Surviving the Holidays with IBD

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people but for those of us with inflammatory bowel disease, it can be especially tough. There are so many factors that play into why the holiday season often is a tumultuous time for those of us who suffer from crohns disease or ulcerative coltis. I would like to say though that I do love the holiday season. I am not a religious person and don’t really actually celebrate any holiday but I do enjoy all of the lights and just the overall vibe that comes with this time of year. I also think the fact that I did not come from a very religious family where there was very little importance placed on the holiday has helped me handle this time of year a lot better than most. I do have some thoughts on how to make the holiday season a little easier.

First things first, I know for me and probably a lot of you ladies, I have trouble figuring out what to wear. A number of years ago my great uncle and his wife threw a huge holiday party and I was having so many issues with my kock pouch so I needed to find an outfit that would hide the small towel I wanted to have on my stomach just in case it leaked. That was when I discovered that the leggings I vaguely remember my mom wearing when I was really little might be back in style. Point being, leggings are great to wear if you don’t want anything tight around your stomach. Maybe you are just recovering from surgery, are in a flare up, have an ostomy, or I could name the million other reasons why someone with IBD would want comfort around their abdomen but I think you get the gist. If you can find a nice sweater or a couple tops that you are comfortable in that make you feel good about yourself, I think that helps in terms of that part of the holidays. Feeling confident while being comfortable will make things seem a lot easier and less overwhelming in general and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be as comfortable as humanly possible. For you guys – I give the same advice to you regarding finding clothes that make you feel good, but I don’t have any specific examples right now of articles of clothing (please email me at

The holidays also tend to focus a lot around food which I know for me is pretty difficult. There are a couple different ways people like to look at the holidays when they have either crohns disease or ulcerative colitis. Some people have the mentality that the holidays come along once a year and sure they may pay for it later but they aren’t going to let their disease get in the way of them having a good time. Thus, they are going to eat whatever they want and simply worry about it later. Other people may just stay away from holiday food and festivities all together because it is just too damn difficult to be around it and too hard to stare reality in the face. I personally have done both of these things but believe the best advice I can give you is to find some sort of middle ground. The holidays do only come once a year and you absolutely should not let your disease interfere with enjoying time with your loved ones. But, I also think it is so important to be smart. Plus, won’t you have a lot more fun if you are feeling well?

Another thing I find difficult about the holiday season is seeing family members and/or friends that you haven’t seen in a while. What happens if you are on prednisone and look different? How do you explain why you haven’t been able to continue working or go to school? How do you tell someone that just because you may look healthier than the last time they saw you that you are still struggling? What if you aren’t ready to talk about your disease at all? I could write an entire book of questions that have popped into my head over the years around this time or basically any other time when an event is looming. There are no simple answers to these questions because every situation and every relationship is different. I have sort of perfected the art of answering some of the more standard questions I tend to see year after year. If this is something you are concerned about, maybe it would help if you thought back to some of the questions you have been asked in the past but weren’t quite sure how to answer at that time. Being prepared always gives me a little more peace of mind.

For those of us with ulcerative colitis or crohns disease, the holidays can be hard and that is completely understandable. If you have friends with IBD this may be an especially important time to reach out to them or maybe call your local CCFA and attend your first crohns/ulcerative colitis support group (worst thing that happens is you don’t go back). Knowing you are not the only one who struggles in particular during this time is crucial and it also may help to hear other peoples’ experiences about what has worked in the past. We are all here to help each other out so whatever little tips and suggestions we can give to each other is always beneficial. It also may help to reduce some extra stress and anxiety that we all feel which in turn may help to lessen symptoms if your symptoms happen to be exacerbated during stressful times.

Ulcerative colitis, crohns disease, and other chronic illnesses are awful and impede on most aspects of our lives which is why it is important we learn how to work with them instead of fighting them. We have to live with the disease so we should try the best we can to do whatever we can to make the holiday season enjoyable for us – whatever that might be and in whatever manner that works for us.

Be honest with the people that love you.

  • valerie Starshak

    Very timely, Marisa.

    Great Post

  • Jodi

    great blog Marisa. perfect timing.
    love you.