Christmas Fun or Folly?

By: Megan Combs
Companion Magazine Contributor

Here we are at Christmas time.  It's a time of wonder and magic for kids, joy, and fun for families, peace and rest for those who have been at the daily grind of work and life.  It's one of the very few days that people allow themselves to enjoy the life they have.  Time is intentionally spent with family and friends.  Gifts are shared among many.  People give of themselves now more than any other time.  And let's not forget the food that is consumed.  Delicious, fulfilling, and dangerous. 


Holiday foods typically don't lend themselves to the health-conscious side of things.  But to call it dangerous may seem odd to most people.  However, people who have an ileostomy may get the description.  Let's take a step aside from the story of my life that I've been writing and address the wonderful (or dangerous) food we eat for the holidays.

Here's the thing: having an ileostomy has helped my life considerably.  The removal of my large intestine removed the area that would get inflamed and cause horrible flare-ups that in turn would cause the painful, bloody diarrhea to the point that the consumption of water wasn't even tolerable.

A downside of an ileostomy is that blockages can occur.  This, of course, causes much pain.  But if it persists, it can lead to the individual becoming quite ill with vomiting as the contents can't pass through as intended.  This can lead to dehydration.  And the longer it lasts, the more likely a hospital stay is necessary to replenish fluids and get the blockage relieved.

I have not had any blockage experiences to that degree.  Although, I have made poor food choices (or more so the amount that I ate was a bad choice), and that led to horrible pain.  My ileostomy even leaked with one occasion, I imagine from all of the pressure and swelling put on my stoma.

Food for our holiday meals can be chalked full of various types of nuts: peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds.  These, for me, are doable as long as I'm sticking to serving size amounts and chewing well.  My mother-in-law makes chocolate covered peanut clusters.  How can I pass up those?  But if I eat a few of those, I probably want to steer clear of other things that might have hard to digest nuts in them.  Moderation, right?

There are lots of fruits and vegetables involved, too.  Again, chew, chew, chew.  And if they can be cooked before consumption, that helps to soften them and make them easier to chew and easier to digest.  Don't eat a ton of oranges or strawberries or corn (or whatever) in one sitting.  Again...moderation.

(Side thought: Why is the healthy food so hard for an ileostomy patient?)

I wouldn't say to avoid anyone certain food unless you know it causes you problems with your health in whatever situation you deal with.  For me, the one food I don't touch (and absolutely love) is a bowl of chili.  I've eaten it in casserole type dishes in smaller amounts and have been fine.  But a solo bowl of chili, as much as I love it, the pain just isn't worth it.

One thing that can upset my stomach is just the variety and abundance of foods that are not normally a part of my diet: the peanut clusters, the wonderful casseroles covered in cheese, and the delicious desserts that appear only once or twice a year, so you feel like you have to eat as much as you can in one sitting.

Don't do that!  Even if you don't have an ileostomy.  It's not good for anyone's digestion, but especially so with an ostomate's digestion.  It may not cause a blockage, but an upset stomach may soon follow.  So let me say it again: moderation!  Plus, your waistline will thank you later.  I may need to read this again before Christmas dinner to keep myself in check this holiday season...

Brooke Bogdan