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We Know How Coffee Makes You Poop, But Not Why

Had a cup of joe this morning? Then you may have had a morning constitutional shortly thereafter as well. But why?

The latest Reactions video from the American Chemical Society leads us through all the science of why a cup of java has you running for the lavatory. It’s not so simple — coffee is a complicated liquid. It contains almost 1,000 different compounds, and though we know that one or more of those chemicals must affect when our body decides to engage the #2 mechanisms, we aren’t sure which one(s).

We know we can’t blame caffeine, because an energy drink or a Coke doesn’t produce the same effect. However, we can blame coffee’s high acidity (at least in part). Dumping a lot of acid into the stomach can cause it to release its contents into the intestines more quickly. And, as the video points out, coffee also increases the movements of the intestines — peristalsis — less than five minutes after taking a sip.

Though we don’t know which chemical in coffee is the culprit, we have some idea of what it would be doing. Ingesting coffee is linked to increased levels of hormones, namely cholecystokinin and gastrin, that help digest food, encourage peristalsis, and regulate the process of pooping.

And despite the widely known effect, coffee reportedly makes only three out of ten people have to poop. So congratulations if you’re a coffee pooper. Hooray?

IMAGE: Reactions

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