Back to School: Eating Well On Campus for Students with IBD
Starting college is an exciting journey filled with new experiences, independence, and the chance to forge lifelong friendships.
For college students living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, this transition can be particularly challenging when it comes to managing your diet.
Nevertheless, with the proper information, you can successfully navigate campus life while managing your IBD.
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Embracing College Life with IBD
The transition to college life can be an overwhelming experience for students, as it involves new surroundings, making new friends, learning to share living quarters, the need to do well academically, experiencing new social and dating situations, and sudden independence.
If you are one of the estimated 67,000 students coping with IBD at college campuses, this transition can be particularly demanding.
Going to college can often mean an interruption in health care, either because you are moving to a different city or shifting from a pediatric to an adult health care provider. Additionally, your new living situation, lifestyle, and stress can all impact your dietary habits, increasing your risk of disease flare-ups.
However, with some planning and due diligence, you can avoid common pitfalls and enjoy college life to the fullest.
Tips and Guidance to Help You Manage Your Diet on Campus
Know Your Triggers
Understanding your body and its responses to certain foods is vital to managing your IBD effectively. Keep a food journal to track what you eat and any symptoms you experience afterward. Over time, you’ll be able to identify potential triggers that exacerbate your symptoms and make informed choices that support your well-being.
Plan Your Meals
Campus life can be hectic, and finding suitable meals at a moment’s notice might not always be feasible. To avoid last-minute unhealthy choices, consider packing your snacks and meals.
Opt for low-residue, easy-to-manipulate options like rice cakes, yogurt, and fruits. Preparing a few meals in advance also ensures you always have an IBD-friendly option.
Communicate with Campus Dining Services
Most college campuses offer dining services that are willing to accommodate dietary needs. Reach out to them, explaining your IBD condition and specific nutritional requirements.
Discussing your needs can help them provide suitable options that won’t trigger flare-ups. Collaborating with campus dining services ensures you won’t feel left out during group meals or campus events.
Balance and Variety
A well-balanced diet is essential, especially for those with IBD. Focus on a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich foods that are gentle on your digestive system.
Ask your healthcare team to recommend suitable foods, including lean proteins, vegetables, grains, and fruits, for you to enjoy frequently and food choices you can indulge in sporadically.
Water is Your Friend
Staying hydrated is crucial for overall health and can help manage IBD symptoms. Strive to stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
Avoid excessive caffeine and sugary beverages, which may contribute to dehydration and discomfort.
Stress Management – Mind-Body Connection
Stress can trigger IBD flare-ups; hence, it is crucial to integrate stress management techniques into your daily routine.
Engage in activities you enjoy and find relaxing, like yoga, meditation, or even a simple walk. Prioritize self-care to maintain a healthy mind-body balance.
Stick to Your Healthcare Regimen
If your doctor has recommended supplements or medications, take them diligently as prescribed. These treatments play a significant role in managing your IBD and promote overall wellness. Don’t hesitate to consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns.
If you are receiving biologic infusions, ask your current doctor to refer you to a suitable provider in your new city so that you may continue with your therapy.
Social Situations – Communicate Openly
Social events and gatherings can be challenging when dietary restrictions and uncomfortable symptoms are involved. Be open with your friends and explain your situation.
True friends will understand and be supportive, helping you make choices that align with your health goals.
Don’t Let IBD Stop You from Thriving on Campus
College is a time of growth, learning, and exploration, and having IBD shouldn’t hold you back. With proper knowledge, careful planning, and maintaining a well-balanced diet, you can successfully manage your IBD while embracing college life.