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Surviving (and Thriving) at Thanksgiving with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Surviving (and Thriving) at Thanksgiving with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Heather Hausenblas, Ph.D.

Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food. It’s a time to reflect on what you are thankful for, including your health. This can often get lost amongst the mounds of mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and decadent desserts smothered in whipping cream.

If you are suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the idea of a large family gathering with food as the centerpiece can be intimidating and downright painful. Here are some tips on keeping stress and inflammation to a minimum.

  1. Be the hostess with the mostest. If at all possible, invite your family to join you at your home. This will allow you to control the menu while delegating sides and desserts to guests. Even if some of the dishes contain ingredients that are a problem for you, you will still be able to enjoy the ones you have made. If it is not possible to host, plan ahead to bring a few side dishes that you know will be safe for you to enjoy
  2. It’s more than the food. Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with family and friends you may not have seen for a while -- especially during Covid. Plan a fun activity for before or after the meal. Have your hand at “Dirty Turkey” a fun spin-off of the Dirty Santa or White Elephant game. Everyone brings a wrapped $20 gift and places it into a pile. Draw numbers to determine the order in which everyone chooses a present. If anybody gets a gift that you want, steal it when your turn comes up. For the less ambitious, a nice long walk or some family football post-turkey is always a good time.
  3. Plan ahead. Dealing with any chronic illness can be exhausting on an average day. Throw a major holiday and potential travel into the mix and it can be debilitating. Pack a variety of travel snacks like bars, fruit, yogurt, and low-fat cheese. Make sure you have all of your medicines packed and easily accessible. Lay your clothes out the day prior, and take a shower, and blow-dry your hair the night before. You will appreciate the extra rest time on the day of.
  4. Don’t sacrifice your boundaries. While Thanksgiving can be a special time to share with loved ones, it is just another Thursday on the calendar. Large family gatherings, especially where alcohol is served, can embolden even the most timid in your clan. Don’t allow Uncle Gary to try to “cure” your IBD while Aunt Suzy insists (for the third time) that you eat her sugar-laden pecan pie. Be firm with your boundaries and if needed take a break. 

    Following are some IBD-friendly recipes to consider for your Thanksgiving celebration.

    Easy Paleo Biscuits - These Easy Paleo Biscuits are so delicious, healthy, gluten free, dairy free, and low carb. Perfect with dinner or with a little jam for dessert.

    Dairy-free Mashed Potatoes - These creamy dairy-free mashed potatoes are so delicious you will want to double (or triple) the recipe for your Thanksgiving spread.

    Green Bean Casserole - This modified IBD-friendly green bean casserole is a crowd-pleaser.

    Paleo Pumpkin Pie - Serve this paleo pumpkin pie with coconut whipped cream for a decadent holiday dessert. 

    The material provided is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the diagnosis or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. You should always seek medical advice before consuming any new medicines or supplements.

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