Coffee and Diarrhea

Could coffee be part of your morning diarrhea problems?

Angry woman with coffee and diarrhea medicine giving a thumbs down.
Is Coffee giving you diarrhea? How about belly pain?
© Can Stock Photo

In the United States, coffee is the wake up beverage for most people. However, coffee can stimulate sensitive bowels and cause diarrhea. Many other countries wake up to tea first thing. Since caffeine is the main reason coffee causes diarrhea, there is probably a strong link to tea and diarrhea as well, but coffee is the real heavy hitter in the caffeine and bowel irritant game. It can allso be a big contributor to irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.


Chronic morning diarrhea, and coffee. Is there a link?

A lot of people have chronic morning diarrhea. I wonder if that’s because the first thing that hits their digestive tract is a hot cup of bowel stimulant.

I know for years I drank coffee with cream (Are you lactose intolerant?) and sugar first thing every day. I could feel the caffeine getting my bowels rumbling after just a few minutes. It wasn’t a problem at first but then coffee and diarrhea started becoming a morning routine. I didn’t make the connection right away though.

Why might coffee cause diarrhea?

Sick man with diarrhea medicine and coffee in bed.
Are you fighting coffee with diarrhea medicine?
© Can Stock Photo

Most people who drink coffee know that it has a laxative effect. In other words coffee makes you poop.

The high levels of caffeine stimulate the bowels, and the acidic nature of coffee may irritate the bowels.

Another theory (not mine) is that some people are very sensitive to bile. Bile is part of the human digestive tract’s operation. Bile helps break down fats.

However, coffee causes the body to secrete bile which then moves into the intestines causing irritation.

Irritated intestines work overtime to get rid of bile, coffee and everything else along with it.

As extra liquid rushes to the intestines and coffee stimulates peristalsis, you may get all kinds of cramping…

Coffee in, diarrhea out.

Will drinking decaffeinated coffee help diarrhea problems?

I can usually feel coffee work it’s way into my system. Coffee diarrhea has a feeling to it deep in my intestines. It’s a squirming cramping feeling. I usually don’t get this feeling with decaf coffee so my vote is yes, decaf will probably help.

However, coffee itself can be an irritant for some people. Your experience could be different from mine.

Also, watch what you put in your coffee. Diarrhea can be caused by other things such as lactose intolerance (from the cream) or an annatto allergy from creamer. Sugar can also cause cramping in some people.

Coffee and Constipation???

Coffee and diarrhea sure, but for some people coffee can cause constipation. Coffee can cause cramping and bowel spasms that lock the stool in place until it dries out.

This can be especially true for those people that drink coffee as their primary beverage. In other words not much water or anything else.

This try hard stool can be an IBS nightmare.

Okay, so what about tea and diarrhea?

Woman with sick belly drinking tea.
For some people tea won’t cause as many diarrhea problems. For others it’s still too much.
© Can Stock Photo

Tea has caffeine too. But usually about half as much as coffee. Green tea has even less in most cases.

I find I don’t have problems with tea causing diarrhea. However, if you drink a lot of tea you may find the caffeine stimulates your bowels too much.

An interesting thing about coffee vs. tea though, coffee has a lot of caffeine and makes many people nervous and edgy. That can certainly lead to diarrhea all by itself.

Tea on the other hand has less caffeine, but tea also has a special amino acid in it called L-Theonine.

L-Theonine has a reputation for being calming, relaxing, and increasing a person’s sense of well being. That may actually help prevent diarrhea (just my opinion there).

What to do if coffee and diarrhea are your morning companions.

Well, a hypocrite would say just stop the caffeine all together. But I’m not going to do that. I find it very hard to get going in the morning without caffeine.

So, for the most part I’ve switched to tea, which amazingly I DO find relaxing yet stimulating. And I do still drink coffee but not as much. I also drink it black because I’m lactose intolerant, and don’t like creamer.

Does coffee and diarrhea cause me trouble sometimes? Yes, but usually not.

If you want to quit caffeine alltogether…

Sign pointing to coffee and the toilet.
This sign has special meaning for some people.
© Can Stock Photo

My heart goes out to you. I tried this and it was hard for me. Caffeine is addictive, and you’ll find yourself going through withdrawal for a few days. That means headaches, being irritable, and maybe some bowel troubles. If you have a problem with coffee and diarrhea it may be worth it though.

For my part I’d try switching to half decaf, then a quarter before quitting.

I know, I’m wimpy about suffering. But I don’t like suffering :).

For other IBS trigger foods try Foods to Avoid with IBS or the Food Intolerance section.


