Navigating the holidays with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)


*Disclaimer: Navigating the holidays with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) was submitted by a Ms. Wanni Z. The opinions stated in this article should not replace the advice of your healthcare professional.

While the holidays with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is often a welcome break from the stressors of everyday life, there are also quite a few obstacles that we need to be mindful of to avoid triggering a flare.

We can get carried away with overindulgence and the absence of our regular routine schedules. Even with COVID-19, you can expect a few virtual dinners and gatherings, or even some more indulgent feasts than you would normally have with the people already in your bubble. Here are some tips to help you stay on track and keep your digestive system happy during the holidays!

Cook a healthy dish that you enjoy

Cook a healthy dish for yourself and your COVID bubble members, or share it with your friends online so that they can make it at home. 

For me personally, when navigating the holidays with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), I like to focus on a light, whole food plant-based diet. I try to incorporate vegetables in as many delicious ways as possible. However, most of my friends are more carnivorous. So from time to time when I come up with a healthy veggie dish that I absolutely love, I share the recipe with my friends and they end up loving it! It’s a fun way to share a healthy dish with your friends as well as making sure that healthy dishes are still incorporated during the holiday season. You can also Zoom your relatives and friends and have a virtual cooking party together!

Research the menu/foods in advance if you’re doing so for the holidays with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Another great tip for navigating the holidays with IBD is to research the menu/foods you may be ordering in advance. If you are going to order take-out or curb-side pick up from a restaurant and would like to try some of the items on the menu you have never tried before, a good tip that has worked well for me is to simply google the restaurant’s menu and find out what exactly is in the dishes. If I don’t know some of the ingredients or items in the menu, I google the item to see if it contains dairy, gluten, high fat, etc. so that I am aware of what is in the dish prior to ordering it. That way, if I know there will be an ingredient in the dish that will bother me, I can move on to another dish or ask the kitchen to leave out a certain ingredient.

Navigating the holidays with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). A picture of a family zoom call on an ipad with a warm christmasy setting around the ipad.

Plan ahead – Don’t overload your calendar

Planning ahead is essential when navigating the holidays with IBD. I find that when I have larger meals back to back, my digestive system feels heavier and less efficient. By looking at my calendar and spacing out big dinners, you can give your digestive system some days to detox between feasts. As much as I love cooking my favourite meals during the holidays and indulging in my favourite dishes, it’s important to remember that sometimes less is more.

Remember to relax and enjoy some self care during the holidays with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

During the holidays, there’s often a lot of pressure to overextend ourselves and cram as much family time in as possible. With COVID this year, we’re given the perfect excuse to say ‘no’ to social gatherings, especially if you’re immunocompromised! However, even with multiple virtual obligations, it’s important to remember to take some time for yourself during your days off work or school and practice a little self-care. Whether it be watching your favorite movie or taking a nice bubble bath, some alone time has definitely helped me feel better mentally. Which will in turn benefit the brain-gut connection!

Stay hydrated during the holidays with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Holiday feasts can mean higher sodium, sugar, and alcohol intake. A big part of navigating the holidays with inflammatory bowel disease is making sure you’re always keeping hydrated. Ensuring you are intaking plenty of water will help keep your bowels healthy and comfortable during the special season.

Don’t forget your meds!

During the holidays, your regular normal wake up and sleep routines can be thrown off. Amidst the festivities, time off work, time off school, it’s tough!  It’s extremely important to not forget your medication schedule. Make sure you’re taking your pills on time, doing your self-injections, or attending your infusions. Your medications are one of the most important items to help you maintain remission.

Take time to detox

I find it really helpful to eat extra healthy between holiday dinners. For example, if I had a big holiday dinner on a Friday and another one on Saturday. I will make it a priority to have a light, whole food plant-based day of eating on Sunday. I’ll make sure to get in lots of water, green tea, turmeric, etc. This helps my body detox from the big meals from the two nights before. Having these “detox” days between heavier eating days have really helped me feel better. They get my body in the best state possible for the next holiday event.

Be aware of your alcohol intake

Alcohol can interrupt your gut flora. I personally drink as little as possible. However, during the holidays I often find myself having a drink here and there. Hence, I tend to stick to drinks that are lower in sugar. Try not to go overboard with mixed drinks. Also, I am extra aware of supplementing probiotics and prebiotic to replenish my gut flora! Especially after a night of drinking.

Be safe!

Most importantly, have a wonderful and safe holiday season! Follow/DM me on IG (@wanniqua) to connect with me and discuss more about navigating the holidays with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)!