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  • Valerie Smith, APRN

5 Ways to Have an Inflammation-Free Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving, Turkey Day, Casserole Thursday, Black Friday Eve...


No matter what you call it, this well-loved November holiday is a time when millions of Americans celebrate gratitude by gathering with friends and family to eat a feast of food.


The fun doesn’t stop there, though.


  • Food comas

  • Football games

  • Turkey Trot races

  • And the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


Thanksgiving is a day filled with firm schedules and strict traditions - traditions that some may love and others may despise. After all, we all know those hallowed recipes passed down from generation to generation can in no way be altered if we don’t want to ruffle some turkey feathers.


A traditional Thanksgiving can be difficult to manage when living with a rheumatic disease. A rheumatic disease is an inflammatory disease, and unfortunately, inflammation can easily be triggered by the activities and foods often associated with this beloved holiday.


The extended standing, the prolonged sitting, the long hours dedicated to meal prep, the entertaining guests (and upkeeping a positive attitude), these are all common elements of Thanksgiving that can gobble up a person living with an inflammatory disease. When you add in the food and beverages often served around a Thanksgiving dinner table, a flare-up is bound to happen.


Inflammation leads to joint pain, joint stiffness, swelling, temperature changes, rashes, fatigue, irritability, depression, anxiety, and gastrointestinal complications like diarrhea, constipation, or acid reflux. These are inflammatory responses worth avoiding!


So when tradition is everything, how do men and women battling a rheumatic disease manage such a day? What is the solution to an inflammation-free Thanksgiving?


Make It a Memorable Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving day does not need to feel like some kind of doom and gloom situation. With a few adjustments and modifications, it can be better than ever as you give thanks and create lasting memories with those you love. Listed below are five alternatives to consider when planning out this year’s Thanksgiving feast:


#1 Switch Up Your Food Options

It’s not that all Thanksgiving foods are horrible for you. It’s more the fact that many traditional dishes take nutritious foods and pair them with not so nutritious ingredients and additives. For example:

  • Green beans with french fried onions and cream of mushroom soup

  • Cranberries with loads of sugar and pectin, gelatin, or cornstarch

  • White potatoes mashed together with butter, milk, half-n-half, cream cheese, or sour cream


Instead of adding in those inflammation-causing ingredients, go back to the basics. Keep your Thanksgiving dishes simple. Saute or steam your green beans. Serve fresh fruit. Bake red potatoes.


#2 Practice Portion Control

You know your body best. Perhaps you don’t need to skip out on eating all of your Thanksgiving favorites, but instead, you should forego that second (or third) plate of food. While it may be hard to resist, don’t binge eat. Slow down and take the time to enjoy every bite of your first serving.


#3 Pick and Choose

When faced with an abundance of food options, select ones that are a good fit for you. Pass up the carbs and gluten. Don’t go for the sugar-filled dishes or desserts. Skip out on the items high in dairy. Eat what you can tolerate, and bypass other options that contain ingredients you know will trigger an inflammatory response.


#4 Don’t Forget Your Medications and Supplements

In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, remember to take your prescribed medications and recommended supplements. Set them out the night before if you find the visual reminder helpful. Also, make sure you have enough medication to last you through the holiday while pharmacies are closed.


#5 Take an Entirely New Path

Just because everyone around you might be diving into a traditional Thanksgiving feast, you don’t have to be. Make your own traditions, and don’t feel bad about it. Find a path that works for you and your circumstances.


A Holiday Filled with Joy


The healthcare team at Paducah Rheumatology wants you to have a happy and successful Thanksgiving. We know that’s easier said than done, though. Managing a rheumatic disease is challenging, especially during the holiday season.


Don’t be discouraged. Think ahead, and comprise a plan of action that works best for you. If you need to break away from the crowd for a bit, that is alright. If you need to jump from plan A to plan B, that’s okay.


We hope you have a fantastic holiday, and we can’t wait to hear how you created your own inflammation-free Thanksgiving.


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