Winter Activities With IBD

Patient Expert

Many people have an urge to go outside and enjoy winter activities. But with IBD, the prospect can be frightening. The anxiety can build quickly, until you're saying to yourself, “I just can’t enjoy the winter months."

The fact of the matter is that, yes, it takes planning, preparation, and a little bit of extra work, but you can get outside and enjoy this amazing time of year. If you're in a part of the world where winter means snow, you can snowshoe, ski, or even enjoy a good old-fashioned snowball fight.

Years ago I thought my skiing career was over. Not only was I about to get an ostomy, but I hadn’t skied in years because of the urgency that came along with my Crohn’s disease. The fear of having an accident out-weighed the enjoyment I could have on the mountains I loved. So my first reaction was the same as most people’s; I stayed in the comfort of my own home, and I missed out.

It was the easy thing to do at the time — but as the old saying has it: "Nothing worthwhile is easy." So I started to develop plans in order to regain my life and enjoy the winter. This took time and it was a process. It all began with just going outside during a snowstorm, bundled up to stay warm, and enjoying the peacefulness that comes while the snowflakes fall. This gave me the energy and motivation to get back out there.

_ Credit: Brian Greenberg/Intense Intestines_

After that, I had to convince myself that everything would be okay — even if the worst happened. While having an accident or a leak is never fun (it sucks), remember: it washes off. Once I began to have that mindset, it was time to figure out how I could get back out there.

I’m also blessed to be surrounded by people who not only know about my disease but also support me in battling it. This is mainly because I’m confident about talking about my Crohn’s and they know exactly what I am battling. A few years ago, I even traveled with about 50 ski club members to Whistler, British Columbia. They all knew about my disease and were all there to support me. These friends and companions were just happy to see me enjoying life and excited to have me traveling again.

Credit: Brian Greenberg/Intense Intestines

Here are a few things I did in order to feel more comfortable during winter activities:* ** Eat safe foods in the morning:** Before going out to do whatever I’d like to do, I eat foods that I know will not only sit well with my stomach but also foods I know have a slow transit time. This not only helps with the urgency but also gives me peace of mind that I have time until the next bathroom break.

  • Take anti-diarrheal medicine: Add this to a safe food, and you’ll be able to have even more confidence that you will be able to get out there and enjoy any activity. It will slow down the transit time of food just a little bit more. Just remember to stay hydrated, as these can sometimes dehydrate you.

  • Scope out the area you’ll be in: Take a look at a map of the area where you’ll be. Whether it is a ski map, trail map, or other area, knowing where the bathrooms are will give you peace of mind. This way, when you start to feel an urge hit, you won’t have to waste any time, and can head in the right direction.

  • Wear the right clothes: You don’t need the most expensive and newest gear. In fact, that can be an added anxiety when you begin to think about having an accident or leak in your new clothes. Wear less expensive or older layers, especially underneath your outer layer. If anything happens, it can be washed easily or even discarded.

  • Test your movements outside: This especially goes for an ostomy patient. Go outside your house before making a big trek to a mountain or activity area. Run around, bend over, roll on the ground, and get comfortable. Once you see that everything is going to be okay, you’ll be able to worry less and enjoy the day more.

  • Go with people you know: Heading off to do any activity with people you know and with whom you feel comfortable always helps. You’ll know that if anything happens, you’ll have a supporter to get you through, which will make it easier.

Don’t let your IBD keep you from missing out on winter fun. With the right planning and preparation, surrounding yourself with the right people, and knowing what you’ll feel comfortable with, you can still enjoy all that the winter months offer.