Christmas is meant to be about joy and fun and eating and drinking, NOT stocking up on toilet rolls in a frenzy of IBS anxiety. Sure, you should be able to eat what you want at Christmas. I get it. That’s the whole point. It’s the season to “let loose” whilst your waistband gets tight without feeling one bit bad about it. But when you live with IBS, it gets a little bit more tricky. No-one minds having a full belly, but when that full belly leads to 2 days of stomach cramps and subsequent leg cramps from sitting on the toilet bowl, it’s time to reassess your priorities.
In this post, I’m going to run through how you can survive Christmas whilst suffering from IBS and still enjoy yourself to the max. It might mean a little more discipline on your part, but a little self-control never did anyone any harm. And it’ll do your gut a lot LESS harm this festive season.
Stay Away from Trigger Foods
It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas, but unless you have some kind of special Santa who can magic away your IBS, your food triggers aren’t going to disappear on Christmas Day. Remember which foods cause you discomfort and avoid them; these are generally high FODMAP foods which you can learn more about in our previous “FODMAP for Newbies” post.
Generally, it’s wise to stay clear of rich and fatty foods like pastries or fried food, many foods containing dairy/wheat, and some specific fruits and vegetables. If you’re already following a low FODMAP plan and know which foods work for you and which don’t, Christmas Day is not a reason to deviate from that plan. I know it’s tempting, but this is where that self-control comes in… don’t do it!
Prepare in Advance
One great way to ensure you stay away from trigger foods is to make sure you have all the snacks you need prepared in advance. Just take 30 minutes to sit down and think about what you’d usually eat over Christmas and what substitutes you can use to replace the foods you know will cause you discomfort. For example, when everyone else is eating Christmas Pudding, you can make sure you have your own special IBS-friendly pudding to tuck into.
Add Probiotics to Your Diet
Another way to prepare WAY in advance is to add a probiotic supplement to your diet in the run-up to Christmas to make sure that your gut has the right amount of good bacteria to help it handle a few dietary slip-ups here and there. You’ll need about a 4-6 week lead-in time to make sure that the probiotics have time to work properly, but if you stick to this and take them daily you’ll definitely find that your symptoms lessen as a result.
Don’t Skip Breakfast!
One way to ensure that temptation sets in at dinnertime is to skip breakfast. We’ve all been there, you want to have as much room as possible for dinner, right?! But this is the worst of bad ideas. Have you ever gone food shopping on an empty stomach? I bet you came home with a few more goodies that you’d intended! If you’re not starving at the dinner table you’ll be less likely to eat super fast or overeat (both of which often set off IBS symptoms) and you’ll also be more careful about the food you add to your plate.
Wear Loose Clothing
This is a no-brainer on Christmas Day whether you suffer from IBS or not! But in general, wearing loose clothing will make you feel a lot more comfortable if a bit of bloat does set in.
Monitor Your Alcohol Intake
Everyone should be able to have a glass of Christmas cheer, but if you suffer from IBS you should try to limit certain drinks. For example, fizzy drinks like champagne and Prosecco won’t do you any favors on the gas front. If you’re going down the cocktail route, it’s always best to keep it simple and avoid anything too rich. A few glasses of white wine won’t kill you, but if you can water it down with soda water that’s even better (if not, that’s okay too, you’re not a saint!).
Don’t Let Yourself Get Stressed
It’s hard to stay calm 24/7 over the holidays but if you get too stressed it’s just going to make your IBS kick off before you’ve even sat down to eat. It’s widely recognized that there’s a strong connection between your gut and your brain thanks to your vagus nerve, so if you’re not feeling good mentally your gut probably isn’t going to feel too great either.
Take some time out over the holidays and let yourself unwind in whatever way works for you (a walk outdoors or a warm bath and a good book often does the trick!). Any kind of exercise, in general, is also always a good go-to in order to destress and get your digestive system moving. Your gut will thank you for it.
If Your IBS Does Flare-Up, Don’t Panic
Stressing out about your IBS will just make it worse. Make sure that you have the right supplements and treatments on hand to help you out if your IBS makes an unwanted appearance and your Christmas will be just as good as everyone else’s! Our Digestive Aid supplement is designed to give you relief from painful bloating and alleviate those horrible stomach cramps that set in when your gut encounters a food it doesn’t like.
You can also have things like a hot water bottle on standby and some peppermint tea to sip. Remember, with IBS symptoms it’s often a case of “here today, gone tomorrow”, so don’t let it ruin your holidays, just indulge in some self-care and you’ll be feeling better in no time!