A woman contemplates several drink options in front of her: Diet Coke, black tea, lemon water, and coffee. In the background is an abstract sun.

Confessions Of A Coffee Lover: Substitutes and Ways to Make it Work

Before IBS, I loved drinking coffee. I had it every day, often multiple times a day. Although it always had an impact on my digestion, like it probably does for a lot of people, I don’t remember it ever bothering me. Then, my symptoms started appearing.

I have IBS-D, so I mostly struggle with having to go to the bathroom way too many times a day. It was particularly bad in the beginning before I figured out what my trigger foods were. And so, I did everything I could to avoid foods or drinks that would make me use the bathroom. Goodbye, coffee.

Substitutes for coffee

My first instinct was to avoid coffee altogether. Anything to make the diarrhea stop. Although there are no real downsides to not drinking coffee, I was really, really missing my daily caffeine intake – especially in the middle of the afternoon when I usually start to get quite sleepy. Over the past years, I found a couple of ways to substitute coffee, even if they weren’t always the best ones.

Diet Coke

At first, I resorted to drinking diet coke because it was the only thing available at my workplace. It’s definitely not a very good idea because of all the sweeteners in it, which still affect my digestion. But the impact is much weaker than with coffee, at least for me.

Diet coke does a good job of making me feel more awake, but it also makes me feel bloated because it’s so carbonated. And if I drink it before a meal, the acidity gives me cramps and pains, so that’s not fun either. In the end, I stopped drinking coke because it’s simply not good for my body.

Black tea

I always loved black tea, but it doesn’t make me more alert. At least not in the same way as coffee or coke do. However, my mom always told me that strong black tea is good for diarrhea, and so I replaced my morning coffee with black tea.

Now, while it does not technically upset my stomach, drinking tea in the morning makes me super nauseous. Especially if I drink a whole cup. So, I would always have a couple of sips and leave the rest for later…
Overall, I still find that black tea is the best substitute for coffee that works with IBS. Whenever I’m out at a café, I always get black tea - even better if it has lemon in it!

Lemon water

Since tea doesn’t really work for me in the morning, I was still looking for something to drink when I first wake up. When I was little, I used to get nauseous all the time and people always suggested that I eat or drink something sour to help me. An so I decided to give lemon water a go. If I don’t drink too much at once, it doesn’t make me nauseous, and the fresh lemon taste actually helps me feel more awake. Even if lemon water doesn’t contain caffeine and is technically not a substitute for coffee, it ended up being the best morning drink for me.

I still drink coffee with IBS

Since I started working from home, I don’t mind having to go to the bathroom quite as much anymore. So, I slowly started drinking coffee again. First of all, I noticed that whenever I have coffee, especially in the morning, I’ll have to go. It’s automatic, really. But it doesn’t necessarily make me feel bad.

I avoid coffee whenever I feel my IBS flaring up, and if possible, I try eating something beforehand to limit the bathroom breaks afterward. And most importantly, I never have a lot of coffee. Most days, I’ll make a cup in the morning and finish it sometime in the afternoon… I love cold coffee, but that’s just me!

You might want to tell me that it doesn’t make sense for me to have coffee when it clearly doesn’t help my IBS. And you’re probably right. But in my opinion, if I can make it work in a way that doesn’t make me feel bad, it’s worth it. I just love coffee way too much!

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