The first full week of December is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week. It’s also when the holiday season cranks into high gear. If you have Crohn’s or colitis, this season brings unique challenges for you. If you have a loved one who was recently diagnosed, you might wonder what you can do to help. Let’s take a closer look at both diseases and some ways to make the holidays easier for people who struggle with them.
What Are Crohn’s and Colitis?
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two separate conditions, but they cause similar symptoms. Crohn’s disease involves chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth all the way through the bowels. People with Crohn’s don’t feel like eating and often lose weight. They feel tired and may experience night sweats.
Ulcerative colitis only affects the colon lining. Along with the same fatigue and weight loss associated with Crohn’s disease, colitis symptoms include problems with bowel movements that often involve cramping and pain. It affects as many as 907,000 Americans and can occur at any age.
Both conditions are forms of inflammatory bowel disease and have symptoms that come and go. People who struggle with them report flare-ups. During flare-ups, the gastrointestinal tract becomes extremely inflamed. Some people experience pain, bleeding, and fistulas. Sometimes they have fever or other conditions that require medical attention. A flare-up during the holidays can ruin seasonal cheer.
Why Are Holidays Harder for People With Crohn’s and Colitis?
If you have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or other bowel disease, the holidays can be a difficult time. You’re surrounded by tempting, high-fat food. Everyone around you seems to be indulging in large amounts of everything that causes you problems.
Travel can be difficult at any time of the year. Long hours on the road or in the air make it hard to regulate what goes in your digestive system. Flare-ups might mean you spend hours in pain and have to stick close to the bathroom.
Often your family and friends don’t understand what you’re facing. You look normal and healthy, so they misunderstand your avoidance of certain foods and situations. Often, they pressure you to indulge in things you shouldn’t. What helps them celebrate the holidays might make you end up in the hospital.
How Can Diet Help With Crohn’s or Colitis?
Some foods can trigger a Crohn’s or colitis flare-up. Each person is different, so keep a food diary to identify your triggers. For example, some people with inflammatory bowel diseases are also lactose intolerant. Record whether your symptoms increase when you consume dairy products. If you also have celiac disease, you might need to avoid gluten. Here are some other foods that might cause a problem.
Fried or greasy foods – The fat in fried foods and heavy sauces can’t be fully absorbed in your small intestines.
High fiber foods – For most people, fiber is good. When you have Crohn’s or colitis, avoid them when your symptoms get bad. Eat bread made with refined flour and pasta instead.
Raw nuts and seeds – Nuts can be hard to digest. Instead, choose smooth nut butters like peanut or almond butter. Crackers with nut butter can be a great snack when you are away from home.
Popcorn – Because it’s high in fiber, it can cause a flare-up. When you want something salty and crunchy, try pretzels instead.
Raw fruits and vegetables – These can be tough on your stomach. Try removing the skin from fruits and veggies to reduce the amount of fiber. Most people with Crohn’s and colitis tolerate dried fruits and vegetables well.
Alcohol – It’s everywhere during the holidays, but it can cause painful flare-ups.
When people see the extensive list of what to avoid, they often wonder what’s left. Here are foods to stay nourished without worrying about flare-ups.
- Almond milk
- Salmon and other fish
- Vegetable soup
- White meat
- Butter lettuce
How to Help People With Crohn’s and Colitis
If your friends or family members struggle with one of these inflammatory bowel diseases, you don’t want to make the holidays even harder. Here are some things you can do to help.
Offer alternatives at gatherings. Stock non-alcoholic beer or sparkling fruit juice as an alternative to alcoholic beverages. Make sure there are healthy food choices low in fat and fiber. It helps individuals to eat smaller, more frequent meals, so if you have a guest in your home help who suffers from these conditions you can find options.
If you notice them skipping meals, don’t push. They know what’s best for their bodies and may be choosing not to eat so they don’t suffer the painful consequences. If they’re tired, encourage them to rest so they’re refreshed for the next round of festivities.
Another way to help people with Crohn’s and colitis make it through the holidays, and everyday, is to provide healthy vending machine choices in your office, apartment building and any other space appropriate for vending machines. Most vending machines are full of high fat food that isn’t good for anyone, especially someone suffering from Crohn’s or Colitis.
Naturals2Go can help you bring choices to your area with vending machines you can fill with a wide variety of healthy foods. Contact us today to see how you can make money with Naturals2Go vending machines.