With regards to coffee, there are two general scenarios: in the first, you’re so sick of your IBS-D that you can’t even handle the smell of those wonderful beans roasting; and second, you’re so agitated with IBS-C that you can’t stop sucking back cups of Joe. I don’t know about you all, but I definitely fluctuate back and forth between both of these.
Coffee and invisible illnesses
Not only do I live with anxiety, but I also have chronic acid reflux. Neither of these things pairs well with coffee, however, there are times when I simply cannot stay away. In these instances, as annoying as it sounds, moderation is simply the only cure. Sometimes my reflux is so bad that I must completely abstain from coffee – light, dark, decaf, and everything in between. Let me tell you, those are rough days. Let’s face it, we’ve all gotten used to our daily fix, and going a week without it, while also feeling the chronic pain of reflux, is a recipe for disaster – mentally speaking.
Though I tried to fill my coffee-void with tea (which, to be honest, I love equally), it never quite fit the mold. Often, I like coffee in the morning to keep me invigorated, bring me to the edge of tenseness. Wake me up aggressively, so to speak. Tea, on the other hand, simply does not do that. Tea calms me, it makes me comfortable, it soothes. I am reminded of a great quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which Rupert Giles, the British librarian/watcher, is questioned by another character as to why he is drinking coffee instead of tea. “Tea is soothing,” he replies, “I wish to be tense.” Suffice it to say, being without coffee might have been better for my gut, but it did not keep me satisfied.
Coffee can keep you smiling
I, like many of you, do not suffer from just one symptom of IBS, but rather, all, and am constantly shifting from not going to the bathroom for three days to going every three minutes. This does not make my relationship with coffee any easier. Despite this, I will say one thing: most websites, doctors, and friends will tell you that when it comes to IBS, coffee is something to avoid, to fear. Coffee and IBS are not meant to live in harmony. Well, let me let you in on a little secret… sometimes, that relationship, as bumpy as it might be, is just what the doctor ordered.
When I live coffee-free, I suffer from serious constipation. Though I eat fairly healthily and walk every day to keep things moving, so to speak, I have a hard time staying regular. Recently, I had the opportunity to test this out (though, at the time, I did not realize it was a test). During a particularly bad acid episode, I abstained from coffee for almost two weeks. Let’s just get this out there, it sucked. I felt bloated, uncomfortable and constipated. I could easily miss a trip to the bathroom for more than 48 hours. It was unpleasant. Within the past week or so, I’ve started drinking it again – and oh, what a lovely time it’s been. Suddenly, I noticed, I was keeping a more regular schedule with my friend, the bathroom. I was able to see this friend not just once, but maybe twice a day. Three, if I was really lucky. It dawned on me that since I’d been drinking coffee again, I was feeling much better. Not so bloated, gassy, or cramped. Sure, there was the odd day where maybe I’d had too strong, or too many, a cup, and my bathroom visits were a little more problematic, but for the most part, I felt normal again. Coffee and my IBS were no longer enemies, but friends – frienemies, if you will.
Take precautions and listen to your body
It’s important to note that everyone is different. No two IBS symptoms are the same. We all feel similar pains, discomforts, and irritations, but none of us function exactly the same. What works for one, does not necessarily work for all. That said, I’d like you to try and visit your relationship with coffee. See how it works for you. Do you feel more regular drinking a cup here and there? Are there some bad days? Does the good outweigh the bad? Experiment. Try to reconcile IBS and Coffee, you might find that they’re long lost friends, just waiting to be reunited!