It’s Christmas party season and if you’re an IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) sufferer you may have more to worry about than simply what to wear.
The Festive season can play havoc with our digestion with all that rich food and alcohol, plus irregular mealtimes. When you’ve factored in the stress of Christmas, it’s not hard to see why IBS flare ups are more common at this time of year than just about any other.
So, what to do if you’ve accepted a party invite and you’re wondering how to manage your IBS? There are some simple steps you can take on the day and beforehand to help you get through the evening without needing to rush to the loo or developing painful bloating or wind.
Stick to a routine
One of the reasons that Christmas can be so difficult for IBS sufferers is the fact that regular mealtimes and our normal diet goes out of the window. Instead, we may find ourselves snacking on rich foods and treats and eating at all hours of the day and night.
If you can, try to stick to some sort of routine and balance out large meals and rich food with smaller, simple meals such as soup or boiled eggs. Ensure you are getting enough fibre by eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
If you are following a low FODMAP diet, try to stick to it throughout the Christmas period to avoid painful wind and bloating. FODMAP stands for:
When you eat FODMAPs they travel to your large bowel where they are broken down by gut bacteria.
This process, called fermentation, produces gas which causes bloating, wind and abdominal pain. FODMAPs can also cause diarrhoea in some people.
Talk to a gastrointestinal specialist if you’re interested in find out more about a low FODMAP diet.
Keeping active helps your digestive system to work more efficiently (as well as making you feel good).
Amidst all the Festivities if you can aim to walk for around 30 minutes a day it will keep your digestive system moving, which will help to prevent bloating.
After Christmas lunch, going for a walk is far better than lying down to sleep, which can cause indigestion and heartburn.
Manage stress levels
Stress plays a big role in IBS so worrying about a party beforehand is definitely not a good way to prepare. Try building some stress reduction techniques into your day.
Walking will help you to de-stress and so will meditation, having a warm bath or even just sitting quietly.
On the day of the party, make sure you drink plenty of fluid and eat regularly throughout the day. Build in some time to relax and allow plenty of time to get ready and get to the venue so you are not stressed when you arrive.
Finding an outfit to wear that you feel good in will also help to keep your stress in check.
Avoid caffeine as it can affect your bowels. Instead try drinking decaffeinated alternatives, tea or soft drinks. Don’t forget that caffeine is also in fizzy drinks like coca cola, and in chocolate.
Watch out for fatty foods
Fatty foods such as cream, cake and fried snacks are also bad news for the digestive system. With finger food, in particular, it is easy to consume far more fat that we realise so be careful how much of the wrong types of food you are eating.
Alcohol dehydrates your body and can also cause bloating, particularly if you are drinking champagne or sparkling wines. Go easy on the free drinks and try interspersing them with water to keep yourself well-hydrated.
We’re not trying to be party poopers or to take the fun out of Christmas but, let’s face it, how much fun is it to have painful wind, or alternating diarrhoea and constipation?
Taking some simple precautions will help to ensure that both you and your tummy enjoy the Christmas party season.