OMG you guys! It’s just over 2 weeks till Christmas! The holiday party season is in full swing and I thought some of you might benefit from my top tips on surviving the holidays with IBS. It might surprise some of you to know that I’ve got Irritable Bowel Syndrome. How ironic– the foodie who can’t eat! I’ve struggled with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss and feeling just plain awful– like many of you with IBS. One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to take good care of myself. I can’t always control IBS, but there’s a lot I can do to prevent it from showing up and ruining my party. Here are a few tips that work for me. I hope some of them help you!
Routine is Everything
Make eating healthy meals your routine and stick to it. Think of it like preparing for a marathon– you want to make it through the long run of Christmas parties, family gatherings and gift hunting in top shape. Making a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner your priority #1 gives you the best chance for preventing IBS flareups. No matter how busy life gets, set aside non negotiable time every Sunday for planning your weekly meals and grocery shopping. Save time by ordering your groceries online (you’d be surprised at how affordable it is).
Plan Your Indulgences
Throwing caution to the wind and binging on the fat and sugar-laden buffet at the office Christmas party is a great way to literally scare the crap out of your colon. Go to parties with a plan to enjoy one or two small indulgences and stick to it. Focus on really being present in the moment– it’s not just about the food– you can revel in a comforting hug from a good friend, feel the joy of Christmas music and enjoy time spent by the warm fire (rather than locked away by yourself in the bathroom).
The Pre Party Snack is Essential
When my IBS flares up I always switch to “the toast diet” until things settle down. Heather Can Vorous confirms what I know to be true about white starchy carbs (high in soluble fiber) in her book, The First Year IBS: an Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed. She writes, “Why is soluble fiber so special? Because unlike any other food category, it soothes and regulates the digestive tract, stabilizes the intestinal contractions…and normalizes bowel function from either extreme (constipation or diarrhea).” The pre party snack will help you to avoid binging at the big event but it will also minimize the irritation potential of your planned indulgence. I go for a piece of toast or some crackers.
Never Over Eat– EVER!
If you’ve got IBS you know what happens when you over eat– it’s not pretty! There’s no worse feeling than spending the whole night up sick in the bathroom, cursing yourself for gorging on the 8 course tasting menu at that special restaurant (remember that episode of Sex and the City with Charolotte and Harry?!). If this has ever happened to you keep that image in your mind and ask yourself, “Is this worth it?” One super effective practice I’ve adopted in restaurants is to plan to eat just half my plate and stop. If I’m still hungry I’ll eat more, but most often that’s all I need and I can still enjoy a bit of dessert.
Always Have Water on Hand
Staying hydrated plays a big role in your gut health, so make an effort to drink plenty of water throughout the day. This will help everything move through the gut more normally and prevent bloating. Keep a bottle of water on your desk and one in your purse for the evening out on the town. Make sure it’s still water and not sparkling, because carbonation is a no-no for IBS.
Bonus Tip: Get on a Probiotic ASAP!
I believe probiotics are an IBS sufferer’s best friend, especially if you suffer from bloating and gas. These friendly bacteria are available in pill form (look for one with at least 15 billion organisms per dose). Some probiotics must be refrigerated but I prefer pills that don’t need to be stored chilled so I can keep them in my purse. Just like the live cultures found in yogurt, they populate your intestine with good bacteria that help you digest food and promote gut health. Second to eating a healthy diet, probiotics have made a huge difference in reducing my IBS symptoms.
What are your tips on surviving the holidays with IBS? Let us know in the comments section.