Tips for Controlling IBS Over the Holidays

The holidays are a time to come together with family and friends to enjoy seasonal food and festive activities. For people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), however, the holidays are also a time of increased flare-up risk.

The interruption to your normal schedule, travel, added stress, and a change in eating habits spells bad news for anyone with chronic gastrointestinal issues. Managing IBS is difficult enough without the added challenges the holidays bring.

The unpredictable nature of IBS can cause you to feel anxiety as the holidays draw near. This holiday season, let yourself enjoy the festivities and keep IBS under control with this practical holiday survival guide from internal medicine specialist Samuel I. Fink, MD. Having a plan in place ahead of time is key.

Prepare to navigate food triggers

Food plays a central role in holiday activities. Many people with IBS report that certain foods trigger their symptoms, so if you have known food triggers, it’s important to have a plan for the holidays for avoiding your triggers and finding suitable alternatives so you don’t feel as though you’re missing out.

Common IBS triggers that feature prominently in holiday feasts are:

IBS is highly individual, and foods that cause problems for one person may be tolerable to someone else. Steer clear of foods that tend to spark stomach trouble for you, and plan on having IBS-friendly alternatives available. For example, non-dairy ice cream can replace frozen treats made from cow’s milk.

Planning ahead to have IBS-friendly alternatives to trigger foods means you don’t have to scramble to find something to eat and you won’t feel left out at holiday meals.

Test new foods ahead of time

Ideally, it’s best to avoid eating new foods during the holidays. However, if you plan on sampling new dishes, limit yourself to one or two new items — and test them out a few days ahead of holiday festivities so you can get an idea of whether you can tolerate the food without triggering IBS symptoms.

Manage holiday stress

Your brain and your digestive system have a complex interrelationship. Most people with IBS find that psychological stress is a major trigger. Stress is shown to increase intestinal motility and heighten sensations in the colon, both of which aggravate IBS symptoms.

Taming holiday stress is important for keeping IBS flare-ups at bay. Whether it’s the stress of family dynamics or travel worries, it’s important to find a balance. This could mean making time to engage in stress-busting activities such as listening to soothing music, relaxing with a good book, or meditating.

Avoid overextending yourself. If you’re hosting holiday festivities, enlist the help of friends and loved ones to take some of the pressure off of yourself. If you’re attending holiday events, pace yourself, listen to your body, and rest when you need to.

Maintain your medication regimen

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to forget medication. If you take medication to manage your IBS, it’s important to stick to your regimen during the holidays. Set extra reminders on your mobile phone, or use sticky notes to keep yourself on track. 

If you’re traveling, ensure that you pack enough medication for your trip. Try to keep your dose schedule close to what you normally follow at home. Sticking as close to your regular routine as possible helps decrease the chance of triggering IBS symptoms.

IBS doesn’t have to ruin your holidays. Keep symptoms at bay and enjoy the holidays to the fullest by implementing these helpful tips. With the holidays around the corner, preparation is the best way to combat holiday flare-ups. For IBS management, call us or use our online tool to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fink.

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