You can still indulge in the treats as long as you’re willing to make some healthy swaps to avoid those digestive “tricks.”
Like many holidays, Halloween is all about the treats and indulgences. Eating too much Halloween candy is enough to make people without GI disorders sick. I will never forget the story my dad told of eating too many Reese’s peanut butter cups as a child one Halloween, and how to this day, he cannot combine peanut butter and chocolate.
Those of us with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, need to be particularly careful when it comes to these sweets, especially if candy or sugar trigger our GI symptoms.
In my experience, when I am feeling well, I can have a small amount of candy, such as a peanut butter cup or two, but I know that too much refined sugar will leave me feeling bloated and fatigued, and will likely lead to diarrhea. That’s not what I want when I am at a Halloween party, at work, or even at home. As much as I would love an apple cider donut, plus all the chocolate candies and pumpkin treats, I know that the gluten and refined sugar will make me sick, so I generally avoid them.
One recent study suggests that consuming a higher amount of ultra-processed foods (those that contain additives, artificial flavorings or colors, or other chemical ingredients) increases the likelihood of developing IBD.
Another study showed that people with Crohn’s disease with mild to moderate symptoms who followed either the Specific Carbohydrate Diet or the Mediterranean diet — both diets low in processed foods — achieved symptomatic remission after just 6 weeks. There aren’t many other studies available involving nutrition and IBD, so it’s not proven whether diet contributes to flares or not.
This being said, many people with IBD will say that certain foods bring on their IBD symptoms. And many find relief adhering to a low FODMAP diet, which is low in certain types of carbohydrates and essentially leaves out most processed foods, including many grains, dairy, and refined sugars. A meta-analysis demonstrated that people whose IBD was in remission — but who still had some gastrointestinal symptoms — benefitted from following a low FODMAP diet. However, this diet also presents certain risks for people with IBD, so always ask your healthcare provider before adopting it.
Even if you don’t adhere to this kind of diet, we know it’s healthier to eat “real” food than processed food, and the available science supports eating more real food and less processed food to improve our bowel symptoms. Why not try real-food alternatives to your favorite Halloween candies and snacks, so you can indulge without feeling sick afterward?
Here are my top 10 favorite healthy treats for Halloween parties or just enjoying at home:
I can certainly recall many holidays when I decided to eat the gluten and dairy that often make me sick, and the car rides home from those events were miserable. For the most part, it’s not worth it for me to suffer those symptoms when instead, I can make or buy healthier treats that will not bother me — especially with the thousands of creative, delicious, and healthy recipe ideas out there that work with a variety of special diets.
This Halloween, I hope you can indulge a little and feel good while doing it!
Medically reviewed on October 20, 2022
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