Seasonal changes and the impact on your health
The morning creeps in, accompanied by sweetly chirping birds. The sun peeks out from its winter hibernation, casting a warm glow on our faces. The flowers begin to bloom, adding color back into our lives. The change of season is upon us; spring is here!
Most of us think about shedding our winter coats, soaking in the sun, and taking much needed vacations, but if you suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, the change of season may mean a physical and mental regression. If you’re one of ten million people who suffer from IBD, the joy of the season is easily trumped by a flare-up.
You are unique and we love you just the way you are. No two people are alike, and the same holds true in terms of IBD symptoms. During a season change, some of you may experience arthritis while others suffer from sensitive skin. In this case the high temperatures would be beneficial for arthritis but make itchy skin worse.
Nori founder, Roeland Pater explains in his article with Thrive Global, that he’s happier when winter comes along, whereas for others, it may be the opposite. He explains that since our bodies naturally get more sleep in the winter, his body suffers from less sleep in the summer. And the transition between seasons is what’s most difficult because the change calls for a recalibration.
It’s difficult to understand which weather type is best suited for each person and how to bear the transition from one season to another. This is why working with a physician, tracking symptoms, and listening to and responding to your symptoms will help you better respond in the future.
That serotonin boosting sun does a body good. Get some sweet rays while protecting yourself from the symptoms of the season.
In hot weather, it’s more common to get dehydrated because of the heat. This is particularly problematic when experiencing chronic diarrhea, or if you’ve had your colon removed. Especially if you’re in hot weather, make sure to drink lots of fluids:
- Water is the best option. Keep a water bottle with you at all times to encourage drinking.
- Drink herbal teas and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Aim for low pulp and low sugar versions (tip: mix juice with water to cut some of the sugar).
- Avoid large amounts of caffeine (coffee, black tea, soda, energy drinks).
- Be proactive about drinking; when you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
- Let your pee be your guide. Aim for clear or pale color versus dark or yellow which indicates dehydration.
Seasonal allergies may have an impact on flare-ups. Although it’s not yet proven through studies, there tends to be an association with allergens and the gut. One theory relates exposure to certain allergens (such as seasonal pollen) to an immune and inflammatory response trigger.
- Take prescribed medications as recommended and take allergy medications as needed (per your doctor’s approval).
- Keep pollen out. Keep windows closed at home and in your car.
- Watch the pollen count. If possible, go out when pollen count is low, usually in the morning, cloudy days, and windy days.
Weather yourself for winter
Of course we don’t want to admit it now that we’re beginning to enjoy the sun, but just a few months after summer, we’ll start preparing again for winter. Learn how to arm yourself against the winter blues and IBD flus.
One reason that symptoms and flare-ups may increase during the winter months is because infection and flus are more common. Keep yourself healthy and flu free by washing your hands frequently (wash for 20 seconds with soap and water), avoid touching your eyes and mouth without washing your hands, and keep clear of people with colds.
To boost your immunity, aim for these nutrients:
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, bell pepper
- Vitamin E: almonds, peanuts, avocado
- Vitamin A: carrots, sweet potato, squash
- Folate: leafy greens, whole grains, fortified grains
- Iron: beef, chicken, beans, broccoli
- Selenium: tuna, brazil nuts, pork, chicken
- Zinc: oysters, crab, chickpeas, beans
- Vitamin D: fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), fortified juice and cereal
*Please note that these are general recommendations and may not be appropriate for Crohn’s or colitis, especially during a flare-up. Talk to your physician or dietitian before incorporating these foods. They can also recommend a supplement brand and type if needed.
Another possible reason for flare-ups during the winter is the lack of sunshine, leading to a less vitamin D. Vitamin D is an anti-inflammatory vitamin, which can help manage IBD-related inflammation. Its been shown that a significant proportion of the IBS population are vitamin D deficient.
The best thing to do is listen to your own body. Don’t push yourself to be in weather that you know will be detrimental. Keep track of how you feel throughout the year, making note of any change that may relate to the weather. In the warmer months, enjoy the sun and stay hydrated. In the winter months, be careful to stay healthy and prevent the common cold. All year round, prioritize overall wellness, including stress management, nutrition, activity, and frequent doctor visits.
Nori health is an excellent way to track symptoms to share with your physician. Join our seasonal programs to start improving your symptoms today.
This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietician and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Content is based on her professional knowledge, and our collection of 100+ scientific research study papers.