One cup of coffee, one trip to the bathroom, two cups of coffee, three trips to the bathroom, three cups of coffee, six trips to the bathroom, four cups of coffee… maybe better to just drink this one in the bathroom.
Most people take the bladder-squeezing quality of caffeine for granted, but where does it come from? What is the connection between coffee and bowel movements? What are the anatomical facts behind laxatives and diuresis, and what do those words even mean?
In today’s blog, we will answer all those questions and more, starting with…
What Is Diuresis?
Diuresis is the excretion of fluid from the kidneys as urine.
A little human physiology 101: water in, water out. For a living creature to remain in optimum health it must maintain fluid balance: i.e., the quantity of water ingested and the quantity of water excreted must remain equal. As long as we live, we’re never done drinking water and we’re never done sweating it out or pissing it away.
But what we urinate looks and smells different from the water we drink. This is because the cells of our body create many byproducts - garbage, essentially - when going about their business. These water-soluble junk byproducts no longer serve a purpose to us internally and are just taking up space or even becoming toxic, so the healthy thing to do is get rid of them.
Our blood passes regularly through our kidneys where these byproducts are dropped off and processed into urine (which is basically just water plus body trash). Then the urine is moved to the bladder where it is stored until the organism in question decides to relieve themselves.
However, the term ‘diuresis’ can take on an additional meaning, often referring not to regular excretion of liquid waste but an excessive excretion of liquid waste. Sometimes this happens because the body in question is sick in some way, but it can also take place when certain substances are deliberately consumed (for reasons medical or otherwise). These substances that stimulate excessive urination are described as ‘diuretics.’
And caffeine is a notorious diuretic.
How Does Caffeine Cause Diuresis?
Three cups of coffee, and then comes that urgent twinge in the bladder region. It’s more than just the precious brown liquid being consumed working its way back out again: even powdered caffeine causes diuresis. So what’s going on here?
The answer lies in adenosine. Now, if you’re well-educated on the subject of caffeine - or if you’ve read some of our earlier blog posts - you know that adenosine is (among other things), the organic compound responsible for making us feel tired. The stimulating effect of caffeinated beverages comes about when caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in the brain. We can’t feel tired when the chemical responsible for tiredness can’t fit into its slot!
As it turns out, adenosine is also responsible for regulating the metabolic behavior of the kidneys. When caffeine blocks the action of adenosine in the brain to keep us from getting tired, it is simultaneously blocking the action of adenosine in the kidneys. This interference is what causes our kidneys to excrete more urine than usual after a healthy helping of our morning caffeine.
Coffee as a Laxative
That explains number one. But what about number two? We understand why caffeine encourages diuresis, but how does it work as a laxative?
Well, maybe caffeine isn’t the culprit here. Maybe it’s coffee that puts the rumble in your tummy.
Coffee and caffeine are often conflated, largely because of coffee’s overwhelming popularity. Three out of four Americans drink coffee, and 50% of the US population drinks at least one cup a day. For many people, coffee and caffeine are interchangeable because coffee is the most common way for them to ingest caffeine. But while caffeine is the special active ingredient, there is a lot more in coffee than just caffeine.
So what part of coffee is responsible for laxative action? Truth be told, science has not yet found the answer. Regardless, there must be more to the story than caffeine, for the simple reason that decaffeinated coffee moves the bowels almost as well as a regular brew.
(By the way, are the movement of excrement from the colon to the rectum by way of smooth muscle contractions that also shape the excrement while breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces. Because these are smooth muscle contractions, they’re largely involuntary,
Okay, but what do we know? Research has shown that coffee - caffeinated or otherwise - stimulates as much movement in the colon as a full-size meal. Coffee may also release a hormone (cholecystokinin) known to stimulate movement of the lower intestine, though it remains unclear what part of coffee’s chemical make-up is responsible for this.
Now, two other potential culprits may have been identified, two supplementary ingredients regularly added to many Americans’ morning cup of joe: milk/cream and artificial sweetener.
Wait, milk and cream? That’s right! Sixty-five percent of the human race (and thirty-six percent of Americans) are lactose intolerant, meaning that they run the risk of loose stool if they consume any dairy at all. Artificial sweeteners, meanwhile, are notorious for having a laxative effect on the human digestive tract.
Now, imagine a person consuming a cup of coffee heavy on both the cream and the aspartame. Would the laxative impact of these different elements have a combined effect? You bet they would!
What Does This Mean For You?
Alright, that’s a lot of talk about science and bodily functions. What does any of this have to do with you?
Imagine you’re starting your work day, sitting down at your desk with a thermos full of coffee to keep you awake and engaged until lunch. You’re sipping, and you’re typing, but just when you’re getting into the flow of things, it’s time to go to the bathroom.
Okay, well, that was a nice break. Now you’re sitting down at your desk again, and you’re finding your way back into the flow of things, but as soon as you’ve found your rhythm again, guess who’s interrupting? That’s right, it’s your bladder again. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the day, and what do you get? A distracted workday with so many starts and stops that it might as well be morse code.
Sounds pretty frustrating, right? Luckily for you, it just so happens that we have a suggestion: try Proper Wild!
Hang on, how do Proper Wild Clean All Day Energy Shots keep us from spending half our workday in the bathroom? Just do the math! One Proper Wild Energy shot contains 100 mg of caffeine and 120 mg of L-theanine in only 2.5 fluid ounces!
The average cup of coffee has the same amount of caffeine but no L-theanine at all, and asks you to swallow 8 fluid ounces to get it. That means you have to drink three times as much liquid to get the same amount of caffeine you could get from one convenient shot of Proper Wild!
Furthermore, Proper Wild is an effective alternative to coffee free of both dairy and artificial sweeteners (as you’ll recall, these are coffee’s two accomplices responsible for loosening your stool). The many delicious flavors of Proper Wild are all natural, sourced from real fruits, with no chemical additives and no need for artificial sweeteners. Better yet, Proper Wild Energy Shots are not just dairy free, but vegan and gluten free to boot!
The facts speak for themselves: for a consistent workflow free of awkward interruptions, you need Proper Wild!