coffee or the caffeine that it contains is causing you to have diarrhea, try switching to a decaffeinated version. Decaf will give you the flavor and aroma of your morning cup and may even help you avoid your race to the restroom, even though you won’t receive the same energy boost.

decaf heart coffee
Image Credit: USA-Reiseblogger, Pixabay

Choose a Plant-Based Creamer

If you think that frequent trips to the bathroom have something to do with an inability to digest milk products, give a plant-based creamer a try. Soy, coconut, almond, and oat milk are excellent substitutes for lactose-intolerant people.

Try a Lighter Roast

Dark roast coffee, like what you find at Starbucks, is popular because it tastes great and is quite strong. However, the extra caffeine means you need to drink less to trigger the laxative effects. Dark roast coffee is also more bitter, meaning it is more acidic.

Try Cold Brew

The cold brewing process’s cooler temperatures result in a much less bitter coffee that contains less acid. This coffee has a smooth flavor and can help prevent an upset stomach.

starbucks cold brew in a bottle
Image Credit: Joseph Gonzalez, Unsplash

Drink It Later in the Day

Many people suffer from diarrhea after drinking coffee first thing in the morning. Consuming it later in the day may help prevent it from shocking the system.

Drink More Water

Drinking plenty of water can help minimize the side effects that you can experience from drinking too much coffee and caffeine. Since caffeine is a laxative, water can help replace what is lost.

Try a Different Beverage

If you are suffering from frequent bouts of diarrhea but you need that boost of energy that you get from your morning coffee, there are other beverages that you can try. Look for something with green tea instead of coffee to reduce the amount of caffeine that you consume. Ginseng is another ingredient that can help boost energy and focus without the side effects of caffeine.

Pouring oolong tea to a cup
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Eat Something With Your Coffee

Most of us are in a hurry every morning, and there’s little time for anything but a morning cup of coffee. However, drinking coffee on an empty stomach is more likely to cause problems due to its acidic nature. Eating food can help absorb some of the acids and may even help prevent the coffee from acting as a pro-mobility agent.

Limit Your Intake

If you are experiencing diarrhea later in the day and think that coffee can be the cause, try to limit the amount that you drink each day. If you tend to drink all your caffeine at once, try to space it out during the day, which will help keep the amount of caffeine in your bloodstream more balanced.

fresh brewed coffee
Image Credit: John Schnobrich, Unsplash

How Much Caffeine Is Safe?

Most experts recommend limiting the amount of caffeine that you consume daily to 400 mg, to avoid health risks like high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues, and kidney stones. The average morning coffee has between 90 mg and 140 mg of caffeine, so 3 to 5 cups should be about the limit. However, a beverage that you get from Starbucks or another big chain can contain much more caffeine, so you will need to look up nutritional data for the drinks that you enjoy and be mindful of your intake to stay healthy.

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Summary

Unfortunately, coffee is not good for diarrhea unless you’re trying to cause it, as many people need to run to the bathroom after consuming a cup. Although many people are likely intolerant to the lactose in their creamer, there is evidence that coffee acts as a pro-mobility agent that kicks the digestive system into gear. It can also cause an upset stomach due to its acidic nature, leading to diarrhea. Drinking plenty of water can help minimize symptoms, as can switching to decaf and trying a plant-based creamer.


Featured Image Credit: Tutatamafilm, Shutterstock

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Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker, a veteran writer, has contributed to a wide range of blogs that cover tools, pets, guitars, fitness, and computer programming, and of course, coffee. He drinks a lot of it when he writes, making him an expert indeed. When he’s not writing, Ed is usually performing DIY projects around the house or working in the garden. He’s also a musician and spends a lot of time helping people fix their guitars and composing music for independent films.

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