The glorious truth behind the coffee-“I have to poop” meme

There’s a meme circulating on Facebook featuring a coffee cup with top-to-bottom writing as follows: “Ssshhh…almost…now you may speak…nevermind I have to go poop now.” For many people with morning coffee rituals, this about sums it up. You wake up groggy, get a cup of coffee and slowly come to life. And because coffee significantly increases intestinal contractions, due partly to theophylline, a well-known fat-burner, it often facilitates the morning de-bulking ritual often referred to as “taking a poop.”

Less diabetes and colon cancer
Intestinal cleansing is one of the benefits of coffee, along with another related benefit---decreasing glucose absorption, which contributes to coffee drinkers’ decreased risk of developing diabetes. According to a study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health, drinking one cup of coffee per day decreases the risk of diabetes by 13%, while a four-cup-per-day habit literally cuts the risk in half.

And then there’s the positive effect of coffee on the risk of developing colon cancer. Last spring, results of a study conducted by Stephen Gruber, MD, PhD, MPH, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, confirmed what other researchers had already established. Coffee decreases the risk of colon cancer in a dose-dependent manner. With more than 9,000 people in the study, Gruber and his colleagues determined that drinking one or two cups of coffee per day decreases the risk of colon cancer by 26%, while drinking upwards of 2.5 cups increases that risk reduction---once again cutting the risk in half.

Another plus: Gruber’s findings are coffee-agnostic. It doesn’t matter if the coffee is decaffeinated or caffeinated; flavored or basic; French, Sumatran, Italian or any other origin. The results are the same. It’s the antioxidants, mainly the polyphenols, that confer this healthy benefit.

What to do about coffee’s negative effects 
So these are all good things---easy pooping, less cancer, the freedom to eat more sweets and dodge the diabetes bullet and coffee’s perk-up effect---are great. But like everything else, there are downsides to drinking coffee.

For people with gallbladder problems, such as gallstones, coffee can be problematic because it causes gallbladder contraction. Major risk factors for gallstones include obesity, cirrhosis or taking anti-cholesterol medications or hormone replacement therapy. Until these problems are resolved, most people with serious gallstones are directed by their physicians to not drink coffee.

In addition, people with ulcers or functional dyspepsia often avoid coffee because of its acid-producing component. However, not all coffees have the same physiological effects. In 2010, Veronika Somoza, Ph.D. from the University of Vienna in Austria, and Thomas Hofmann, Ph.D., from the Technische Universität Műnchen in Germany, presented their findings to the scientific community showing that dark coffee can actually be used to decrease acid production. 
Dr. Veronika Somoza

Dark coffee is easier on the stomach
That’s because dark coffees, such as French roast and espresso, contain more of the key ingredient N-methylpyridium (NMP). NMP is a byproduct of any coffee-roasting process, and in fact only becomes available when coffee beans are roasted. It seems counter-intuitive, but darker roast coffees are easier on the stomach than mild roasts----which also have more caffeine.

What this means is that the 40 million Americans who are currently avoiding coffee because of stomach-related problems can reconsider their dilemma and find a dark coffee brew that works for them. Bu the bottom line is that not everyone can drink coffee. If you can, be grateful---there are a lot of benefits to be had, and the ‘poop factor’ is a scientifically based reality.


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