Caffeine Effects on Bladder + Bowel - She Physio & Pilates
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Caffeine Effects on Bladder + Bowel

Caffeine Effects on Bladder + Bowel

The Good, The Bad, and The (aaaah) So Yummy


This is my lovely Mum enjoying her coffee.

I talk to people about the effects of caffeine on the bladder and bowel –some effects are helpful, some are not.   I am asked about other effects of caffeine. I have completed a search of the pubmed/medline, and read major institutional health websites, both government and non-government, from around the world; Australia, New Zealand, North America, UK, and Europe.

The following is a summary of information. There are over 10,000 papers on Pubmed! I read papers that I thought were relevant to normal consumption of caffeine and the people I see: those with bladder and bowel problems, and pregnant and lactating women.


Safety recommendations for consumption

The European Safety Authority says daily caffeine intake up to 400mg per day is not a concern for the general population. The exception is for pregnant women. The recommendation for pregnant women is up to 200mg/day. (1) Most women reduce intake of caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks while pregnant. (2) Caffeine easily passes membranes between blood and brain, placenta and into breast milk. There is a measured increase in caffeine 90-180 minutes following consumption. Foetal heart rate, wakefulness and movements all increase in women who drink caffeine randomly throughout pregnancy. But, there is less measurable change in women who drink caffeine habitually throughout pregnancy.
And there was little measurable change in the organs of “experimental foetal rats” subjected to maternal caffeine intake. (3)


Table of Food Product and Caffeine Content


Caffeine content

Decaffeinated Tea 10-20mg /250mL cup
Tea (including green tea) 10-50 mg/250 mL cup
Milk Chocolate 20 mg/100g bar
Coca Cola 48.75 mg/375 mL can
Instant coffee (1 teaspoon/cup) 60-80 mg/250 mL cup
Formulated caffeinated beverages or ‘ Energy’ drinks 80 mg/250 mL can
Brewed/ Percolated coffee 60-180 mg/250 mL cup
This information is based on Food Standards Australia New Zealand. (4)

Other points to note: By law, energy drinks must label the content of caffeine, and guarana, which has a similar but much stronger effect to caffeine.

Cardiovascular System

Caffeine is commonly said to be dehydrating. However, at the recommended (or less than) dose of daily caffeine, there is no discernable change in hydration status, (5) and most cardiovascular measurements. (6)

I read some other papers that reported negative effects on the heart, major organs and bladder function with exceptionally high doses of caffeine, and caffeine like substances in humans and animals.



Urinary Tract

One of the recommendations for lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) is to reduce caffeine consumption. A 2016 study showed slightly higher kidney filtration rates, especially in people over 45 – but only in those who consume larger amounts of caffeine. No discernible difference was noted in moderate coffee consumption. (7) Another 2016 review found evidence of caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages causing overactive bladder syndrome (OAB) and lower urinary tract dysfunction. Changes to consumption are simple to put into effect and often have a profound effect on the overactive bladder symptoms of urgency, frequency and incontinence. (8) Caffeine increases contraction of smooth muscle in the bladder. Caffeine may also affect the central nervous system control centres for the bladder. (9)

There is good and bad in most things and researches in 2014 concluded that there was potential beneficial effect of tea and tea components in bladder cancer prevention and/or treatment. (10)



Gastro-Intestinal Tract

Many people rely on a hot drink, especially caffeine, to promote a bowel action in the morning. There is evidence for this.

The gastrointestinal tract is affected by exposure to caffeine. Caffeine increases secretion of gastic acid in the stomach, changes the pressure in the oesophageal sphincter, relaxes and slows down emptying of the stomach, which may increase reflux and upper abdominal discomfort. It also increases hormone secretion in the duodenum (small bowel), and in turn, increases gall bladder activity (and potentially discomfort). Caffeine increases activity in the sigmoid and rectum of the lower bowel within 4 minutes of ingestion of caffeine. (11)   A 2005 study showed that both hot water and caffeine have a similar effect on the rectum but that caffeine is more potent. (12)

Interestingly, I read in several papers that caffeine may have a protective effect against colorectal cancer because of chlorogenic acids, melanoidins, and other components. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer globally. (13)


SO your take home message is:

Moderate consumption of caffeine is probably ok for you and your baby if you have one.

If you note that caffeine worsens your bladder function, you should reduce it. It is ok to use caffeine to stimulate bowel action if you think it is helpful.



I think I will go and have my daily dose now.



Reference List

  1. European Safety Authority.
  2. Mparmpakas D, Goumenou A, Zachariades E, Pados G, Gidron Y, Karteris E. Exp Ther Med.  2013 Feb;5(2):411-418. Epub 2012 Dec 4 Immune system function, stress, exercise and nutrition profile can affect pregnancy outcome: Lessons from a Mediterranean cohort.
  3. Mulder EJ, Tegaldo L, Bruschettini P, Visser GH. J Psychopharmacol.  2010 Nov;24(11):1641-8. doi: 10.1177/0269881109106310. Epub 2009 Jun 8 Foetalresponse to maternal coffee intake: role of habitual versus non-habitual caffeineconsumption.
  4. Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
  5. Ganio MS, Casa DJ, Armstrong LE, Maresh CM. Sports. Med.  2007, 26, 1-16. Evidence-Based Approach to Lingering Hydration Questions
  6. Tomaszewski M, Burdan F, Olchowik G, Tomaszewska M.  Ann Agric Environ Med.  2016;23(1):148-52. doi: 10.5604/12321966.1196871 The effects of caffeine administered at different temperatures on foetal development.
  7. Herber-Gast GC, van Essen H, Verschuren WM, Stehouwer CD, Gansevoort RT, Bakker SJ, Spijkerman AM.  Am J Clin Nutr.  2016 May;103(5):1370-7. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.112755. Epub 2016 Mar 16. Coffee and tea consumption in relation to estimated glomerular filtration rate: results from the population-based longitudinal Doetinchem Cohort Study.
  8. Robinson D, Hanna-Mitchell A, Rantell A, Thiagamoorthy G, Cardozo L.   Neurourol Urodyn.  2017 Apr;36(4):876-881. doi: 10.1002/nau.23149.   Are we justified in suggesting change to caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drink intake in lower urinary tract disease? Report from the ICI-RS 2015.
  9. Cho YS, Ko IG, Kim SE, Hwan L, Shin MS, Kim CJ, Kim SH, Jin JJ, Chung JY, Kim KH. Mol Med Rep.   2014 Dec;10(6):2931-6. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2014.2646. Epub 2014 Oct 15. Caffeine enhances micturition through neuronal activation in micturition centers.
  10. Conde VR, Alves MG, Oliveira PF, Silva BM.   Anticancer Agents Med Chem.  2014 Dec 3.   Tea (Camellia Sinensis (L.)): a Putative Anticancer Agent in BladderCarcinoma?
  11. Boekema PJ, Samsom M, van Berge Henegouwen GP, Smout AJ. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl.  1999;230:35-9.  Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction. A review
  1.  Sloots CE, Felt-Bersma RJ, West RL, Kuipers EJ. Scand J Gastroenterol.  2005 Jul;40(7):808-13. Stimulation of defecation: effects of coffee use and nicotine on rectal tone and visceral sensitivity.
  2. Vitaglione P, Fogliano V, Pellegrini N.  Food Funct.  2012 Sep;3(9):916-22. doi: 10.1039/c2fo30037k. Epub 2012 May 25. Coffee, colon function and colorectal cancer.


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