Gut symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, reflux and nausea can be unpleasant at best and debilitating at worst. Many of us experience these regularly due to food intolerances and/or conditions such as Irritable Bowels Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Coeliac Disease and Endometriosis. It can be a challenge to manage gut symptoms at the best of times, let alone during the festive season. Here are some tips to help manage gut symptoms over the festive season, so you can stress less and enjoy more!
Keep it basic between events
Calendars are filled with social events this time of year from office Christmas parties, to weddings, to of course Christmas and New Years. Food at these events often include plenty of foods you may not tolerate well, accompanied by plenty of alcohol. Strip it back to basics by following your baseline diet of foods you tolerate in between events. You may need to be even stricter with foods you can tolerate to a degree, in between events, to keep your overall load low. For example, if you have IBS and tolerate certain FODMAPs, it might be worth strictly reducing FODMAPs for a few days in between events to help resolve symptoms faster.
Moderate alcohol intake
Alcohol is a common gut irritant which will exacerbate most gut symptoms, particularly when consumed in excess. To help with managing symptoms, try to reduce overall alcohol intake. Some strategies to help include driving to the event so you can stick to 1-2 drinks, alternating each alcoholic beverage with a big glass of water, choosing to not drink at some events and enjoy a couple of drinks at others, and enjoying non-alcoholic alternatives.
Limit common gut irritants
In addition to alcohol, it may be wise to moderate your intake of common gut irritants over the festive period. These include caffeine, high fat foods and spicy foods. If you’re a coffee lover, limit to 1xsmall coffee per day and avoid drinking it on an empty stomach. At events try avoid the very high fat foods like fried canapes and pastries. Where possible, aim to limit spicy foods such as curries.
Eat a snack before you go
Include a substantial snack which includes some protein and fibre, before going to an event. This will help manage your appetite so you can be more particular about what foods you want to try, rather than eating the foods you know will cause issues because you’re so hungry. Some options include a high protein yoghurt with berries, fruit smoothie, cheese and crackers, dip with veggie sticks and seeded crackers, or a mini wrap.
Stay well hydrated
Staying hydrated during the festive season is important for everyone, but particularly those of us with gut issues! Drinking enough water helps to keep our bowels functioning optimally and helps to replace losses with symptoms such as diarrhoea. Aim for 35-45ml/kg fluid per day, but use the colour of your urine as a guide (it should be pale/light in colour). See our tips on staying hydrated here
Exercise can start to drop off as the festive season kicks off, but it’s important to keep active to help with managing gut symptoms. Exercise also helps to manage stress levels, which can exacerbate symptoms. Choose a form of movement you enjoy and look for ways to increase your incidental exercise such as taking a lunch time walk!
Get enough sleep!
Similar to exercise, sleep seems to suffer when it comes to the festive season. Sleep plays an important role in our overall health, but particularly managing gut symptoms. Inadequate sleep can cause or exacerbate gut symptoms. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night. See our tips on eating for a better nights sleep here
Written by Amanda Smith, Accredited Practising Dietitian