An array of decorative mugs and teacups are turned upside-down, and coffee seems to be dripping out, save for one blue tear drop in the middle.

The Sadness of Losing Another Staple

When I first developed and was diagnosed with IBS, I was in major denial. I clung to my coffee (even having multiple cups a day), despite that it definitely did not seem to be helping my gut issues. I ate fatty foods, and at all hours of the day and night, not adhering to any routine. In some ways, this was understandable: I was still in college and had a full course load and worked multiple jobs to help pay my way since my parents could not contribute to my education. So, an erratic schedule and routine late nights (or all-nighters), were necessary at the time, even if they weren't at all helpful to my health issues, including my IBS.

Even the first summer after I graduated, I continued to slug down coffee daily. But when autumn rolled around, and my IBS symptoms hit a peak of general terribleness, I knew I needed some sort of stability and to take a hard look at my dietary choices. Now that I no longer lived in a dorm and had to eat cafeteria food, I began buying groceries and making healthier meals for myself. And one seemingly small thing that made a big difference for my IBS: I gave up coffee. Instead I switched to tea. The difference was enormous, and I enjoyed my newfound freedom from the constant tummy rumblings my addiction to coffee caused. But it was still sad: I loved coffee, and craved it. It took years to fully get over the loss of it in my daily life.

Coffee alternative

Over the years, I made other dietary adjustments, but none as major as giving up coffee. I am already a vegetarian and have had to get rid of other things in my diet for other health reasons as well and it's always a bummer. About a year and a half ago, I discovered herbal coffee, which isn't really coffee, but tastes a lot like it. I found that that, with some coconut milk creamer added, drinking it let me enjoy the taste of coffee without worrying about the fallout to my IBS. When I discovered it, I drank it not just in the mornings, but after dinner, almost everyday.

But a few months ago, I began noticing that I would get sick and my IBS would flare the mornings when I drank it. I thought it was just a coincidence, but my intestinal reactions have gotten worse, instead of better, as time has gone on. Some adjustments seem to help a bit (but just a bit): it seems the creamer bothers me more than the coffee itself (which makes sense because the creamer is high in fat, and IBS doesn't generally do well with fatty foods and drinks), so I tried being more conservative in its use or cutting it with low-fat plain almond milk. It helped a bit, but I didn't like the taste nearly as much. I also tried letting the coffee seep a shorter amount of time, so less of it was in the drink. And having the coffee plain is too bitter to enjoy at all, so drinking it black was not an option.

Mourning the loss

So I decided to give it up for many weeks to see how my mornings improved. And they did (A LOT). Just the other day, after more than a month, I tried the herbal coffee again. I immediately became sick within an hour of drinking it. As such, I've decided I am going to (mostly) give it up, as I value keeping my IBS under control more than the temporary enjoyment of a beverage. However, it's still sad to me, and I mourn the loss of something I did enjoy, considering my diet is relatively strict in so many other ways.

I'm letting myself have that mourning, as small as it sounds, because it's important to acknowledge things that bother you, so you can reconcile it and move on. I know it's the right decision to make and ultimately my body will feel better. But I can still feel a bit sad that I couldn't continue to enjoy something I really looked forward to most mornings.

This doesn't happen very often, but for some reason, sometimes foods or drinks that never bothered me before, or more specifically my IBS, begin to and I have to decide to weigh how much I want that staple in my life versus the impact it has on my IBS.

Another staple gone

Beer is another staple I used to enjoy much more often than I do nowadays -- especially more full-bodied beers like red and brown ales. Lately I find my tolerance for them has lowered, and my gut doesn't like them as much. Currently, I find that only very light beers (like lagers and pilsners) consistently don't bother me, whereas ales are more of a gamble. As a result, I have scaled back on drinking ales a lot, and beer in general. The loss is not as huge as the herbal coffee as I didn't drink beer by far as often, but it still irks me a bit. Nonetheless, I take comfort in knowing I am treating my body well and lowering my chances of IBS flares, which in turn allows me to live a fuller life.

Are there any staples you have had to give up in your life because it bothered your IBS too much? What were they and did you find good substitutes? Do any foods or drinks appeal to you less because of IBS?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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