5 tips for preparing for the winter months with Crohn's disease
So today I'm going to talk to you about preparing for the winter months with Crohn's disease. Now some people find that winter is a lot better for their symptoms than summer, and others just find there's no difference.
Personally, I find winter, a little bit better for my symptoms, because I find that I am always worse in really hot weather and heatwaves.
Hot weather always seems to make me flare, so I'm always really happy when it comes to autumn and things get a little bit cooler.
However, I thought I'd just share some advice that I personally follow with the changes of seasons with IBD and things that you might need to be aware of.
Maintaining vitamin D levels in the winter months with IBD
So I've talked about this in previous posts but vitamin D is really important for those of us with IBD. It's shown that those of us with IBD who have low vitamin D levels are almost twice as likely to need surgery and are also more likely to need steroids.
People with IBD tend to be at higher risk of being deficient from vitamin D because we have the vitamin receptors in our guts. Of course in the winter months, we obviously spend more time inside (even more so at the moment with everything that's going on!) Because we spend less time outside, we take in less sun which is our main source.
So the first tip I would recommend to you is to make sure you're supplementing all through the winter months. You might find that you need to supplement in the summer months as well but that depends on your individual levels. Or you might decide to get a schedule your vitamin D testing for October or November to check your own levels.
Staying on top of hydration and water intake in the colder months
In the summer months, it's a lot easier to keep on top of hydration.
Although the summer months bring a higher risk of dehydration, I find we're often naturally outside more, exercising more and we're naturally thirsty more or eating water-rich foods such as popsicles to cool down! Therefore I find personally that I tend to drink a lot more in the summer months just because I'm constantly reaching for my water bottle.
However, in the winter months, it can be sometimes a bit of a tricky thing to remember to stay hydrated. However, we know that those of us with IBD and especially stomas are at risk of being dehydrated.
So do make sure that you keep on top of your hydration levels: fill a bottle at the start of the day. I use cold tea bags to just make it a little bit more palatable.
Sticking to an exercise routine as it gets colder
As I mentioned earlier, it's a lot easier to be outside in the summer months and exercise. I was running all the time during the summer but I find it a lot harder to do in the winter; especially since gyms are closed in my country.
However, we know how important some exercise can be for IBD; especially in relieving stress which we know can be a big trigger for lots of us. So try to make sure that you still schedule some exercise into your winter routine, even if it's at home, such as an online gym class.
Eating in the winter months with Crohn's disease
So I find that I often overeat during the winter months! Because I'm less active and am staying inside more. I find that I tend to reach for richer foods, such as hot chocolate with whipped cream and lots of snacks (oops!) and that isn't always good for my IBD.
As we get closer to Christmas, even if we're not necessarily able to socialize, there is still a massive increase in the different types of foods and I find that really hard for my IBD: traditional Christmas foods such as like whipped cream, cake, and red meat, are all triggers for me.
Also, the sheer act of overeating which I do more in winter and at Christmas is a big issue for me! It can really affect me, even if I'm in remission; I just don't seem to be able to handle really rich fatty meals and I'm not sure why that is
Colds, the flu, and infections in the winter months
Some people find that their IBD is worse in the winter months and that could be due to the spike in infections such as gastroenteritis, norovirus, and even colds and flu. I find that even having a cold or flu can upset my stomach, and that is actually a pretty common thing (according to google anyway) that affects everybody not just those of us with IBD.
We might not be thinking about it right now, but gastro bugs will still happen-especially if you have children in nursery or school! We're more conscious than ever about washing our hands right now but it could also be worth asking your doctor about taking a probiotic since gastro bugs can wipe out our good bacteria.
Do you keep a food diary to help manage symptoms?