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An Inflammatory Bowel Disease Guide to Thanksgiving Survival

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By Casey Flancbaum

The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, let alone for someone living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or an ostomy. With the help of some amazing Girls With Guts (GWGs), we have compiled some tips and tricks to help you have the least inflammatory Thanksgiving yet!

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  1. Food does not have to be the center of your Thanksgiving’s universe! Food triggers are nothing new in our world. Whether you and your triggers are well acquainted or just getting to know each other, the stress of eating at the holiday table can be intimidating. Eat to your own comfort level! If you are feeling adventurous and want to try something new, make sure to start with small amounts and have some back-up (Immodium, Lomotil, Gas-X, Zofran, extra ostomy supplies, etc.) on hand!
  2. Listen to your body! Throughout the marathon that is Thanksgiving day, make sure you are taking breaks as necessary! Go outside for some fresh air, excuse yourself from the table to get a break from being around food, stretch out on the couch and watch the game/parade, or curl up with a heating pad in another room for some relaxation and pain relief. You’ll probably enjoy the day more if you’re not torturing yourself to stay in the middle of the action for hours on end.
  3. Your health, happiness, boundaries and needs don’t change because of the date on the calendar. The fourth Thursday of every November is no different than any other day of the year. Let me repeat: the fourth Thursday of every November is no different than any other day of the year! If you are a daily nap taker, take a nap. If talking about ways you could “cure” your IBD with your fourth cousin twice removed wouldn’t fly on a Wednesday, why should it be allowed on a Thursday? Have you cut sugar out of your diet because it triggers symptoms? Don’t let Thursday (or your Aunt Debbie) bully you into eating that slice of pie!
  4. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” It is easy for us to forget to be prepared for stressful days when we’re already thinking about a million other things. Sitting down in a calm place and making a list of anything you could possibly need for a successful holiday can make a world of difference when traveling. If you are going out of town this year, make sure you have all of your medications, a highlights sheet of your medical records and list of current meds (just in case), ostomy supplies, extra changes of clothes in case of emergency, road trip supplies (garbage bags, wipes, paper towels, etc.), and comfort items such as a heating pad, your favorite pillow, and those baggy pajama bottoms with the elastic waist that you can’t live without on a bad belly bloat day!
  5. Going out of town or having guests is not a requirement! Let’s be honest: even the most loving and caring family or group of friends can be stressful. If you are not feeling mentally or physically strong enough to celebrate in person, stay home! Phone calls, FaceTime, and following your younger sibling’s Snapchat or Instagram stories are all great ways to participate in the festivities from the comfort of your own bed. Remember that recovering from surgery, actively flaring, dealing with a new symptom, struggling with mental health, being completely exhausted, not wanting to leave your cat, and simply deciding that staying home is what is best for you are ALL valid and important reasons to prioritize yourself.

For those who prefer Black Friday to Turkey Thursday, here are some bonus tips to help you eliminate the “drop” from “shop ‘til you drop”!

  • Locate the bathrooms first! If you are shopping in person, take a few minutes to find where the bathrooms are located before you start your filling your cart. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a Target home and decor aisle with the urge to go and no idea where the closest toilet is.
  • Accommodate your individual needs! Stores have motorized carts, places to sit and store employees to help you with something heavy for a reason. Don’t let the madness of 65% off vacuum cleaners force you to push yourself too hard.
  • Stay hydrated! If you are marathon shopping, don’t forget to take care of your body as well as your wallet. Many stores carry DripDrop ORS that you can pick up throughout the day (visit this store locator to find a location near you!). Alternatively, PoweradeZero or G2 with a pinch of sugar and salt makes a great homemade ORS.
  • The internet is a beautiful and vast wonderland! Online shopping is amazing. Plain and simple. You can do it from your bedroom, bathroom or hospital room.

Big thanks to: Kari Johnson Boles, Rachel Wagner, Katie Stevenson, Katie Wahlen, Basmah Ali, Kaley Selleck, and Dawn Watson Weaver for their wonderful tips on staying happy and healthy this Thanksgiving! Feel free to comment below with your additions!

Casey Flancbaum was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at 22, which ultimately was changed to a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease the next year. She found the GWG organization and forum during a late night search for a support group geared towards women and is so grateful for the online community that she is now a part of!

Casey holds degrees in Music Performance from the Crane School of Music and University of North Texas, and is currently an active performer and teacher in the DFW area. In her free time, Casey loves to cook, garden, and spend time with her amazing husband, Samson, and three adorable fur kids, Jackson, Roxy, and Roscoe!

Header image via Nattakorn Maneerat/Getty Images

Originally published: November 11, 2020
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