Constipation is a common digestive problem among Americans. In fact, more than 4 million people in the United States deal with constipation on daily basis. Are you one of them?
I drink about three cups of coffee on a daily basis. I’ve never had any problem with my poop. In fact, I regularly go to the bathroom every morning as soon as I finish my cup of coffee. It never fails. Sometimes, I am just halfway through my morning drink and I already need to go to the bathroom. Nature calls.
My husband is also a coffee aficionado. We drink coffee together every morning. Interestingly, coffee has the same effect on him. It’s actually more effective on him because he had to go to the bathroom twice.
I hope this is not grossing you out, but the truth is that coffee can help with regular bowel movements. And if you have constipation, this might just be some good news for you.
Contrary to popular to belief, coffee is not dehydrating. In fact, it can help you burn fat and lose weight. If you worry that coffee will just make your poop hard, here are some medical reports that prove otherwise. You may be surprised that coffee has more health benefits than you think.
What causes constipation?
Before we delve into the research findings. Let’s establish some medical facts about constipation.
According to WebMD, constipation occurs when your bowel movements become tough and hard and come less often than normal. At one point in our life, each one of us has experienced constipation.
Normal bowel movements vary from person to person. For some, normal bowel movements mean having to go the bathroom two to three times a day. For others, regular bowel movement is two to three times a week. However, if you are going for three days without a bowel movement, your stool will become hard. As a result, it will be more difficult to pass. This is when constipation occurs.
Common symptoms of constipation include any of the following:
- Few bowel movements
- Trouble having a bowel movement (straining to go)
- Hard or small stools
- A sense that everything didn’t come out
- Swollen belly or belly pain
- Throwing up
Common causes of constipation include one or a combination of the following conditions:
- Antacid medicines containing calcium or aluminum
- Changes in your usual diet or activities
- Eating a lot of dairy products
- Not being active
- Not enough water or fiber in your diet
- Overuse of laxatives
If you have a medical condition that causes your constipation, please check with your doctor for proper assistance and medication.
However, if your constipation due to poor eating habits or lack of activity, then coffee might be a useful drink to help you get relief from constipation.
Studies on coffee and constipation
Approximately 14 percent to 24 percent of people who suffer from constipation feel that coffee has a softening effect on their stools, according to a study published in the “European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology” in January 2005. Another study, published in the “European Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in May 2006, seems to back up the perceptions of these individuals. The study involved 18- to 20-year-old Japanese women, and found that participants who consumed more coffee were less likely to experience constipation than those who consumed less coffee.
In a recent video by the American Chemical Society, researchers discussed how coffee affects our digestive system. They found that over 30 percent of coffee drinkers feel the need to poop after drinking their morning cup of coffee. People often associate this effect with caffeine.
However, another study published by the British Society of Gastroenterology suggested that it’s the acidity in coffee that triggers the quick reaction of our digestive system to coffee.
According to the researchers, coffee has a compound called chlorogenic acid that triggers higher stomach acid levels and also a higher production of gastric acid. It could be that the overall acidity bump makes the stomach dump its contents out more quickly than usual. Something in coffee may also trigger the release of hormones that aid digestion, which would speed up bowel movements.
According to Dr. Steven Chang of One Medical Group in San Francisco, coffee helps to stimulate the muscles in your colon, leading to peristalsis. When peristalsis occurs, the colon’s muscles contract and relax to push the digested food through your system. It’s possible for people to safely use coffee to help have regular bowel movements.
How much coffee should I drink to relieve constipation?
Normally, a single cup of hot brewed coffee will be enough to stimulate your digestive system and allow you to pass your stool. Do not add too much sweetener and creamer on your coffee, as it may reduce the desired effect. Sugar and creamer slow down your metabolic processes and it will only increase your constipation.
Keep in mind that coffee is not a miracle drink. While it can help you with constipation, you need to take a look at your eating habits and lifestyle. You might need to do some changes in order to lessen, if not totally stop, constipation from occurring.
What else can I do if I have constipation?
Since constipation is related to one’s metabolism and digestive system, there’s no single quick-and-easy solution to relieve constipation. Why? Because our digestive and metabolic processes are not all the same.
Some people have quick metabolism, while others have a slow one. Therefore, what works for you may not always work for the other.
However, there are tried and tested ways to help relieve constipation, aside from drinking coffee.
Drink more water.
It is advised to drink about 8 glasses of water per day, whether you drink coffee or not. Water helps in digesting our food and stimulating our colon to release stool.
Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
Coffee is a warm liquid, but you can also try to drink tea.
Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in natural fiber which helps speed up digestion. Eat an apple, daily, or a cup of mixed vegetables during lunch or dinner. This way, you get your daily dose of natural fiber, which can contribute to healthy digestion.
A serving size of six prunes has 4 grams of dietary fiber, and 1/2 cup contains 6.2 grams. It is recommended that women under 50 get 25 grams of fiber each day, and men under 50 get 38 grams. The recommended fiber intake for men and women over 50 is less, at 30 grams and 21 grams respectively.
Other health benefits of coffee
Aside from helping you relieve constipation, researchers have also confirmed that regular coffee consumption can reduce the risk of liver disease and liver cancer. The beneficial antioxidants in coffee help fight free radicals and protect our body from cell damage.
If you want to lose weight, keep your coffee consumption to, at most, three cups daily. Black coffee is considered the healthiest because it retains the natural antioxidants in coffee and has no added sugar or creamer. Black coffee can help speed up metabolism and burn fat.
Just remember to drink coffee in moderation. Studies suggest that the average coffee consumption with the most benefit is about three cups daily.
Enjoy your coffee today and stay healthy!