Holidays and other celebrations are a time to relax and enjoy with family and friends. They often also contain lots of delicious food and drinks.
For people with inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or UC, special events can mean digestive problems. Certain foods, combined with holiday stress, are a recipe for causing symptoms. But there are ways to keep this all under control and keep UC flares in check.
How can I prepare for a party and avoid an outburst?
One of the most effective ways to prevent a flare-up is to figure out what your unique food triggers are.
A registered dietitian can help with this by creating an eating plan tailored to your needs. For example, many people with UC have difficulty absorbing calcium and vitamin D. This can lead to weaker bones. A dietitian will ensure that you still get these essential nutrients while staying away from foods that make you feel worse.
They will guide you to things you can do for a healthier gut. “So in the long run, your digestive tract will become stronger and more resilient,” says Robin Foroutan, an integrative dietitian.
You may also want to keep a diary to track what you eat and drink and how it makes you feel. Certain foods or drinks may trigger a breakout and you may need to stay away from them in the future.
What Holiday Foods Can Cause UC Symptoms?
While determining your trigger foods is critical, certain holidays and events are more likely to worsen a UC flare-up. When filling your plate or making a toast, keep the following in mind:
- Rich, fatty foods
- fried food
- Spicy food
- Foods with a lot of added sugars
- Carbonated drinks
What’s the Connection Between Overeating and a UC Flare?
You’ve been waiting all year for your favorite aunt’s sweet potato pie. And that filling looks good enough for two servings. You may be tempted to overeat, especially when you have something to celebrate. But if you have ulcerative colitis, eating too quickly can cause too many problems with your intestines.
Before you binge eat, think of your stomach as a blender. “If you overfill the blender, the food won’t mix properly and it will jam,” says Foroutan. “If you overfill your stomach and eat more than what it can comfortably hold, you won’t be able to digest as well and that can cause symptoms.”
Here are some tips to avoid overeating:
- Eat small meals. Five or six small meals a day instead of a few large ones may be easier on your stomach.
- Eat slowly. “Focus on slowing down during meals, chewing thoroughly, and choosing foods that you know will provide good digestion,” says Foroutan. Wait 20 minutes before eating more food to see if you are still hungry. It takes at least that long for your brain to understand whether you are full.
- Stick to your normal eating schedule. You may want to save your cravings for a special meal. But skipping meals can cause a drop in blood sugar, making you feel starved and more likely to overeat. Bring a snack if you eat later than usual.
- Rest. Loss of sleep can cause cravings for foods high in sugar and fat. Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night to calm this urge.
What Foods Should I Eat With UC?
If you have ulcerative colitis, certain foods are generally easier for your body to break down and provide important nutrients. They contain:
- Fruits without peel and little fiber. Fruits with edible skin, such as pears, peaches and plums, can be difficult to digest. Instead, try low-fiber fruits such as bananas, cantaloupe and honeydew melon.
- Lean protein. Stick to fish, lean pork and white-meat poultry such as turkey and chicken.
- Refined grains. These are processed grains with little or no dietary fiber. Sourdough, potato or gluten-free bread, white pasta and white rice are all made from refined grains.
- Vegetables. Look for fully cooked, seedless and skinless vegetables such as asparagus tips, cucumbers, potatoes and squash. Avoid cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and kale.
If you are a guest at a restaurant or someone’s home, please contact your host. They may be able to make simple adjustments to the menu to meet your dietary needs. Another idea is to bring your own food. This way you can be sure that it is safe and you are guaranteed something to eat.