How to manage your IBS during the end-of-year festivities

Year-end functions can be a nightmare for those who suffer from IBS.
Year-end functions can be a nightmare for those who suffer from IBS.

November draws us closer to the end of the year with all its functions and festivities. For someone who suffers from IBS, this can be a nightmare – being surrounded by tempting foods that might trigger your symptoms, and not knowing when they might flare up.

You might also be planning your December holiday, and worrying about being out of your comfort zone.  

Luckily there are some practical ways to cope with the challenges of the festivities, and manage your symptoms:

1. Know your enemy

Many of those who suffer from IBS benefit from a low-FODMAP diet, but that doesn’t mean that all foods on the list are off limits. There may be certain foods that only occasionally trigger your symptoms, such as processed foods, cruciferous vegetables or alcoholic beverages. Learn to recognise which foods are most likely to cause a flare-up.

2. Plan ahead

Whether you are facing a function, visiting family or a holidaying at an unknown destination, planning can make things easier. If you are attending a party without knowing what food options there will be, eat a small meal beforehand so that you won’t be famished and tempted to eat foods that might trigger your IBS symptoms. If you are going away, research restaurant and hotel options beforehand.

3. Talk to your doctor

If you know what symptoms get you down (such as bloating, diarrhoea or constipation), discuss a treatment plan with your doctor. Medication can provide peace of mind and help alleviate your symptoms.

Keep emergency supplies at hand

Whether it’s medication, IBS-friendly food options, extra underwear or a spare set of clothes, an emergency stash, whether on board of a flight or in a car, can provide peace of mind.  

5. Eat mindfully

It’s tempting to give in to temptation, but try to avoid foods high in saturated fat, sodium and sugar as this might trigger symptoms. Alcohol is also a big culprit. Develop a strategy to help you cope when you are tempted – move away from the food, chew a piece of gum, make conversation or sip water. Eat small meals during the day to avoid bloating and stomach cramps. 

6. Manage your stress

Deadlines, financial pressure, an upcoming holiday or simply the thought of another year gone by can cause turmoil. Stress is a known trigger of IBS symptoms, and while you can’t avoid daily responsibilities, you can learn how to cope. Make time to breathe and relax, plan deadlines beforehand and make sure you have some degree of control over the situation.

7. Take charge

Whether there is an office party or a Christmas function coming up, you can get involved – by offering to help with the catering or to bring some of your own dishes or snacks. That way you can ensure that there will be IBS-safe foods for you to enjoy.

8. Try probiotics

Research suggests that probiotics can help alleviate IBS symptoms. If you are not yet taking a probiotic, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your options.

Image credit: iStock

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