We all know the month of December comes with Christmas parties and festivities with friends and family, and during this time, we often eat very differently and our daily routines are usually turned upside down. So, for those of you managing IBS or who generally have a more sensitive gut, we want to help you to find ways to manage your gut symptoms so that you can enjoy your holidays just a little bit more. This is why we have made a list of gut-loving tips for the festive season.
1. Avoid restricting or skipping meals
This is a number one rule for anyone to follow over the holiday period. We know that regular meals are so important for our gut and mental health for many different reasons. However, the main reason is that if we skip a meal, we are more likely to overindulge at the next meal, which can trigger symptoms of bloating, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, which is not a very cheerful way to be spending your Christmas. You are much better off having 3 regular meals +/- snacks throughout the day, otherwise, 4-5 smaller meals can be beneficial for managing symptoms for those with diarrhoea predominant IBS.
2. Fancy a mocktail?
Although the festive time is great for winding down and relaxing with a nice cocktail, for those with sensitive guts or IBS, alcohol can be a major trigger for gastrointestinal symptoms. Alcohol is known to affect gastrointestinal tract motility, absorption, and permeability, which is why those with IBS can experience symptoms such as abdominal pain, “leaky gut” and diarrhoea as a result of drinking. However, if you are going to drink, the volume of drinks often does matter, as 4 or more drinks per day have been associated with increased risk of these symptoms, whilst moderate drinking of 2-3 drinks spread across the day or light drinking of 1 drink in a day is more likely to see fewer or no symptoms as a result. So our recommendation would be to drink lightly or in moderation and include other hydrating drinks throughout the day, such as soda water with fresh fruit slices and mint, a flavourful kombucha or you could try out a new mocktail recipe to share with your friends and family.
3. Hit that snooze button
We know that a lack of sleep can be a major trigger for IBS symptoms, as a lack of sleep can increase the production of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, which may exacerbate IBS symptoms via the gut-brain connection. Aim for at least 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night to allow for your gut to rest and repair itself. Additionally, ensuring that you leave at least 2-3 hours before lying down after a meal can reduce the chance of gastrointestinal discomfort and reflux occurring.
4. Find time to RELAX!
As mentioned with sleep, for the management of IBS, stress relief is essential. Finding ways to relax rather than getting too much into the hustle and bustle is ideal for alleviating gastrointestinal symptoms. Ways to help support your gut-brain connection could include taking a relaxing walk, enjoying some meditation (this is strongly supported by evidence of reducing the symptom threshold), getting a massage (this could be a great Christmas gift idea to hint) and finding ways of reducing the stress around cooking and cleaning (asking guests to bring a plate of food with them, using compostable dinner plates and cutlery, cooking a few days in advance).
5. Fill up on fibre
Although the family tradition may include a big roast, heaps of seafood and desserts to top it off, make sure you are also plating up lots of plant foods to boost your fibre intake, as this can help to alleviate symptoms such as constipation and bloating. Foods you can include could be a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and legumes – check out some of our recipes on our website for some seasonal salads, desserts and mains that a packed with fibre and plant foods.
Finding ways to get up off the couch and keep active is a great way of improving your symptoms and enhancing your sense of well-being. We know gentle movements such as walking, playing outdoor games, dancing, yoga and pilates are great options to support gut health and all of these could be enjoyed with friends and family to make it a memorable occasion.