The holidays with family and friends can be a minefield for anyone suffering from Crohn's or colitis, not only because of the foods that could trigger a flare-up but also due to the added stress of ensuring everything goes well.
Below, we asked our specialists at Digestive Disease Consultants of Orange County in Orange County, California, to share seven strategies to avoid flare-ups during the holidays. Read on to ensure you have a good time, without fearing stomach pain, indigestion, or diarrhea afterward.
1. Keep lists of foods that are both safe and unsafe for your condition
It may be tempting to try everything on the table, but keeping a list with all of your trigger foods in your pocket can help you determine what you can and can’t tolerate. In addition to a list of trigger foods, putting together a list of all the foods you can enjoy may be a good way to shift your perspective and make holidays feel less restrictive.
2. Eat smaller meals
Eating smaller meals can decrease the pressure put on your digestive system, making it easier to absorb nutrients and decrease the chances of flare-ups.
3. Tweak recipes to avoid triggers
Most people suffering from Crohn's or colitis react negatively to spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate, greasy fast food, raw fruits and vegetables, and high-fiber foods. Nowadays, the internet is filled with recipes that can help you work around your food triggers.
4. Know your alcohol tolerance
Some can tolerate a bit of alcohol, while others have intense flare-ups even after one glass of wine. In most people suffering from digestive diseases, alcohol inflames the gut lining and causes inflammation.
5. Ensure you’re taking your medications
Traveling to see family and friends or the added stress of planning for the holidays can get in the way of taking your medications. A medication planner or an organizer can serve as a helpful reminder to stay on track and avoid flare-ups, even when you have a lot on your mind.
6. Manage your stress levels
Stress is hard to quantify, but if you’re feeling rushed or burdened by the holidays, meditation, journaling, and even yoga can help you lower your cortisol and become more grounded.
Although stress doesn’t cause flare-ups, it can indirectly raise your risk of getting them by harming your immune system.
7. Make room in your schedule for exercise
Who has time for exercise when everyone is scrambling to get gifts and put up the decorations? Specialists suggest that even low-impact exercises such as stretching or brisk walking can help lower stress and, thus, decrease your chance of a flare-up. About 20-30 minutes every day is enough to make a difference in your health.
Learn more about managing Crohn’s and colitis
Crohn's and colitis are life-long inflammatory conditions that require constant monitoring. However, under the right guidance, you can live a life free of symptoms thanks to lifestyle tweaks and a treatment regimen.
If your symptoms are constantly bothering you and your current regimen isn’t working for you, contact us to schedule an appointment and get expert advice on managing your symptoms.