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Coffee could aid bowel functions after surgery

By Nathan Gray+

Last updated on 10-Oct-2012 at 13:41 GMT2012-10-10T13:41:46Z

Consumption of coffee could be cheap and safe way to help to speed up and improve the bowel functions of people after surgery, according to new data.

The research – published in British Journal of Surgery – reveals that people who drank coffee rather than water after bowel surgery experienced a quicker return to bowel movements and tolerance of solid food.

“Post-operative bowel obstruction is a common problem after abdominal surgery and the aim of this study was to test our theory that coffee would help to alleviate this” explained the study lead author Dr Sascha Müller – based at Kantonsspital St Gallen, Switzerland. 
“This randomised trial showed that the time to first bowel movement after surgery was much shorter in the coffee drinkers than the water drinkers” said Müller.
The lead researcher added that it is not yet clear how coffee stimulates the intestine in this way – noting that 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.”

“Whatever the mechanism, it is clear that postoperative coffee consumption is a cheap and safe way to activate bowel motility.” 

Study details
The findings come from an open-label randomised trial of 80 patients, carried out at University Hospital Heidelberg, Germany.

The patients were randomised to be given coffee or water (100 ml three times daily) after bowel surgery.

In the coffee group time to first bowel movement after surgery was just over 60 hours, whilst it was 74 hours in the water group.

The coffee group were able to tolerate solid food much sooner – in just over 49 hours compared to around 56 hours in the water group. Coffee drinkers were also able to pass wind after around 41 hours after surgery, compared with over 46 hours for the water group.

“Although 10 per cent 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,” said Müller.

Source: British Journal of Surgery
Volume 99, Issue 11,  Pages 1530–1538, doi: 10.1002/bjs.8885
“Randomized clinical trial on the effect of coffee on postoperative ileus following elective colectomy”
Authors: S. A. Müller, N. N. Rahbari, F. Schneider, R. Warschkow, T. Simon, et al

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