If you suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) the Festive season can be hard on your tummy. Because, alongside all of the fun, stress and many other factors can trigger your IBS symptoms.
The supermarket shelves are stocked, Festive favourites are being played on the radio. And any day now the partying will begin.
Alcohol is a major factor that can turn a merry Christmas into a miserable one for IBS sufferers. If that is you, these are our top tips for avoiding a Festive flare-up:
1. Avoiding drinking to de-stress
It can be tempting to knock back a couple of drinks to combat Christmas stress but if you have IBS, unfortunately, this might only make things worse. Alcohol irritates the gut lining, according to the British Dietetic Association.
This can lead to pain and discomfort, vomiting and diarrhoea in some people. Alcohol can also increase the risk of intestinal permeability which leads to foreign bodies leaking through the gut lining into the bloodstream. This can cause inflammation.
Many people that over-do the booze in December, then go full throttle in the other direction, taking part in a Dry January, to compensate. However, it is far better to stick within limits that your body is comfortable with and avoid all together a festive flare-up.
2. Be careful what you drink
Some people with IBS follow a low FODMAP (Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet which can help them to manage their symptoms.
This involves avoiding food and drink containing certain types of carbohydrates and sugars that don’t digest or absorb well in the gut. Some alcoholic drinks are high FODMAP and are best avoided if you have IBS. These include port, sherry, rum, cider and sweet dessert wine.
If you can, stick to clear spirits, dry white wine, red wine and sparkling wine. And even then do not have too much of these.
Even the weekly recommended maximum of 14 units may be too much for IBS sufferers. Get to know what level you can tolerate before you experience symptoms. For some people with IBS, avoiding alcohol altogether is the only answer.
3. Manage Festive stress
Stress plays a big role in IBS and the Festive season is full of stressors, from spending time with family through to shopping for Festive food.
To help keep your symptoms under control, find time amid all of the hustle and bustle to spend a few quiet minutes by yourself. Breathe deeply, close your eyes and relax. Maybe listen to some restful music or take a bath. Also be sure to get a good nights sleep as this is important for digestive health.
4. Drink non-alcoholic alternatives
Sometimes people think that they will have to miss out on the Festive fun if they can’t drink alcohol, but that’s not true. There are plenty of delicious non-alcoholic drinks you can try.
And if you are embarrassed to tell people why you are not drinking, you could always say you’re on antibiotics, or order a “mock-tail” and it will look just the same.
5. Avoid too much fat
The temptation to overindulge at Christmas can be huge. But foods that are high in fat have been shown to exacerbate IBS symptoms.
They affect gut motility and the release of hormones which can trigger uncomfortable symptoms. Avoid too many high-fat foods – fried food, pizza, chips, crisps and processed meat. It is also advisable not to have too much spicy food or coffee.