The foods you eat, the amount of stress in your life, or abrupt changes in your routine won’t cause Crohn’s. However, all three can incite a flare-up that can last throughout the holidays.
Dr. Prem Chattoo and his team at Hudson River Gastroenterology offer these practical tips for avoiding a Crohn’s flare during any season, especially the holidays.
1. Identify your triggers
One of the key ingredients to successful Crohn’s management is avoiding those things that can bring on a flare.
However, triggers vary greatly and may include stressful experiences, poor sleep, viral infections, or low vitamin D levels. Food is another common trigger, but the culprits range from sunflower seeds to whole grains to Brussels sprouts.
Thus, it’s essential to identify your triggers before settling into the holiday festivities.
2. Consider an alternative
Holiday menus are often filled with foods and beverages you’ve learned to avoid while living with Crohn’s. It’s essential to be mindful of the Crohn’s diet Dr. Chattoo recommends, regardless of the season, but that doesn’t mean you must skip the holiday meal. Choose alternatives instead.
For instance, select well-cooked, easily digestible foods and limit or avoid known trigger foods such as spicy dishes, high-fiber foods, and dairy. Pass on the beef and choose shellfish, pork tenderloin, or fish for your entrée. If turkey is on the menu, go for the breast meat since it’s easier to digest than the drumstick or thigh.
Smaller, more frequent meals may also be easier for your digestive system to manage, reducing the risk of inflammation and discomfort that signal a Crohn’s flare.
2. Stay hydrated
Adequate hydration is crucial for everyone, especially those with Crohn's disease. The holiday season often involves consuming dehydrating substances like alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day to maintain proper hydration, which can help support your digestive system and prevent complications.
3. Plan ahead
Social gatherings and family events can be unpredictable, making it challenging to stick to a routine. However, planning ahead can help. If you're attending a party, consider bringing a dish that aligns with your dietary needs.
Communicate with your host about your dietary restrictions so they can accommodate your needs. It may be as simple as offering a peeled and steamed version of vegetables or mashed rather than fried potatoes. Having a plan in place can reduce stress and minimize the risk of triggering a flare-up.
4. Prioritize rest and relaxation
Stress is a well-known trigger for Crohn's flare-ups, and nothing says stress like a busy holiday season with its increased social activities, potential travel, and sometimes faulty weather.
Prioritize self-care by getting enough rest and incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine. Finding moments to de-stress can positively impact your overall well-being, whether you choose meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or a short walk.
5. Monitor your alcohol intake
Alcohol can be irritating to the digestive system and may exacerbate Crohn's symptoms. If you choose to consume alcohol during the holidays, do so in moderation. Consider diluting drinks or opting for lower-alcohol alternatives. Always listen to your body, and if you notice any adverse reactions, it may be best to abstain.
6. Take your medications as directed
Stay consistent with your prescribed Crohn’s medications, even during the holiday season. Changes in routine or forgetfulness can lead to missed doses, potentially triggering a flare-up. Use reminders or mobile apps to help you stay on track with your medication schedule.
Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Chattoo today for help in successfully managing Crohn’s any time of the year. Call the office or request an appointment online.