The holiday season will soon be here and with it comes many occasions to feast. Often what we eat reflects the traditions of our families. The foods that are served may only be prepared at holidays and no other time of the year. Special holiday foods may be wonderful to eat, but they also can be very high in fat.
At Thanksgiving, there might be that special sweet potato recipe made with many sticks of butter. On Christmas Eve, your family may serve the traditional seven fishes that could be fried or dipped in butter. Some families include macaroni and cheese, or lasagna, alongside their turkey or ham. Fried latkes (potato pancakes) or doughnuts are often served during Hanukkah.
All these foods are delicious, but are also loaded with fat. In addition, these big meals may take much longer to eat than usual. For those who take enzymes, the foods served and the length of these meals may be a challenge.
So, what do you do about enzymes?
If you don't take enough enzymes with these special meals, you may experience all of the symptoms of malabsorption.
The undigested foods will sit in your intestine causing you stomach pain, and your BMs may become large, loose and smell really bad. You may also experience really bad gas.
If the food you eat is not digested properly because you didn't take enough enzymes, the nutrients in the food -- including protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals -- will not get absorbed into your blood stream to help you stay well. So taking the right amount of enzymes with a big meal is important and allows the nutrients in the food to be used by your body.
If you take enzymes, here are some of the things that you may have been taught:
- Take the enzymes before you eat or drink any food or beverages that contain fat, protein or both.
- Finish your meal or snack in a reasonable amount of time.
- Don't chew the beads that are in capsules.
- Keep the enzymes in a cool, dry place.
Also, do not make any changes to your usual dose without speaking to your center registered dietitian (RD) first. You should also talk with your center RD about eating large, fatty holiday meals that may take over an hour to eat.
Here are some additional questions to ask your RD:
- If my holiday meal takes longer than my usual meals, what should I do about my enzymes? You may be advised to split your dose and take some at the start of the meal and some in the middle of the meal.
- If my holiday meal contains more fat than my usual meal, should I take more enzymes? Your RD may suggest you add more capsules in order to handle the additional fat, but make sure to ask your RD how many to add.
- If I snack on the leftover food during the holidays, can I “graze” all day or is it better to set aside a time for a snack? Your RD might talk to you about the challenges of grazing and tell you that in order to keep your stomach feeling well during the holiday season, try not to graze. Eating a snack with the correct amount of enzymes will help keep you feeling great.
If you are traveling during the holidays, have a plan to keep your enzymes nearby. Be careful not to store your enzymes in a hot or very cold area, such as a car. Extreme temperatures are not good for enzymes and makes them less useful. Also, it is important to keep them dry. Think about keeping a meal and snack dose with you at all times and more enzymes in an area that you can get to in order to refill your pill case.
For more information about the correct use of enzymes, talk to your cystic fibrosis center RD and visit CFF.org for additional resources.