While others decorate and get their homes ready for hosting holiday events, people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may find themselves feeling isolated and left out.

Holiday gatherings can be challenging for those with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, as the rich food and drinks often trigger flare-ups. Common symptoms of IBD include persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stool, and fatigue - all of which are unwelcome guests at any party.

If you have IBD, minor digestive issues can quickly become big problems. By focusing on moderation and variety, you can help yourself stay symptom-free.

If you're struggling with IBD or hosting someone who is, use these tips to make the holiday season happier and more comfortable.

Managing your IBD Tips

The holidays are hectic, so it's easy to forget things like your medication. Make sure to pack them in your carry-on bag if you're traveling by plane, and double-check that they're on your packing list before you leave. Staying on top of your treatment plan can help prevent a relapse.

Learning what works with your body is critical. Individualized plans are often necessary because everybody's experience with IBD differs. To find a plan that fits you, it's best to see an IBD specialist–but You may want to bring along dishes that you know won't bother you too much. 

Opt for low-fat, low-sugar foods that have lots of nutrients. Also, it's generally best to avoid fatty, greasy, acidic, and spicy dishes – not just for people with IBD but also those without the condition.

Enjoy your favorite comfort foods in moderation, and be mindful of how much you eat. Of course, you'll want to partake in beloved family recipes, but only if you know that the ingredients won't trigger any allergies or intolerances. 

We advise staying hydrated by reaching for water instead of sugary sodas and juices. We also recommend knowing your limits with caffeine and alcohol. If you are looking for nonalcoholic options, there are many beers, wines, and spirits to consider.

'Tis the season, so why not give the gift of self-care? We all know how nerve-wracking the holidays can be – from buying gifts to attending events and reuniting with family members. But did you know that research suggests a correlation between stress and IBD flare-ups? So this holiday season, in addition to material gifts, make sure you give yourself (and your loved ones) peace by taking time out for activities like walking, yoga, or meditating and getting enough sleep. Your gut will thank you!

Supporting loved ones with IBD Tips

To make sure everyone feels comfortable and included at your gathering, ask your guests if they have any dietary restrictions before the event. This will give you time to plan so everyone can enjoy the meal. Alternatively, let them know they are welcome to bring their dish.

At your party, make sure there are various dishes and drinks. For example, we might offer lean protein options like fish or chicken alongside beef. We love roasted veggies as a safer and healthier alternative to green bean casserole. Plus, we provide toppings like gravy on the side so everyone can customize their plate how they like it best! And finally, one way to make your guests feel included is by separating all the raw ingredients ahead of time. That way, they can choose what goes into their final dish - no surprises!

Children can get IBD too. Most commonly, IBD occurs in people between the ages of 15 to 30. However, children are not exempt from this debilitating disease. Be sure to look for signs that a child's parents will be on the lookout for; sometimes, it is hard for kids to express their feelings through words alone. Is the child eating and sleeping well? Do they appear withdrawn or lethargic?

IBD is a complex chronic condition to manage, and your guests with IBD likely feel very uncomfortable and stressed. Try to be understanding when they decline certain drinks or food items or if they don't clean their plate.

If you have IBD, you're not alone; an estimated 3 million other Americans suffer from the same thing. Living with IBD means being mindful of your diet, but by researching and knowing your limits, you can relax and enjoy time spent with loved ones without worrying about what food is available.

At Needham Gastroenterology Associates, we pride ourselves on being experts in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Our experienced physicians are here to answer questions or provide treatment if needed – schedule an appointment.