5 Step Holiday Survival Guide for IBS

woman in santa apron, hand on belly

During the holidays, we are bombarded by an abundance of high-fat, high-carb foods. While festive, these foods can cause digestive distress for anyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a disorder that affects the colon, causing symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Although most people with IBS have learned that many of these seasonal foods can worsen IBS symptoms — sometimes the temptation of these holiday treats are just too hard to resist.

The following are a few tips to help those with IBS to deal with the delicious temptations that surround everyone during the holiday season:

Plan Ahead

Advanced planning is the key to managing IBS symptoms during the holidays. Before a social gathering, eat a small meal to prevent overeating the foods that can cause distress. When in unfamiliar surroundings, make a note of the location of the restrooms and leave enough time to get to one should the need arise. Always travel with a bag of supplies that may become necessary in the event of an emergency. Include a change of clothes, underwear, baby wipes, and a disposable garbage bag. Bring medications that relieve diarrhea and cramps.

Bring IBS Friendly Foods/Avoid Trigger Foods

The holiday season often includes traveling and visiting, which means eating unfamiliar foods without easy access to healthy alternatives. It is smart to bring a supply of IBS-friendly snacks for the trip to help avoid a flare-up of symptoms. Pack low-fat or dairy-free yogurt and high-fiber grain bars as well as "binding" foods according to the BRAT diet: Bananas, Applesauce, and Toast. Avoid gas-producing foods such as broccoli, beans, onions, raisins, celery, and cabbage.

Stay Hydrated

As all those with IBS know, it is essential to stay well hydrated. Water helps keep your stool soft and easy to pass. In addition, if you have diarrhea, it is vital to replace the fluids lost. Fruit juices can replenish lost electrolytes. Avoid alcohol, which irritates the gastrointestinal tract, and caffeinated drinks, which can stimulate intestinal contractions.

Less Stress Is Best

Take time to relax from all the hustle and bustle of the holiday. Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or visualization daily. Don't be shy about delegating chores to others. Gift shop online from the comfort of your own home with a bowl of stove-popped popcorn topped with nutritional yeast (for a cheesy flavor and added protein), or a warm cup of flavorful bone broth. To make your recommended 30 minutes of exercise every day more pleasurable, treat yourself to a book on tape or a download of new music to take on a walk.

Enjoy Yourself!

By taking these simple steps, you have prepared yourself mentally and physically to delight in the pleasures of the "most wonderful time of the year." With advanced planning, you can enjoy all the festivities of the holiday season. Be sure to get enough exercise and sleep, but most of all remember — not everything needs to be "perfect!"


About Gastroenterology

Our caring, compassionate gastroenterologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders and diseases of the digestive system. Using advanced screening tools, state-of-the-art treatments and innovative technology, our gastroenterology team delivers comprehensive care for conditions of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. The Open Access Colonoscopy Program allows healthy patients the convenience of scheduling a screening colonoscopy without an initial office visit.

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