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Jingle Bowels: 8 Tips for Happy Holiday Digestion!

This article was written by Estelle Kearney RD, Specialist Gut Health Dietitian. You can find more tips and IBS-friendly recipes on her Instagram page.
 
Worried about gut symptoms over Christmas? These 8 tips have got you covered!
 
Do your gut symptoms tend to flare up over the Christmas period? Although Christmas is a time of joy and celebration for many, it can be a challenging time of the year if you have a sensitive gut or suffer from a condition such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). 
 
But not to worry - it is possible to enjoy the holidays without triggering a flare up of uncomfortable gut symptoms! This guide will break down some of the common culprits to watch out for and provide some easy-to-digest tips for avoiding an IBS flare up over Christmas.
 

1. TRY TO EAT REGULARLY  

Over the holidays, most of us will have a change in routine which often means irregular meal times, larger portion sizes and different types of food. Try to avoid skipping meals as this may lead to overeating at the next meal, and large meal portions can trigger gut symptoms. Aim to eat something every 3-4 hours to avoid getting overly hungry. 
 

2. PLAN IN ADVANCE

Plan your meals in advance where possible, and watch out for any known dietary triggers. If you are following a low FODMAP diet, check the ingredients of foods and have suitable alternatives. Why not use this time to try different recipes and bake some homemade sweet treats? Check out some IBS friendly recipes here.
 

3. DON’T GO OVERBOARD ON CRUCIFEROUS VEG

Vegetables such as cabbage or brussel sprouts can trigger flatulence and bloating. Although these vegetables are rich in prebiotic fibre and micronutrients, they also contain sulphureous compounds which can cause strong smelling gas. You can still include some cruciferous veg with your meal but keep to smaller portion sizes. 
 

4. TAKE YOUR TIME WITH EATING AND CHEW FOOD WELL

Try to take your time with eating meals. The digestive process starts with chewing, as our saliva contains an enzyme known as salivary amylase which starts the digestive process for breaking down carbohydrates. Aim to chew each mouthful a minimum of 20 times to ensure that your food is mixed well with saliva to support digestion.
 

5. TAKE IT EASY WITH ALCOHOL

Alcohol can irritate the gut, affecting gut motility and exacerbating abdominal pain and bloating. Carbonated alcoholic drinks or sugary cocktails can further worsen bloating too. Have a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks and try to stick within the recommended alcohol limits. 
 

6. HAVE SAFE SNACKS ON STANDBY

If you are on the go or visiting friends or relatives, bring some suitable snacks with you that are IBS-friendly. A balanced snack that contains both protein and fibre can help to keep you fuller and satiated for longer. Fodbods are a great option!
 

7. WATCH OUT FOR HIGH FAT FOODS 

Fat is a major trigger for IBS symptoms, as it can affect gut motility. Fat can cause our gut to contract more frequently, leading to abdominal cramping and pain if you have a sensitive gut. You can still include some high fat foods in your diet, however, be mindful of portion sizes. You might be okay with having one or two mince pies but try not to go overboard! 
 

8. INCLUDE SOME DAILY MOVEMENT 

Try to keep up your activity levels over the holidays, as some gentle daily exercise can be really helpful for managing gut symptoms. Movement can help to alleviate gas and bloating, supporting digestion and gut motility. 
 
If you do experience a flare up of symptoms over the Christmas period, try not to panic. Anxiety and stress can further exacerbate gut symptoms, as the gut and the brain are constantly in communication with each other via the gut-brain axis. Try to relax, wear comfortable clothes with a stretchy waistband and have a hot water bottle at the ready. Remember that your uncomfortable gut symptoms will pass!
 
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