Until yesterday, I’d never heard of the connection between pumpkin spice and constipation. But apparently, I’m the only one. This week, so many people wanted to know whether pumpkin spice causes constipation that Google Trends showed that three of the top 10 queries containing “pumpkin spice” included the word “constipation.” Pumpkin spice made headlines this week because Starbucks broke out its iconic pumpkin spice latte earlier than usual, but there hadn’t been anything in the news about unexpected gastrointestinal issues.
To set the record straight, the simple answer to the question is no, pumpkin spice almost certainly does not cause constipation. If anything, pumpkin spice ingredients like ginger and allspice will promote regularity, not to mention coffee’s reliable habit of moving bowels. But the reason people are even asking this bizarre question will lead you down the best kind of internet rabbit hole: a very stupid one. Come, join me.
Like all of the most prolific internet hoaxes, this one started as a Twitter meme. The most popular version of the meme says: “September 22nd is the first day of Fall. Not today. Not tomorrow. Put down the pumpkin And stop being a life ruiner. P.S. Pumpkin spice causes constipation.” That was it. It’s your standard internet copypasta; one that’s been replicated so many times, with each iteration creating so many subtle differences in language that it’s nearly impossible to figure out who said it first.
In my attempt to find a clear point of origin, I started by finding the most recent use of the phrase:
Google Trends showed a spike on August 15, 2018. A search for new web posts on that date revealed one from the site “me.me,” which hosts thousands of mass-market memes, like Someecards. It’s a basic Twitter screenshot meme.
The site posted the meme one day after Starbucks announced it would release the notorious pumpkin spice latte early, on August 28. This post explained the recent Google spike in people searching for “pumpkin spice” and “constipation,” but it didn’t explain where the bizarre idea came from. Going back to last year’s PSL season yielded a couple of clues:
On September 12 2017, the Boston Globe cited the meme in a story on “Pumpkin Spice Derangement Syndrome,” pointing to this Instagram post from 11 days earlier:
The format of the image and the Helvetica Neue font make it clear that the original image was a screenshot of a tweet, while the pink background and light fading make it look like it’s been heavily filtered through a lifetime of subsequent screenshots and reposts. Based on this evidence, the meme had already been around for a while.
And indeed it had. An article published September 2, 2016, on The Odyssey Online, included this quotation in the kicker: “P.S. Pumpkin spice gives you constipation!”
The meme appeared to have originated on Twitter, so that’s where I looked next. Before the Odyssey post or the Boston Globe shoutout, Twitter user CollinsRyan34 had posted what appears to be the earliest version of the meme on August 29, 2016.
The word “constipation” is conspicuously absent from this, the Ur-tweet. So while it provides some evidence and a rough timeline, this tweet doesn’t elucidate the constipation connection.
All was revealed in a tweet posted the next day by user @drownbackup.
In a DM, @drownback said he didn’t remember why he posted the meme, explaining, “I’m like 99% sure that’s a copypasta.”
But when pressed for where it may have originated, he recalled adding the note about constipation out of frustration with people’s affinity for pumpkin spice.
“I took the copypasta and added that last line because it used to annoy the hell outta me that people were saying it’s fall when it’s August. So I would say ‘they’re full of shit,’” he recalls. “Lil wordplay action.”
So there it is. There’s no science behind the pumpkin spice/constipation connection. Just a lone shit-poster doing his duty. The only mystery that remains is how exactly this version, which has received precisely two likes and one retweet in two years, birthed the meme. It’s possible that other accounts went viral with it and have since been deleted, but for now, it appears that this strange Google constipation spike in can be attributed to one man’s joke about how people who like pumpkin spice are full of shit.