Is Coffee the Answer to your Colon Conundrum?

A recent study, which occurred at the University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany, found that drinking coffee significantly reduces the time needed to recover from bowel obstruction following abdominal surgery. The study lead by Dr. Sascha Müller looked at more than 80 patients’ recoveries from surgery and divided them into two groups. One group was given 100mL of water 3 times a day while the other group was given 100mL of caffeinated coffee 3 times a day. The patients all faced surgery for a variety of reasons with the majority (56 percent) suffering from colon cancer. Another 28 percent of patients suffered from diverticular disease, a type of condition wherein there are structural problems with the colon; 13 suffered from inflammatory bowel disease and the remainder had various conditions. The patients were of comparable health, age 61 on average and were 56 percent male. These conditions allowed for the trial to look at a variety of responses by patients.

According to the study, those who received the caffeine treatment had their first bowel movement a full 14 hours before those who had only water. The first bowel movement occurred at 60 hours for those on caffeine versus those who did not have caffeine who had their first bowel movement at 74 hours. Similarly, those who had caffeine were able to have solid food at around 49 hours while those who had only water were only able to keep solid food at 56 hours.

Finally, those with caffeine treatment were able to pass gas on average 5 hours before those who did not have caffeine, as they only required 41 rather than 46 hours. However the length of hospital stay was the same for both groups of patients. Interestingly, there have been previous studies that have ruled out the influence of caffeine and even found that decaffeinated coffee had some beneficial effects.

This study, however, will need to be followed by further research. There is more to be determined about the reasoning behind why coffee makes bowel movements come sooner. Furthermore, this trial only had a small number of participants necessitating studies with a larger sample size. Finally, it is important to realize that, as with any type of surgery, there are numerous risks, which must be discussed with your physician before undergoing any treatment. Before undergoing any type of surgery on your colon, whether for cancer or resection (removal of part of the bowel), the use of caffeine following your surgery should be determined by your physician. This study is hopefully the first of many advances in colon treatment.