New research gives insight into why our morning cup of coffee gets things moving.

Lauren Wicks

Many of us drink coffee to get that much needed early morning jolt of brain power, but we also know coffee can be just as stimulating to our digestive systems. While this popular beverage has long been thought of as a great way to get things moving, no one has really been able to identify why-that is, until now.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston recently conducted a study to discover why coffee makes such a useful digestive aid, and presented their findings at this year's Digestive Disease Week. The researchers gave rats both caffeinated and decaf coffee for three days, finding regardless of the caffeine levels, the contraction muscles in the rats' intestines were functioning better at the end of the study than without coffee.

So if it's not caffeine making us poop-like many suspected-then what is it? The researchers believe it actually has to do with our microbiomes. (Side note: doesn't everything now?)

Related: 5 Health Reasons to Not Quit Coffee

For their second experiment, the researchers mixed rat poop and coffee in a petri dish (we know, gross) and observed the presence of bacteria over the next few days. The higher the amount of coffee-decaf or caffeinated-added to the dish, the fewer microbes were present, and the amount of bacteria in the rat poop decreased. We're still not sure if this means good bacteria is being eliminated from our guts, or if it's doing our microbiomes a favor, but these findings to suggest improved digestion from coffee has everything to do with the gut.

Related: 9 Rules for How to Make a Perfect Cup of Coffee

The Bottom Line

While could be great news for those struggling to produce regular bowel movements, don't go chugging a Venti-sized coffee quite yet. It's still important to watch your caffeine consumption, especially in the afternoon, as it can affect our sleep.

According to an article from Johns Hopkins Medicine, we should try to cap our total caffeine intake at 400 mg per day-roughly four eight-ounce cups. Coffee has some pretty impressive health benefits, but it can be dangerous for your health if you drink too much. It's best to enjoy your favorite brew in moderation-just like everything else!

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