How does caffeine (or any additional agents) act as a laxative when ingested? I'm interested in the metabolic/signaling pathway.
Coffee does have an effect on the peristaltic movement in the bowel.
Coffee increases rectosigmoid motor activity within 4 min after ingestion in some people. Its effects on the colon are found to be comparable to those of a 1000 kCal meal. Since coffee contains no calories, and its effects on the gastrointestinal tract cannot be ascribed to its volume load, acidity or osmolality, it must have pharmacological effects. Caffeine cannot solely account for these gastrointestinal effects.
Effectively, decaf and regular coffee stimulate peristaltic movement in the colon as effectively as a meal does. Caffeine is not the active agent then, but some other compound in coffee.
Source: Boekema PJ, Samsom M, et al. Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction. A review. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1999;230:35-9. PMID 10499460.