The holiday season marks a busy time for many. Here is a quick guide to helping yourself stay well during the holiday season.
3 Things to Do Leading up to a Holiday Party
This time of year can be difficult for those with an allergy, intolerance, or if you are trying to choose foods to help support your gastrointestinal health. The holidays are surrounded by food which can bring about multiple emotions for someone with IBD. From excitement and happiness, to worry, anxiety, and fear.
Try out these 3 tips to decrease stress around the holidays:
- Message the host ahead of time to discuss the menu.
Consider asking the host if they want your help in the kitchen! This allows you to create new holiday memories and you see all the ingredients that go into the meal.
- Bring a new appetizer or snack for yourself and to share with your loved ones!
I think food should be its own separate love language. Show your love to others by bringing a favorite snack of yours to share with others!
- Saying ‘no’ to a food item is okay.
A way you can say ‘no’ can include ‘I wish I could, but that food item does not agree with me. I appreciate the offer though, thank you!’
We understand that navigating dietary restrictions around the holidays can be difficult! One more thing to consider is to shift the focus from food to who you are surrounded by this holiday season. Yes, food is a large part of the holidays, but so is spending time with loved ones and enjoying the moment <3.
Tips During Cold & Flu Season
- Communicate with your doctor(s)
It is important to discuss with your team when you come down with a virus. This can help your doctor know whether additional steps need to be taken to help you get better. The earlier they know, the better you will feel.
- Take it easy
When your body is feeling run down, it is important to relax as much as possible. When the immune system is fighting a virus, it can sometimes cause GI symptoms and trigger autoimmunity.
- Stay on your medications
It is important to have this discussion with your GI since they know your illness best. There is an increased risk of IBD flares during viral infection especially when there’s a discontinuation of therapy. Discussing your options with your GI is always best for a healthier outcome.
- Consume adequate fluids
Keeping hydrated is crucial when your body is fighting off an infection and during a flare-up. We lose fluids when we have a fever (sweat losses), urine, coughing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If our water intake is suboptimal prior to and during a time of illness, we are increasing our risk for dehydration and other complications such as pneumonia.
It is important to continue maintaining good nutrition intake during this time. Your body needs fuel to heal both from the virus and your IBD. We know it can be tough to have an appetite during a time like this; however, keeping nutritional drinks on hand can be helpful to get your nutrients in.
Nutrients to Prioritize for Immune Health
As soon as fall hits, claims of “boosting your immune system” can be seen and heard everywhere. Of course, no one wants to get sick and feel unwell, so this can be a catchy slogan to draw the consumer in.
However, it’s not possible to “boost your immune system”…BUT we CAN support it. Following an overall healthy diet with whole foods and less processed foods is a great start. Below are key nutrients to ensure you are getting enough at all times of the year to support your overall health and IBD.
Vitamin D is a crucial vitamin that’s actually three different vitamins: D1, D2, and D3. The body produces Vitamin D naturally, which can be enhanced by sunlight. Healthline also has a great list of several important benefits of Vitamin D, including:
- Supports the immune system
- May help prevent heart disease
- It may help with mood disorders such as depression
- Supports healthy weight management
- May help prevent and manage IBD
Vitamin D also plays a protective role in gut health. Did you know that it increases anti-inflammatory compounds called cytokines and decreases cells that cause inflammation? Up to 30-40% of people with IBD are deficient in Vitamin D, so check with your health care team to see where your levels are and if a supplement is recommended.
Vitamin D can be found in food sources like mushrooms, salmon, fortified dairy products/alternatives and of course, from the sun.
Zinc is a mineral that is essential to the body for growth and repair, and is only needed in small amounts. Zinc is involved in over 100 enzymatic reactions and plays major roles in:
- Cell growth
- Building protein
- Tissue healing
- Immune system health
Zinc also is important for the senses of taste and smell!
Food sources of zinc include legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains (like oats and quinoa), and fortified cereals.
Due to its role in repair and tissue healing, even a slight deficiency can affect how quickly cells are restored. To ensure your body has adequate levels of zinc to support healing, consider asking your doctor for a blood test.
Iron is an important mineral found naturally in foods, added to foods, and available as a supplement. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, a red blood cell protein that transfers oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.
Unfortunately, iron deficiency (anemia) is common in those with IBD and should be monitored regularly. If anemia is present, the body is not able to create enough red blood cells. Without enough of these cells, fatigue and weakness can develop because there is not enough oxygen moving around the body.
Iron plays a large role in immune health. Iron is needed for the “fighter” T-cells to help combat infection. If there is not enough iron, the T-cells can’t do their job properly and risk of infection is increased.
If you have anemia, a supplement or iron infusion may be needed. Plant-based food sources of iron include leafy greens (spinach, swiss chard, kale), lentils, tofu, nuts/seeds, whole grains, and black olives. Using cast iron cookware can also be beneficial to increasing iron intake.
VItamin C is an antioxidant that plays a role in immune health and repair of cells by helping to heal wounds. It helps stimulate white blood cells to fight infection in the body.
Deficiency of this vitamin is no longer common. Previously, sailors would be prone to deficiency due to limited intake of fruits and vegetables – resulting in scurvy.
In fact, it seems to be more common for people to take a megadose of vitamin C when they feel a cold brewing. It should be noted that the body can only absorb so much of this vitamin at a time and that when someone takes greater than 1000 mg/dose, only 50% is absorbed.
Food sources of vitamin C include kiwis, oranges, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, and white potatoes.
Note: always consult your healthcare provider before starting a new supplement regimen.