The NOW guide to an IBD-friendly Toronto

Sponsored feature: presented by Wellesley Therapeutics


Toronto, like many cities, can be a difficult place for people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Traffic and transit are unpredictable, many of our best restaurants often favour foods that can trigger symptoms and, yes, there is a distinct lack of publicly available washrooms when you need one. Luckily, improved TTC facility maps and recent apps like Toilet Finder are helping mitigate this issue with GPS technology.

According to a 2012 review in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, there are approximately 233,000 Canadians living with IBD. With so many people feeling the effects of a widespread condition, enjoying day-to-day life with IBD shouldn’t require significant effort – but it often does. That’s why we’ve collected a few helpful tips to make living in Toronto with IBD a little easier.

Low FODMAP restaurant dining

Anyone living with IBD is likely familiar with another acronym: FODMAP (fermentable, oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. This can refer to food items as diverse as asparagus, peaches, cashews, dairy and wheat products. Some people find certain foods more triggering than others, so trying a low FODMAP diet over a limited period of time – and with a doctor’s consultation – helps identify where those triggers are.

Few of us enjoy grilling a restaurant server on the precise list of ingredients on our plate, so dining out while you’re avoiding FODMAP foods can feel awkward. While most meat won’t trigger IBD symptoms, vegan restaurants like Fresh tend to be a little more familiar with exacting diets and can often accommodate. But don’t count out a good steakhouse like Barberian’s – just be sure to get full details on any marinades that might be used in your dinner.

Distilled alcohol hangouts

Drinking is rarely good for you, but for people with IBD, having one too many – or just one drink with FODMAP ingredients – can result in more than just a hangover. The primary reason for this comes from high-fructose corn syrup or other sugar alcohols that are present in some alcoholic drinks. Examples can include mixed drinks like rum and Coke or sweet wines like port. Beer can be hit-or-miss for some people, depending on the sensitivity to gluten.

Alcohol is a gut stimulant, so if there’s a concern then it’s best to avoid it. When IBD symptoms are absent, distilled alcohols like gin, vodka and most whiskies on their own can be safe from FODMAPs. These spirits are distilled so they don’t contain the kinds of glutamine content that can be problematic for people with IBD. Toronto bars like Pravda Vodka Bar and Readers’ Choice winner Caledonian pride themselves on their spirit selections. If you’re getting a cocktail, ask for the full list of ingredients before you try it.

Outside food-friendly events

The challenge of finding IBD-safe foods extends to every part of an active lifestyle. Many Toronto event venues don’t allow you to bring in outside food, which puts people with IBD at the mercy of less-than-ideal snacking circumstances. These situations can be even more uncomfortable with the long bathroom lines often found at live music festivals.

If you’re hoping to catch a Toronto FC game and want to bring in some carrots and almonds, BMO Field policy requires you to get permission to do so – which might entail disclosing information you’d rather keep private. Over at the Rogers Centre, there’s a longstanding policy to let Blue Jays fans in with sealed food containers. As long as security staff can check to make sure it is what you say it is, you should be able to bring in any of your favourite foods and cheer on the home team.

Villicote®

To help make experiencing Toronto a bit easier for people with IBD, Wellesley Therapeutics has developed Villicote®, a non-pharmaceutical option to restore a healthy intestinal lining and ease symptoms. It contains N-Acetylglucosamine or NAG which, according to a recent clinical study published in the Natural Medicine Journal, is “a naturally occurring amino sugar.” NAG helped manage symptoms for over 88 percent of patients in the four-week trial.

The prescription medication options for IBD are many, and they can spiral into addressing symptoms that arise from dealing with IBD on a daily basis – from digestion-related problems to anxiety and depression. Since Villicote® is all-natural, Wellesley Therapeutics says it’s not likely to interfere with prescription medication. It takes about a month to work and is available from pharmacy.ca.

Stress Support

The gut is increasingly being referred to as the body’s second brain, and that’s because so much of what happens there influences our mood and behaviour. Social and psychological conditions can have a big effect on our health, so those who worry about IBD symptoms can potentially make those symptoms worse by the very act of worrying about them.

Good friends can complement the available resources in Toronto for keeping a positive mental and physical state. In addition to many private and public gym options, there are psychotherapists and mindfulness experts (who differ in their approaches) as well as phone-in support groups. Working out and attending therapy sessions won’t necessarily eliminate or even reduce IBD symptoms, but doing so can help ensure you’re in a place of strength when you have to deal with them.

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