This post was sponsored by and developed in part with support from Ferring Pharmaceuticals.
The holidays are a festive time for most people, filled with family, fun, and plenty of food. But for people with C. diff infection, the holidays can also be a stressful time. C. diff is an infection caused by the bacteria Clostridioides difficile. Symptoms of C. diff infection include diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain or cramps. Many people experiencing C. diff lose their appetite or fear that food will trigger their symptoms. This can make the holidays a challenging time as so many gatherings are focused on food.
As an ER doctor, I see patients with C. diff infections quite often. So I’m happy to be teaming up with Ferring Pharmaceuticals to help bring awareness about this infection during C. diff Awareness Month.
Who is susceptible to C. diff?
Certain populations are especially vulnerable to this infection, including those who recently took antibiotics, those who were recently hospitalized or in a long-term facility, those who are immunocompromised, and the elderly. C. diff is a very contagious infection, and it can have serious health consequences. People can also get a relapse of the infection weeks later. This is called recurrent C. diff.
How does C. diff infection occur?
Infection occurs when the C. diff bacteria takes hold inside your intestinal tract and wreaks havoc in your gut. This happens when there’s an imbalance in your gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is a collection of trillions of microorganisms that reside in your intestines. Not only are these microorganisms important for maintaining gut health, they’re also important for your immunity, your mood, and your overall health. There are good and bad bacteria, and having a healthy population of good bacteria helps keep the bad ones at bay. When your microbiome is out of balance, it can adversely affect your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections and diseases, such as C. diff.
Gut-friendly Thanksgiving Menu
If you or someone you know is suffering from C. diff infection, you can still enjoy the holiday season! Many traditional holiday dishes are loaded with heavy ingredients that can worsen C. diff symptoms, like diarrhea. But the good news is that there are plenty of healthy substitutions you can make that will still allow you to participate in your holiday traditions. Here are some ideas for your holiday menu with gut-friendly Thanksgiving ingredient suggestions and substitutions. Of course, you should always consult your doctor about what foods you can and cannot eat during and after C. diff infection.
Gut-friendly Thanksgiving Appetizers:
- Skip the traditional cheese-heavy appetizers, like cheese platters and baked brie. Many people with C. diff infection also have lactose intolerance, making dairy products difficult to digest. This causes unpleasant symptoms like abdominal cramping, bloating and diarrhea. Certain hard cheeses may be easier to digest because most of the lactose is eliminated when the cheese is being made. These include parmesan, Swiss, and cheddar. You may be able to tolerate small amounts of these cheeses.
- Skip the crudité (raw vegetable) platters and bowls of nuts. Although these are healthy foods, they are high in insoluble fiber and gas-producing compounds and can exacerbate symptoms of C. diff. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can especially cause bloating, cramping, and gas. You can significantly decrease this effect by cooking the vegetables.
- Put soup on your menu instead! Squash is abundant this time of year and is easy to digest. Plus, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for your health. Try making pumpkin soup from fresh or canned pumpkin or make my delicious Orange-Scented Butternut Squash Soup.
- Deviled eggs are another good appetizer option. Eggs are a rich source of protein and are easy to digest. My Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Deviled Eggs are simple to make and very festive. I replace mayonnaise, which is typically used in deviled eggs, with nutritious hummus.
Gut-friendly Thanksgiving Main Course:
- If you’re a fan of turkey, the good news is that you can still enjoy roast turkey on the big day. However, you must be careful to avoid too much oil and grease, which can worsen diarrhea. This may mean skipping or limiting the amount of gravy, which is typically made with the turkey drippings and fat.
- For smaller gatherings, you can make roast chicken instead of turkey. My Sheet Pan Roast Chicken and Potatoes is a simple, easy dish that you can make on one sheet pan. Easy to make, easier to clean up!
Gut-friendly Thanksgiving Side Dishes:
- Stuffing is a classic Thanksgiving side dish, but it can be very rich. Try substituting a rice dish instead, like rice pilaf. You can stir in your favorite steamed vegetables for extra color and flavor.
- Mashed Potatoes- potatoes are starchy, easily digestible vegetables that are a good choice when you have C. diff infection. However, mashed potatoes typically have a lot of butter and cream, which may worsen C. diff symptoms. Try substituting lactose-free milk or nondairy milk alternatives like almond milk, oat milk or rice milk in your mashed potatoes. For extra flavor, you can stir in some miso paste, which will also add gut-friendly probiotics. Instead of mashed potatoes, you can make baked potatoes or sweet potatoes. They’re especially quick and easy to make in the air fryer. Try my Air Fryer Sweet Potatoes.
- Brussel sprouts are often on holiday menus, but as with other cruciferous vegetables, they can worsen C. diff symptoms and cause bloating and gas. Instead, you can enjoy non-cruciferous vegetables like carrots, beets or squash. You can roast vegetables in the oven or steam them, which uses less oil. My Maple Glazed Acorn Squash is easy to make and delicious.
- Green bean casserole and creamed spinach are classic Thanksgiving side dishes which have heavy ingredients like cream that may worsen C. diff symptoms. Instead, make steamed green beans, which will be easier to digest. Or make creamed spinach but use probiotic-rich Greek yogurt instead of cream. Try my Healthy Creamed Spinach Gratin.
Gut-friendly Thanksgiving Dessert:
- Instead of rich pies, try some lighter options for dessert. Bananas are easy to digest and can help control diarrhea, so why not make banana bread? Everyone loves banana bread! Try my Banana Flax Bread, which is packed with nutritious ingredients like bananas, Greek yogurt, and flaxseed.
- Instead of apple pie, make an apple crisp. Peel the apples first to remove a lot of the insoluble fiber and make them easier to digest. Then cook the apples well in the oven or slow cooker to soften them up and then top them off with a crumbly oat topping.
- Avoid whipped cream and ice cream. Instead, try sorbet, which is made with water and fruit and contains no dairy.
Gut-friendly Thanksgiving Drinks:
- It’s very important to stay hydrated when you have C. diff, especially if you’re experiencing diarrhea. You should avoid too much caffeine as it irritates the intestinal tract and can worsen dehydration. So, skip the coffee drinks at the end of your Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, try my Mulled Apple Cider. You can also enjoy a cup of herbal tea like chamomile or ginger tea, which have no caffeine. Ginger also has soothing effects on the intestinal tract and can alleviate symptoms like nausea.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! For more information on C. diff infection and patient resources, head over to the Ferring Pharmaceuticals site.
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