How I Can Deal With my IBS This Holiday Season
If you have IBS, the holidays may not necessarily be the most wonderful time of the year. From large meals to added stress, many aspects of Christmas can worsen your symptoms.
What is IBS?
IBS is short for irritable bowel syndrome – a disorder that affects the large intestine (colon or large bowel). It can cause ongoing symptoms that range from mild to debilitating.
What are its symptoms?
The following are some common symptoms of IBS:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort, which is usually somewhat relieved by having a bowel movement
- Alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation
- Excess gas
- Clear or white mucus in the stool
These symptoms can flare up at certain times and also go through periods where they disappear.
How is IBS diagnosed?
Doctors will generally diagnose IBS if you have two out of these three symptoms:
- A bowel movement relieves your pain at least partially
- A change in the frequency of your bowel movements
- Your bowel movements look different
What are some habits that can make the holiday season easier if you have IBS?
While IBS can be inconvenient, painful, and even embarrassing, the good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your symptoms. The following tips can help reduce your IBS symptoms over the holiday season:
- Know your triggers: Notice what foods tend to trigger your symptoms and avoid these at holiday meals.
- Avoid big meals: Avoid eating too much food at once, especially if the spread is made up of rich holiday fare.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Coffee in particular can cause issues. Instead of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, drink a lot of water.
- Ask what’s in dishes: If you’re sensitive to certain ingredients, ask the person who cooked the meal about what it contains.
- Make healthy substitutions: Find healthier substitutes for your favorite recipes and dishes. These can include using olive oil instead of butter, substituting fat-free or no-fat cookies and crackers (such as ginger snaps or graham crackers) for high-fat versions of these treats, and choosing broth-based soups with lots of veggies instead of cream-based soups.
- Get moving: Try to stand up and walk around a bit after you eat. Even walking around the block can help ease stress and improve your symptoms.
- Take precautions when traveling: If you’re traveling over the holidays, make sure you have easy access to bathrooms. Pick an aisle seat if you’re flying, and make frequent pit stops if you’re driving.
In addition, the holidays can be a stressful time, so you should find ways to reduce stress, which can make IBS symptoms flare up. Make sure you get enough sleep and ask for help with shopping, cooking, and other obligations if you need it. It also helps to find ways to reduce stress, such as taking a walk or enjoying a relaxing bath. Techniques such as meditation or acupuncture are also helpful for some people.
If you have any symptoms that could indicate you have IBS or have already been diagnosed with this condition, make an appointment today with Gotham Medical Associates in NYC. Our physicians and dietitians specialize in treating conditions such as IBS in an effective, compassionate manner.