Understanding the Laxative Effects of Coffee

V Mehta et al. JPGN 2023; 76: 20-24. Open Access! Effect of Caffeine on Colonic Manometry in Children

Methods: A prospective study of pediatric patients (N=16) undergoing standard colonic motility testing that were able to consume caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and caffeine tablet during colonic manometry (with normal response to bisacodyl)

Key findings:

  • Caffeinated coffee resulted in a higher AUC, motility index (MI), and time to HAPC compared with decaffeinated coffee (P < 0.05).
  • Urge to defecate, or actual bowel movement in 100% (n = 16) of patients after intraluminal bisacodyl (IB), compared to 81% (n = 13) after caffeinated coffee (CC), 56% (n= 9) after caffeine tablet (CT), and 50% (n = 8) after decaffeinated coffee (DC)
  • Based on AUC between T = 1 and T = 60 minutes after each agent, the response of the colon to IB was more robust, relative to other agents (P < 0.05). Both CC and DC had resulted in a higher AUC compared to CT (P < 0.05), but no significant difference between CC and DC 
  • Caffeine is indeed a colonic stimulant; however, other components of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages likely induce colonic response as well
  • Limitation: Study population: patients required motility testing for refractory chronic constipation Therefore, they do not represent a normal population

My take: As with adult patients, coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) acts as a colonic stimulant. Though, it is relatively weak compared to bisacodyl

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