Five ways to tackle inflammatory bowel disease at Christmas

Is it that time of year again? It does not feel that long ago since we took down the tinsel from the tree and recovered from the embarrassments of charades.

Yes, Christmas can be wonderful, but there is no denying other times it can bring on additional pressures, especially if you have a disability to consider.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of thirteen in November 2007. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease. In the past, Christmas has been a stressful time, and has caused some of my symptoms to exacerbate including abdominal pain and diarrhoea. At another time I experienced a serious flare-up. Therefore, for 2015 I have decided to write an article listing a few considerations for inflammatory bowel disease at Christmas. Hopefully some of you can benefit too.

Before beginning, please remember that the two conditions named affects people differently. Therefore, some of the considerations may work for you but not so much for others not. That is absolutely fine, as the most important point is to make sure Christmas is enjoyable for you.

Consideration one: early preparation

This year my family decided to prepare for Christmas in advance of the ˈmad rushˈ. So we have wrapped most of the presents, decorated the house with lights and booked our reservations for lunch. I admit this is something we have not always done. Personally the last-minute dash does bring on extra stress especially if you are trying to balance other commitments, such as education and work. Although not always possible, if you happen to find that extra minute in the day to prepare, it could help reduce stress in the long term and therefore potentially decrease the chances of abdominal pain being brought on.

Consideration two: socialising

It is inevitable, Christmas offers many chances to socialise. However, having many late nights out can be too much for those with inflammatory bowel disease. One of the main but often disregarded symptoms is fatigue. It is therefore important to factor in time to relax.

It may be helpful to inform friends and family of your condition, but only if you feel comfortable in doing so. If others are aware they may make extra arrangements to take into account your needs such as what food to prepare, and they should be less offended if you happen to leave the party early due to exhaustion.

Consideration three: food

Food is a relatively controversial subject when it comes to inflammatory bowel disease. I believe that we know our own bodies, so we will be aware of what we can and what we cannot eat. Letting others know of your dietary requirements in advance should reduce any risk of problems for the big day.

It is unfortunate though if you happen to be nil-by-mouth over Christmas. I remember in December 2007 I was put on the ‘liquid diet’ for nine weeks, and could only drink modulen. It was very challenging and took a lot of determination. I believe that determination is often a quality associated with people who have a disability, and I truly admire those who go through tough times. Avoiding being in the presence of food is one possibility, but another is making sure you reward yourself through other forms of treats.

Consideration four: soaring support

One other article I have written for Patient is called ‘Support soars higher than mountains’. I cannot stress enough about the value of seeking help when feeling troubled. Christmas time is no different. Whether you need someone to wrap the presents, need a reminder to take your medication, or someone to lift the burden of December 25th. I like to think there is always someone kind enough to be there for you.

This support can help manage anxiety and depression, which are two possible complications associated with inflammatory bowel disease. I cannot thank my family, friends and the community enough for helping me through some dark days since my diagnosis of Crohn’s disease at the age of thirteen.

Consideration five: have a Merry Christmas

Most importantly, whether you decide to have a busy Christmas or a quiet one make sure you have fun. Do not be afraid to ask a loved one for assistance. But ultimately have a very Merry Christmas.

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