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.