The Christmas decorations are out on display, gatherings with friends, family members and work colleagues are filling up the calendar and there’s a whole lot of food involved, but what will you be able to eat if you have IBS and are sensitive to FODMAPs?
It might seem a little bit daunting heading into this busy time of the year when you have a sensitive gut and food intolerances, but with a good action plan in place, you can still enjoy Christmas without stressing about your gut flaring up. Here are some tips to successfully manage the festive season with IBS.
Baseline strategies to keep your gut happy
- Know your symptoms
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can look different for person to person depending on the symptoms experienced. IBS symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, wind, diarrhoea and constipation. It’s common to fluctuate between a combination of these, however, some people may find they err on the side of constipation (IBS-C) or diarrhoea (IBS-D).
Why does it matter? Knowing your symptoms is a good way to monitor how your gut is feeling before symptoms escalate into a full flare-up. As things get busier leading into Christmas, try checking with your body at the end of each day and rating your overall symptoms from 1-10 (1= negligible symptoms, 10= severe symptoms). If you start to notice a pattern or increase in symptoms, focus on one thing you can do help calm your gut more going forward (keep reading for ideas of these strategies).
Know your triggers
Similarly to the symptoms, the triggers of IBS can be different for everyone. For some, stress is a big trigger, for others, a poor night sleep can send their gut off track and of course, food or components of food (such as FODMAPs) can be big triggers of IBS symptoms. Learn what your main triggers are. If FODMAPs are one, knowing which FODMAP subgroups you are most sensitive to is important to prevent you from feeling overly and unnecessarily restricted. When you know what these are, it can make it much easier to limit them.
Take a mindful moment
There’s no denying the impact stress has on the gut. With such a busy time of the year, a lot of rushing around, organising and preparing for Christmas, it’s easy to drop the ball in relation to self-care and stress management. Try taking a ‘mindful’ moment each day. It could be a guided meditation, five minutes of deep breathing, checking in on your posture while sitting or paying attention to the smell, taste and texture of food when you eat.
Give your body some movement
Whether you like to go for a big gym session, a lighter yoga flow, a fast walk or a run – choose a form of movement you enjoy and plan time in your schedule to do it. Even a fifteen-minute walk can make a big difference. Light exercise can help to relieve stress and improve movement through the digestive tract (gut motility).
Staying adequately hydrated is of course incredibly important for our overall health, but particularly for gut health. This is especially important as the weather warms up in Australia around Christmas. It’s very common to experience a sluggish gut and constipation when you haven’t drunk enough water. On the flip side, if you experience loose and watery bowel motions, it’s still important to replenish your hydration levels by sipping on water.
If you struggle to remember to drink water, put a glass beside your bed at night to have first thing in the morning. This helps to get the ball rolling with hydration at the very start of your day. A great thing to try for something exciting is adding a cold infusion tea bag to your water to flavour it. You may even like to add some fresh lemon, lime or strawberries.