Christmas is certainly going to be very different this year. Whether you are staying at home, or visiting family in your support bubble, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself.

To help you manage your IBS over the festive period, Mike Lawrence, talking therapies expert and medical adviser to The IBS Network, has this advice.

Christmas is often a difficult time for people living with IBS. Eating less healthily can wreak havoc on our digestive systems. Then there’s the temptation to indulge in more alcohol, as well as lack of sleep, less exercise and the stress of wondering how to pay for everything in the new year. This year, there’s also the added stress and anxiety of the pandemic. 

Try to identify your triggers

It’s important to try to identify which foods trigger your IBS symptoms. Once you’ve identified your triggers, you’ll be able to better control your food consumption. An awareness of the causes means that you can try and prevent, or be aware, that symptoms may be worse around the festive season.

Make informed food and alcohol choices

How many times have you heard yourself saying, ‘It’s Christmas, one more isn’t going to hurt me’?

It’s easy to give in to temptation, so before you do, consider, is it worth the risk and ask yourself if you’re prepared to suffer the consequences that generally follow.

You’ll need to accept that other people will be eating and drinking in quantities that you can’t. If you do choose to drink alcohol, the best strategy is only to drink while you’re eating food because this helps to cushion the effects.

If you take action and actively choose to avoid certain foods and manage your drinks, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the day more.

Remove Christmas stress from the menu

Many of us find Christmas an extremely stressful time of year, with immense pressure to spend money on presents, buy more food and spend time with relatives and family who might drive you crazy. This year, there’s stress around the virus, and deciding with whom you will be spending Christmas.

And when you add to this your worry about triggering your IBS by eating the wrong food, or drinking just a little too much, when you are already feeling a little anxious, Christmas can become even more stressful.

Recognising this and taking appropriate steps to manage stress, is often a good starting point.

You’ll probably know if that’s the case for you, but nevertheless, managing your stress levels over Christmas can go a long way to keeping your IBS symptoms in check.

Exercise for a healthy festive regime

There’s no excuse. Don’t allow the festivities to put the brakes on your exercise and fitness routine. I admit, it can be hard to get excited about the prospect of venturing out in the snow, cold, shorter days and long, gloomy nights. But try to stick to a proactive exercise regime such as walking or cycling.

Develop your physical and emotional wellbeing

IBS can be painful and debilitating. It can soon become a vicious cycle as the pain of IBS can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and a sense of being overwhelmed, which can, in turn aggravate your symptoms.

It is essential to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. These are excellent ways of reducing tension and may help to improve both physical and emotional wellbeing during the festive season.