  1. Katherine says

    Shawn! You’ve just given me a new lease! Now I know what’s been causing my irritation as I was starting to suspect coffee. It has been nearly years and finally, I know I’m not the only one and I know how to prevent it! Thank You!!! :)))

    • says

      Thank YOU for the kind words, Katherine. I hope it ends up helping you. If not, poke around there’s other stuff here that may help you solve your problems.

      • Chris says

        Violent attacks at night with throwing up and Diarrhea? I’m not even 40 yet and this is what I’m dealing with now an upset stomach with the urge to throw up then unfortunately it happens throwing up.

  2. Mark says

    Hi Shawn
    Thanks for your observations on this. I think i have found that coffee is the cuprit in my long term issue.

    It seems to cause massive discomfort in my anus and i can be going to the toilet up to 3 times in 1 hour in the morning. The visits are uncomfortable and the level of pain caused by passing a stool makes hygiene a problem too.

    I stopped coffee for 3 weeks and stuck to tea, although being a Scot it’s impossible to break free from tea or coffee completely ;-), my situation improved massively. Yesterday i experimented with a coffee and within an hour or so symptoms returned and right now i am sitting in some discomfort waiting for things to pass. Very uncomfortable 2 trips to the loo so far.

    What a pest! I love coffee but it hates me.

    oh well.

    • says

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for commenting. I hope it gets better soon.
      It seems to be be that with IBS, we have to give up the foods and drinks we love most.
      All the best to you!


      • Emma says

        Hi, my doctor thinks I have IBS as I get stomach cramps often and I get a rumbling in my stomach when im not hungry. I used to drink coffee in Starbucks and I got the urge to go to the toilet verrry quickly before I had even gotten halfway through my cup, I changed to tea but that gave the same effect so then I changed my milk to soya but that didn’t help either… Does this sound normal to you?

        • says

          Here is my 2 cents on that. IBS is what they call it when they can’t figure out your digestive tract problems (usually bowel problems). Does this sound NORMAL to me? No. Soy can cause IBS symptoms in some people (me for instance). So can cow’s milk or cream. So can something called annatto, which is common in non-dairy creamer.

          I don’t know what you put in your coffee or tea. It’s possible that the caffeine is the culprit, but if it were me, I’d try drinking coffee black, with nothing in my stomach, and see what happens. Then I’d try tea the same way. If they both cause you to run for the toilet, I would guess caffeine is not for you. I hope it helps!

    • Kate says

      Amazing, years and years of major digestive issues, and no one, until now mentioned caffeine, although I’ve had my vague suspicions, but when you’re “reacting” to so much, it’s hard to nail down the primary offenders, plus, due in part to my health issues, I crave that caffeine hit–albeit not enough to keep doing it if this is the price.

      I’d say to anyone whose Irish/English ancestry (like me), the formula may be to get off caffeine, certainly gluten and dairy (since there is evidence we simply are genetically adapted to handle it), and I’ve recently learned that gluten destroys the ABILITY to digest dairy and soy properly and can even set into play zinc/copper imbalances at the cellular level that can cause a whole new level of illness. Shawn, thank you for words of wisdom and COMMON SENSE, something none of my over-priced gastroenterologists provided, and thanks to the post that mentioned that “creepy, crawly” feeling from caffeine. One that’s haunted me, especially in the a.m. for years.

      • Carolyn says

        Every time I drink coffee,in a matter of minutes I experience diahearra, it’s nasty. I’ve tried drinking it black and I just want to throw up because the taste is so bitter. I usually take cream and 1/2 tsp sugar also I get dizzy spells from it. Do you have any advice? Thank you much appreciated,Carolyn

        • says

          If this were me, I would STOP immediately. Coffee doesn’t seem worth what you’re describing. I can’t tell you what YOU should do, but that’s what I would do. The dizzy thing worries me. Some people don’t respond well to caffeine, but since you’ve had it before that wouldn’t seem to be the issue. Some people have trouble with cream, others have trouble with artificial creamer do to annatto and other additives.

  3. Angela says

    Are there any other options for a morning stimulant? Coffee gives me diarrhea but I need a stimulant. I like tea but wonder if it will give me enough caffeine.

    • says

      From what I know of it, coffee has roughly twice the caffeine of black tea. Caffeine of any kind can spark IBS troubles though. However I find I do better drinking twice as much tea as I used to drink coffee. I hope it helps! Shawn

  4. CM says

    I’ve started drinking Kava acid-neutralized instant coffee, which irritates my insides significantly less than brewed regular or decaf coffee. Maybe this might help someone else!

  5. Boy in Osaka says

    Shawn Thank you for the excellent info! I’ve just started drinking coffee a lot these past few months and have been experiencing frequent bouts of diarrhea almost daily. This post really helped! Thanks

Please let others know what YOU think!