We all know how stressful the holidays can be. Packed schedules, last-minute gifts, travel, and meal planning can leave you feeling frazzled. While the holidays can be difficult for the average person, individuals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) face especially unique challenges this time of the year. If you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you know that there is a bit more involved when it comes time to make your holiday plans.
Did you know that by taking just a few simple steps, you can ease IBD holiday anxiety? From travel tips to IBD-friendly meals, here are five tips to help you navigate the holidays with IBD.
1. Plan your meals in advance
IBD often comes with dietary restrictions. To prevent disappointment at your next holiday dinner when you discover you can’t eat any of the dishes, make sure you plan your meal in advance. If you are eating with family or friends, consider reaching out a few weeks in advance to find out what might be on the menu. Touching base earlier gives your host enough time to find ways to help accommodate your needs.
If you aren’t comfortable or able to make the request, consider bringing your own food to the holiday party. This is also a great option when you want to ensure you know exactly what’s in your food. While your family and friends may have the best intentions, no one understands your dietary restrictions as well as you do. Reduce anxiety and fill up knowing your meal is IBD- friendly.
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2. Don’t be afraid to overpack
There’s no shame in being overprepared. If you’re travelling for the holidays, make sure you bring all of the medication you may need (and maybe a little extra just in case). It’s important to request any refills ahead of your planned travel to avoid last-minute pharmacy stops or refill delays.
If you’re flying, make sure all of your medications are easily accessible to you and packed according to TSA guidelines. Consider bringing other high-use items, including heating pads, ointments, a change of clothes, and anything else you might need to ensure an enjoyable holiday. And finally, pack in advance to give yourself extra time to make sure you don’t forget anything important that you will need for your trip.
3. Do your research
If you’re traveling outside of your area, do your research to identify local clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals. If the need should arise to seek medical assistance during your trip, you’ll have saved the time and stress of last-minute searching.
It’s also helpful to have a copy of your IBD specialist or health care provider’s contact information and your insurance card with you at all times. Some doctors may also create a signed document that contains your emergency action plan, your medications and allergies, and an outline of your condition.
4. Know your needs
It can be tempting to hold back when there’s so much yummy food on the holiday table. But if you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, overindulging can increase your risk of a flare. Mind your portions, and steer clear of foods you know could trigger your IBD. For instance, many fatty foods like gravies, cheese sauces, and rich meat are common flare-inducing items.
Staying well-hydrated can also help you manage your IBD symptoms. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day, and try to limit alcoholic and carbonated beverages. If you are travelling, it may help to bring a refillable water bottle with you as a reminder to drink more.
5. Stay on schedule
Busy holiday schedules filled with parties, travel, and events can make scheduling your doctor appointments challenging. However, it’s very important that you maintain your treatment schedule outlined by your doctor. Missing an appointment or treatment can have negative effects on your health and may increase your likelihood of a flare.
Plan your appointments around holiday obligations in advance, and do your best to make them on time. Your doctor, and your gut, will thank you.
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