Navigating the Holidays with IBS: Tips for Managing Triggers and Stress

Medically Reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD PhD

The holiday season can be a challenging time for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). With the potential for stress, changes in routine, and exposure to trigger foods, it can be difficult to manage IBS symptoms and enjoy the holidays without letting the condition get in the way. However, with some planning and preparation, it is possible to navigate the holidays with IBS and have a happy and symptom-free season.

Plan Ahead

The key to managing IBS during the holidays is to plan ahead. This means making decisions about what events to attend, what foods to eat, and how to manage stress in advance. By planning ahead, you can avoid last-minute decisions that may lead to IBS flare-ups.

For example, if you know that large holiday gatherings are triggering your IBS symptoms, you can plan to attend only a few events and to bring your own IBS-friendly dishes to share. If you know that holiday stress is a trigger for your symptoms, you can plan to incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine, such as meditation or deep breathing. By planning ahead, you can avoid surprises and manage your IBS symptoms more effectively.

Be Realistic

It's important to be realistic about what you can and can't do during the holidays. This means setting boundaries and being honest with yourself and others about what activities and situations may be difficult for you. By being realistic, you can avoid overdoing it and triggering IBS symptoms.

For example, if you know that staying up late and attending multiple events in a single day are triggers for your IBS symptoms, you can plan to attend only a few events and to prioritize rest and relaxation. If you know that certain foods are triggers for your symptoms, you can avoid them or plan to bring your own IBS-friendly dishes to share at holiday gatherings. By being realistic and setting boundaries, you can avoid overwhelming yourself and triggering IBS symptoms.


Stick to Your Routine

As much as possible, try to stick to your usual routine during the holidays. This means keeping up with your regular exercise routine, getting enough sleep, and sticking to your usual IBS-friendly diet. By maintaining a regular routine, you can help prevent IBS flare-ups.

For example, if you usually exercise for 30 minutes every day, try to continue this routine during the holidays. If you usually eat a low FODMAP diet, try to stick to this diet as much as possible, even at holiday gatherings. By maintaining a regular routine, you can help keep your symptoms under control and prevent IBS flare-ups.


Manage Stress

The holidays can be a stressful time, and stress can be a trigger for IBS symptoms. To manage stress, try to incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine, such as meditation, deep breathing, or exercise. You can also try to limit your exposure to stress by avoiding overbooking yourself and setting aside time for self-care.

For example, if you know that holiday shopping is a source of stress for you, try to do as much shopping online as possible and avoid crowded malls and stores. If you know that hosting holiday gatherings is stressful, consider hiring a catering service or asking others to help with the planning and preparation. By managing stress, you can help prevent IBS flare-ups and enjoy the holidays without letting your symptoms get in the way.

Avoid Trigger Foods

One of the biggest challenges of the holiday season is dealing with trigger foods. To avoid triggering IBS symptoms, be mindful of what you eat and avoid foods that you know are problematic for you. If you're attending a holiday gathering, try to bring your own IBS-friendly dishes to share, or ask the host if they can accommodate your dietary needs.

For example, if you know that high-fat foods are a trigger for your IBS symptoms, try to avoid dishes that are heavy on butter, cream, and other high-fat ingredients. If you know that spicy foods are a trigger for your symptoms, avoid dishes that are heavily spiced or that contain spicy ingredients, such as chili peppers or hot sauce. By avoiding trigger foods, you can help prevent IBS flare-ups and enjoy the holidays without letting your symptoms get in the way.

In conclusion, the holiday season can be a challenging time for people with IBS. However, with some planning and preparation, it is possible to manage IBS symptoms and enjoy the holidays without letting the condition get in the way.

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Onikepe Adegbola MD PhD is a board-certified physician who founded casadesante.com, a digital gut health platform for gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, IBD, SIBO and celiac disease.

 




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