Let me start off by explaining how much I love coffee. I do. So much. I love it in every form imaginable - iced, hot, black, latte, even coffee ice cream. You add coffee to it and I will drink it. This love affair has been going on for quite a while now, beginning as far back as high school when I drank it just to keep me awake in my first period US History class.
When I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I was told I would be fine drinking coffee, even during a flare up. However, I began to notice that I felt significantly better during flare ups and my symptoms were less severe when I abstained from my regular cup(s) of java. It was at this point that I decided to remove coffee from my diet during flare ups and then return to my regularly daily cup once I was in remission. Rinse and repeat.
Even in remission, coffee never sat well in my stomach and I always had to rush to the bathroom within 30 minutes of my first cup. But I love it so much that I just wrote this behavior off as normal and carried on with my life, continuing to drink my usual cup or two a day. Knowing this about myself is what made me finally decide to take the leap and experiment with how I feel sans coffee (gasp!). This was not an easy decision for me and I wrestled with it for a while, knowing I should at least try it, but also knowing how much I enjoy it.
Three weeks ago, I decided it was time to take the plunge and really start listening to my body and taking care of it. I so selfishly wanted to keep it in my daily routine, but knowing that it could help keep my UC in remission beats coffee any day. Now, this being said, I am giving myself a little grace and mercy and allowing an occasional splurge - hello, artisanal pour-overs that taste as smooth as silk! My eventual goal is to remove caffeine altogether as that can also cause digestive distress, but I know that I need to make it a very gradual transition before going cold turkey.
So, how do I feel?
Sluggish and fatigued
For the first week I felt like I was going in slow motion and really felt the severe fatigue hit me. I always used coffee as a boost to keep my fatigued, UC-ridden body going at full speed. Instead, I have opted to take short naps during the day, which is probably better for my body anyway.
Lack of sleep
I know you are supposed to sleep better without coffee, but the first week I had an incredibly difficult time getting to sleep and staying asleep, and then felt exhausted when I woke up. This could have been due to other variables, but nonetheless my sleep pattern was “off”, which is quite unusual for me.
I had such a hard time concentrating in class- early morning organic chemistry class of all things- and felt like I wasn’t absorbing any of the information. It took all of my energy just to show up and focus.
My stomach thanks me.
I have had almost zero hurried trips to the bathroom and only a handful of upset stomach episodes. I finally feel like my body is beginning to heal itself and it is such a great feeling.
I had been experiencing a lot of discomfort and bloating on a daily basis the last few months and realized how much the bloating had receded after stopping coffee. There is still a little bit of bloating, but it is less noticeable now.
I no longer have the mental fog and severe fatigue that I experienced in the first week. I still have a limited reservoir of energy compared to the normal 20-something thanks to UC, but I don’t feel like I’m dragging morning or like I need a strong pick-me-up to get through my day.
My sleep pattern returned to normal and I began to feel rested when I woke up. Again, this could be due in part to outside factors, but with the third week of no coffee came quality sleep.
As with all great loves, they are hard and sometimes impossible to replace. I have managed to find ways to satisfy my need for a comforting morning beverage. I found that having a bold, hot beverage in a mug helps a lot; it may not taste the same, but it helps me wean my way off of my addiction.
My favorites so far:
My sweater: Stitch Fix (Click to view)