Sail through the Holidays with (and in spite of) IBD

A few small sailboats moving around in the ocean.

All of the autumn leaves have been raked and bagged, the outdoor temperatures are falling, and there just might be some snow in time to grant your wish for a white Christmas. Carols play at every store, cheerful lights brighten houses, and yummy smells of our favorite holiday foods fill the air. There’s no mistaking it – the holiday season is here. And as the song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

But the holidays can be stressful, too. Military spouses are acutely reminded of their loved ones deployed overseas. People are running to the mall to buy last minute gifts for an unexpected guest. Finances become strained and budgets are stretched to the breaking point. Families miss the loved one who will no longer be joining them around the dinner table.

For people with inflammatory bowel disease, the holidays can be a time when flares are more likely to occur. It can be hard to keep to your normal routine with vacation plans, memory-laden treats, and the desire to host the perfect holiday party. For students, the winter holidays are often preceded by stressful final exams at school. Self-care is important for IBD patients all the time. During the holidays, though, patients must become very conscious of it. Here are some tips for IBD patients to stay healthy this holiday season.

  • Take your maintenance medications.

While this may seem like a no-brainer, a reminder is warranted. A lot of people deviate from their normal routine during the holidays, which can make it easy for anyone to forget their regularly scheduled medications. If you need help remembering, set a reminder on your cell phone. Embarrassed by potential questions regarding your meds? Excuse yourself for a bathroom break when that time comes so you don’t have to answer questions from curious friends or family members.

  • Request refills of your medication early.

The holidays mean your doctor’s office and pharmacist will likely have different hours than usual or be running on less than the usual staff. Plan ahead. Request refills for your medications (either from your doctor or pharmacist) well ahead of when you’ll need them.

  • If you travel, keep your medication with you at all times.

Airports are busy around this time of the year. Make sure you have plenty of medication to last for the full duration of your trip and pack it in your carry on. You may need a letter from your doctor to show the TSA officials (especially if you have an injectable medication that requires needles).

  • Avoid foods which make you sick.

You avoid them the rest of the time. The holidays are no different. Easier said than done, right? Don’t be afraid to ask what’s in a dish you don’t recognize. Your host should understand your desire to stay healthy.

  • Don’t burn the midnight oil.

It’s easy to not get enough rest during the holidays – there are so many fun things to do and people to see. There may also be deadlines at work to finish projects before the end of the year. Getting enough sleep is just as important during the holidays (maybe even more so) as during the rest of the year, especially if the holidays cause you some stress. Being well-rested will help you cope much better.

  • Listen to your body.

No one knows your body better than you do. If you’re starting to feel unwell, listen to your body and take a moment (or a day) to retreat.

  • Say no.

It’s easy to get so busy that you can’t think straight around this time of year, with concerts, play dates for the kids, family get-togethers, shopping, volunteering, hosting parties and everything else going on. Practice saying no to the things which wear you out but aren’t really rewarding to you. Your body will thank you.

Here’s to a happy, healthy holiday season for all of our GIH patients!