The “holidays” – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s – have a strong connection with food. Large family gatherings with traditional dishes, parties that have endless buffets, and cookie swaps at the office are all but unavoidable this time of year. The emphasis on eating, however, can be a real challenge for those who suffer from a digestive condition.
“There are several common disorders that patients should be particularly mindful of managing this time of year,” says Hatem Shoukeir, MD, a gastroenterologist at CMC’s New Hampshire Gastroenterology (NHGI).
“Those with acid reflux disease will have more heartburn if they eat too much. It’s also a difficult time for people with celiac disease because they have a strict diet and are surrounded by many temptations.”
People with chronic pancreatitis or irritable bowel syndrome may see an increase in symptoms, especially with fatty foods, and the lactose intolerant need to watch their dairy. Those who have liver and pancreas problems should avoice alcohol altogether.
The list of no-nos has the potential to take a lot of fun out of celebrating. But Dr. Shoukeir says being mindful and having an eating strategy can help you stay comfortable throughout the season.
“Eating small, frequent meals and avoiding the foods that will hurt you can help you maintain control. People tend to lose control in big gatherings and don’t notice what they’re eating and drinking. So pacing yourself and paying attention to what you’re eating will help.”
Paying attention to your body and how it reacts to food is important for everyone – not just those with an eating disorder. Symptoms like feeling fuller sooner, having persistent and/ or painful diarrhea, or losing weight can all indicate a potentially serious condition. Changes like these should be discussed first with your primary care provider, who may then refer you to a gastroenterologist.
“And family history is very important,” says Dr. Shoukeir. “Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer…these all run in families.”
So while you’re gathered around the table, take note of how others are eating too. You, and your digestive disorder, may find yourself in good company.