discoveries magazine

Coffee To Go

Photograph: iStock

If you ever need intestinal, bowel, or major abdominal surgery, you will remain an inpatient until you can effectively use your digestive system. Yes, in order to be released from the hospital, you will need to, ahem, release pressure first. To safely hasten this process, colorectal surgeon Yosef Nasseri, MD, is testing the obvious: He’s giving coffee to postoperative patients.

His study aims to determine whether drinking coffee—which previous research has shown stimulates colonic activity in numerous ways—can reduce the recovery time for gastrointestinal function. He also is investigating whether coffee could shorten hospital stays and even decrease early postoperative complications.

Other scientists have pursued similar stimulators. “Various studies tested chewing gum because it fools the brain into thinking the bowel should be moving,” Nasseri says. However, no U.S.-based study has investigated coffee.

Nasseri’s team will enroll 120 patients, giving a third of them caffeinated coffee three times per day. Another third will receive decaf, while the control group will drink warm water.

If the study yields reproducible results, Nasseri aims to update bowel recovery protocols that he authors as a leader in the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.