The Holidays are Coming…Let’s Talk About Food

The holidays are just around the corner and that means food is on people’s minds. Food is a sore topic for many living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. One of the most frustrating things after diagnosis is finding out which foods are bothersome. There are lots of diets out there claiming symptom relief for patients, but the sad truth is that it’s different for every patient.


The trigger foods vary from one person to the next. For example: vegetables are bothersome for me. Particularly lettuce, carrots, okra, celery, corn and cucumbers. My friend, on the other hand can’t eat meats! When the IBD community discusses food, we understand the variances and problem foods. But unfortunately, our families don’t.

I remember one particular Thanksgiving gathering. We were all sitting at the table and everyone was raving about a dish that my aunt brought with her.

Oh, Amber! Go on and try it!” My aunt exclaimed.

I can’t…” I said sadly.

It’s just a small bite! Go on!

My heart sank. “No, really… I can’t.”

My aunt still didn’t understand. Thankfully, my cousin’s wife piped in and said, “No, that would be like telling someone with a food allergy that it’s no big deal! But it is! Break out the EpiPen!

We all know that one little bite could mean days or even months of torture. But explaining it to our families isn’t easy. Some family members think you’re faking it. Others think you’re overreacting. Then there’s the risk of someone getting their feelings hurt because they worked so hard on a particular dish and the fact that you refuse to eat it is like a slap in the face.

Ever since diagnosis, the holidays have been difficult for me. I oftentimes have to bring my own food to eat which puts all the attention on me. I absolutely hate it.

Add food on top of the stress that the holidays bring anyway and it’s nothing short of torture.

If you have a family member who has Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or indeterminate colitis, please remember that these diseases are extremely frustrating for us. We all want to eat what everyone else is eating. We all want to enjoy the delicious foods on the table. If we had it our way, we wouldn’t have a disease in the first place!

What we desperately wish is that you would try to understand. Please listen to us and believe us when we tell you what our problem foods are. If we aren’t comfortable talking about our diseases, please respect that. On the flip side, if we have the desire to discuss and explain what living with these diseases are like, please listen! When we discuss our diseases, we aren’t looking for pity. We aren’t looking to “gross you out.” We aren’t looking for attention. We aren’t making excuses. What we want is for you to understand what we are going through.

Just attending a family gathering takes a lot of preparation. We will probably need several days to recover afterwards! It isn’t our fault we’re sick–it’s the nature of the disease!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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