Moving Fast with a Cup of Joe

Colon surgery patients bowel movements return to normal with the help of coffee

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) While that good cup of coffee gets your day going, it can also help the bathroom flow, even among patients having colon surgery.

Patients who drank coffee after colon surgery returned faster to regular bowel movements and handling solid food, a new study has found.

This study's findings may indicate coffee helps the body heal after a surgery.

"Ask your doctor about coffee."

A common problem after bowel surgery is having blockage in the colon, according to Sascha Müller, MD, from the Department of General, Visceral and Transplant Surgery at University Hospital Heidelberg in Germany, who led the study.

She and her team aimed to see if coffee would help resolve the problem.

The study included 80 patients averaging just over 60 years old and a little over half were male. Among the patients, 56 percent had colonic cancer, 28 percent had a structural problem with their colon, 13 percent had inflammatory bowel disease and 4 percent had other problems.

Before the operation, the patients were randomly divided into coffee and water groups.

During surgery, 61 percent had open surgery and the rest had laparoscopic surgery, which involves little cutting into the body, to have part of their colon removed.

Patients were then given 100 mls of coffee or water three times a day.

Among the coffee group, researchers found that the time to the first bowel movement after surgery was just over 60 hours.

For the water group, the first movement happened an average 74 hours after surgery.

The coffee group was also able to tolerate solid food and pass gas faster than the water group at 49 hours and 41 hours on average respectively compared to 56 and 46 hours among those who drank water, although these findings were not statistically significant.

The time patients stayed in the hospital and any other ill health were similar in both groups.

“Although 10 percent of the patients did not want to drink strong coffee at this time, it was well accepted by the group and no coffee-related complications were noted," the authors said in a press release.

“It is not clear how coffee stimulates the intestine and caffeine appears to have been ruled out by previous studies, which found that decaffeinated coffee, which was not used in this study, also has beneficial effects.

Drinking coffee after surgery "is a cheap and safe way" to help the bowels get back to normal, the authors wrote.

The authors note several limitations with their study, including the number of the patients they studied. Because the study was the first of its kind, the number of patients could differ.

Further, patients' ethnic backgrounds were generally the same. While it doesn't reflect the general population, it does represent those who would normally have bowel surgery.

Finally, some patients in the water group did not comply with avoiding coffee after surgery.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest. The study was published online September 14 in the British Journal of Surgery.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 12, 2012
Last Updated:
October 14, 2012