6 Tips for Managing Crohn's Disease Over the Holidays

About 500,000 Americans are living with Crohn’s disease. It’s one of the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and it causes symptoms from abdominal pain and fatigue to severe diarrhea and weight loss.

Crohn’s disease comes with periods of inactivity (remission) and activity (flare-ups), and managing your condition requires a variety of lifestyle changes, special dietary adjustments, and medication. But big dinners, seasonal stress, and other hallmarks of the holidays can make your symptoms worse.

This year, find relief from your Crohn’s disease symptoms with help from Nina Paonessa, DO, FACOS, and our team at Paonessa Colon and Rectal Surgery PC. In this post, we offer our best tips for managing Crohn’s disease to help you enjoy the holiday season.

1. Learn what triggers your flare-ups

Crohn’s disease is highly individual. That means what causes your flare-ups and the symptoms you experience are unique to you. Some people may experience flare-ups when they consume dairy products, while acidic foods may make symptoms worse for others.

Pay attention to your diet, medications, and symptoms. It can be helpful to keep a notebook on hand to identify what foods and habits seem to make your Crohn’s disease worse. As you head into the holidays, do your best to avoid foods and other triggers that make your Crohn’s disease flare.

2. Don’t overindulge at holiday meals

Meals are central to many holiday celebrations, and it can be tempting to overeat when you’re at the table surrounded by delicious dishes. But if you have Crohn’s disease, eating a lot of food in one sitting — or trying foods you don’t normally eat — can trigger a flare-up.

One common symptom of Crohn’s disease is lack of appetite. Instead of eating large meals two or three times a day, try eating smaller meals or snacks five to six times a day. Grazing throughout the day can minimize stress on your bowels and help prevent Crohn’s symptoms from getting worse.

3. Drink alcohol in moderation

From mulled cider at Thanksgiving to champagne on New Year’s Eve, alcoholic beverages are ubiquitous around the holidays. But alcohol — and other irritating beverages like caffeinated and carbonated drinks — can make Crohn’s symptoms worse.

It’s important to listen to your body and remember what triggers your flare-ups before deciding if you can indulge in that holiday toast. Depending on the medications you’re taking, Dr. Paonessa and our team may recommend avoiding alcohol to prevent negative interactions.

4. Maintain your medication schedule

There are many different types of medication available to manage Crohn’s disease. Whether your condition is in remission or you’re currently experiencing symptoms, there’s a good chance that you’re on a medication regimen to reduce inflammation, irritation, and digestive symptoms.

The holidays are a busy time, and it’s easy to lose track of your daily routine, especially if you’re traveling. Forgetting to take your medicine could lead to a Crohn’s disease flare-up, so make sure to continue taking your medications as prescribed throughout the holiday season, and don’t skip doses.

5. Find ways to manage holiday stress

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but long to-do lists and family gatherings can make stress levels spike. While stress alone doesn’t cause Crohn’s disease, it’s linked to increased symptoms.

Finding healthy ways to manage stress this holiday season could help you manage your Crohn’s disease. Consider trying yoga, deep breathing, or meditation exercises. If you smoke cigarettes, quitting can improve Crohn’s symptoms. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. 

6. Prioritize exercise

Regular exercise boasts whole-body benefits, and it can minimize Crohn’s disease symptoms, too. Exercising naturally lowers stress levels, reduces your risk of depression, and can help normalize bowel movements.

You don’t have to commit to a rigorous, intense workout plan to get the benefits of exercise. Try introducing mild exercise, like regular walks or at-home workout routines to see how exercise can help you.

Crohn’s disease takes a physical and mental toll on you, and it can be daunting to head into the holiday season with fears of flare-ups. But you don’t have to do it alone. Partner with Dr. Paonessa and our team to find a comprehensive Crohn’s disease management plan that works for you.

Call the Paonessa Colon and Rectal Surgery PC offices in Brielle or Manahawkin, New Jersey, or book an appointment online today.

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