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10 Holiday Survival Tips with Crohn's Disease


Susan Fishman

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5 Ideas for Dining in Style With Crohn's Disease

If your Crohn's disease is restricting your diet, dining in style can make the experience more enjoyable

Managing your Crohn’s disease, or any form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is a daily affair, but it can be especially tricky around the holidays.

With all the food, family and festivities, keeping your Crohn’s symptoms under control can leave you feeling anything but jolly.

Here are a few ideas to help keep flare-ups to a minimum so you can enjoy the holidays.

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that injures the intestines. People with Crohn's discuss living with the disease.

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

  1. Pack a temptation survival kit. There’s limited evidence that foods actually cause Crohn’s disease. But for people with Crohn’s, certain foods like high-fat items and dairy products can make symptoms worse. Of course, staying away from all the butter, cream sauces and fried foods around the holidays can be a major test in willpower. To help, take along your own “indulgent” foods or dishes that you know won’t aggravate your symptoms. (It may be a good idea to let your party host know that you have a special diet and will be bringing some of your own holiday favorites.). It will help you feel like you’re getting a treat without giving in to all the holiday temptations. 

  2. Browse the buffet. Chestnuts may be roasting on an open fire, but that doesn’t mean you want to add them to your plate. High-fiber foods are especially rough on the digestive system for those with Crohn’s, so it’s a good idea to survey the playing field. If you’re up against a holiday buffet, you may want to avoid foods in the cabbage family, such as broccoli and cauliflower, as well as nuts, seeds, corn and popcorn. If raw fruits and vegetables bother you, try steamed, baked or stewed options instead.

  3. Nibble your way through. Sitting down to a big holiday meal is a big no-no for people with Crohn’s. Eating small, frequent meals (five or six per day) is the best way to keep symptoms at bay, but it doesn’t mean you have to avoid the family holiday table.Before the big feast, be sure to snack on appetizers or other foods so that when you sit down to eat, it’s easier to graze or nibble on a few choice items, rather than filing yourself up and fueling those symptoms. 

  4. Toast in moderation. Holiday partying typically means holiday drinking, but for some people with Crohn’s, this can mean a surefire flare-up. And alcohol can potentially cause complications if you are on certain medications. Have a discussion with your doctor; with a little trial and error, and a better understanding of your limits, you may still be able to imbibe during the holidays. But if you know alcohol is a problem for you, try some hot cocoa or mulled apple cider to get in the spirit.

  5. Fill up on H2O. Drinking plenty of fluids can help with Crohn’s symptoms, but certain fluids can make things worse. Drinks that contain caffeine stimulate your intestines and can make diarrhea worse.  Carbonated drinks often produce gas. Choose water instead, or have a glass or two in between the occasional soda or coffee beverage. Extra water can also help wash and water down those spicy and other potentially troublesome foods.

  6. Know where the restrooms are. All that drinking and eatingis bound to have an effect on your system. If you’re doing a lot of partying or traveling during the holidays, be sure you know where the restroom is located at all times, in case of an emergency. Depending on your symptoms, you may also want to pack a travel bag with wipes and a change of clothes.

  7. Go to the restroom frequently. Holidays can involve long stretches of travel whether by air or ground.  Experts recommend taking frequent bathroom breaks during layovers and gas station stops, as a full bladder may irritate the GI tract.  A good rule of thumb is to go to the bathroom every chance you get, because your next opportunity may be many hours later.

  8. Take a nice brisk walk. Even mild exercise, like a stroll through the snow, can help reduce stress, relieve depression, and help with bowel function. If the winter weather outside is frightful, try some other form of exercise, like yoga in your living room or a class at the gym. Ask your doctor about the best exercises for you.

  9. Avoid the holiday drag. If you’ve quit smoking or are trying to quit, the holidays, with the hectic pace and endless family functions, can bring on the urge to pick up a cigarette. But smoking with Crohn’s can increase the chance of relapses and mean more medications and repeat surgeries. Plan ahead for those tension-building moments with a back-up strategy. This could be taking a walk around the block, popping a stick of gum, or calling a friend who knows how to talk you through the latest family squabble.

  10. Keep your cool. Like food, stress has also been shown to aggravate Crohn’s symptoms. And while your holiday calendar may look like you’ve recently won a popularity contest, you don’t have to succumb to the chaos. Choose the gatherings and outings that mean the most to you, and try to prioritize the events that you know will be relatively stress-free. Don’t be afraid to say, “No, thank you.” Let friends and family members know that you need to scale back your social calendar this season for your own health and well-being.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 13, 2017

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Overcoming Holiday Challenges Particularly Difficult for People with Digestive Diseases. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
  2. Eating Tips to Get You Through the Holidays. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
  3. What is Crohn’s Disease? Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
  4. Crohn’s Disease – Treatment. NHS Choices.
  5. Crohn’s Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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