Navigating the Holidays with IBS: 7 Tips and Tricks
With the holiday season in full swing, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed with changes to your routine, the abundance of festive food, dinner invitations and celebratory drinks. How and why would this be overwhelming you ask? It’s a magical time of year and these are wonderful things however, they can be quite problematic if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which is a fancy way of saying the gut looks normal but doesn’t work perfectly. It’s not a disease, can be triggered by a range of factors and doesn’t cause any damage to the gut. It does however cause uncomfortable symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, gas and changes in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea).
Here are Eloise’s (our in-house dietitian) top tips on how to navigate the silly season with IBS or a sensitive gut:
- Plan ahead: If you know that certain foods trigger those uncomfortable symptoms, try to plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. If you're not hosting celebrations this year, offer to take a FODMAP-friendly dish (recipes here) and pack low-FODMAP snacks like Fodbods so you can avoid situations where you may be tempted to eat something you know may cause issues later.
- Be mindful of portion sizes: It's easy to overindulge during the holidays, but try and stick to small, regular meals. This will limit FODMAP stacking and reduce feeling bloated and uncomfortable afterwards.
- Stay hydrated: Water does wonders for our digestion by keeping things moving and preventing constipation. It also helps to dilute alcohol (if you’re drinking) which will ward off hangovers (win, win).
- Try to relax: Stress can exacerbate IBS symptoms so finding ways to relax and manage your stress this holiday season is paramount to a happy gut. We recommend taking time for yourself, practising relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation, and doing some gentle exercise like yoga or going for a walk in between meals.
- Avoid trigger foods: There are certain foods that are known to trigger IBS symptoms, such as those high in FODMAPs, fatty or spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol. If you know that certain foods cause problems for you, try to limit your intake and opt for alternatives.
- Take time to chew your food well: Chewing is an important part of our digestion process. When we chew, we release digestive enzymes in our saliva that help to break down our food. So next time you sit down for a meal, be mindful, slow down and aim to chew each mouthful 15-20 times (you can thank us later).
- Dress comfortably: What you wear matters (and no, we’re not speaking from an aesthetic perspective). Tight clothing can be quite restrictive and worsen those already uncomfortable IBS symptoms so make sure you stick to loose-fitting and flexible clothes this Christmas (when we say loose-fitting, it doesn’t have to be sweats or trackies, opt for flowy dresses or pants with stretchy waistbands).