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Do UC What I See: Ulcerative Colitis and the Holidays

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December: a month of rich, hearty meals and dreamy, decadent desserts. From glistening honey baked hams to creamy green bean casseroles to piping hot chocolate in festive ceramic mugs, a food-centric holiday season is a dream to the general populous, but a downright nightmare to a patient of ulcerative colitis or other inflammatory bowel disorders.

As an ulcerative colitis patient facing her first holiday season post-diagnosis, I understand the prospect of attending holiday events can be daunting. No UC patient wants to spend a party holed up in the bathroom after a delicious but deadly apple strudel. In the same respect, no UC patient wants to offend a host by declining to partake in the aforementioned strudel, opting to instead sip water and avoid eye contact for the rest of the event.

Just in time for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I have developed three steps for surviving the holidays with UC, so no tummy is tortured and no host ends up miffed.

1) Talk to the host.

As a UC patient, I understand that half the battle of being social with UC is telling people about your diagnosis. It’s complicated. It’s embarrassing. It’s not something you want to talk about.

However, a short conversation with the host of an event a few days in advance that briefly covers your diagnosis and dietary restrictions can make all the difference in the world. Tell them what you cannot eat. Tell them what you can eat. Tell them that, regardless of what food is there, you are looking forward to the party.

Chances are, given the advance notice, they will make sure there are at least a few options for you. And, if that is not the case, they will at least understand why you can not dig into Grandma Susie’s famous pecan pie.

2) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

I cannot overemphasize how important it is to drink plenty of water before going to a holiday event. As patients of ulcerative colitis, our bodies are in constant need of hydration, especially during flare-ups.

But the benefits of drinking water go beyond mere hydration. If you arrive at a party feeling parched, you may be more likely to reach for sugary holiday beverages that can irritate your belly and send you jingle bell hopping to the bathroom. And getting your fill of water can leave you feeling fuller, making you less tempted to go in for seconds and straining your sensitive stomach.

Trust me: hydrate beforehand and stick to water. You will be glad you did.

3) Have fun.

Ulcerative colitis is no joke. There are medications to manage and diets to follow, and it often feels like life is a series of doctor’s appointments and pills.

But, even for UC patients, the holidays are a time of family and festivities and fun. So, let loose and let yourself forget about your day-to-day struggles for an hour or so; it will be good for both your mind and your body.

Just follow these steps, relax, and let your days be merry and bright.

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Thinkstock photo by bobakphoto

Originally published: December 23, 2016
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