Keeping Your Digestive System Happy During the Holidays: Tips to Prevent Unhealthy Habits

The holiday season is a time for celebration, but for those with digestive diseases and disorders, it can be stressful. Holiday-related excitement and drastic dietary changes can intensify symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcers, and other gastrointestinal problems since it can intensify their symptoms. This time of year should be relaxing, fun, and enjoyable with friends and family. Still, people experience higher stress levels along with poor diet decisions that can negatively affect their digestive system. 

In this post, we explain how overeating unhealthy holiday food, surviving overcrowded airports and roads, and enduring holiday stress can initiate digestive issues. In addition, we’ll share 5 efficient ways to ease stress and help you enjoy the holiday season. 

Why Are Digestive Issues More Common During the Holidays?

Overindulging during the holiday season will most likely lead to gastrointestinal flare-ups and displeasure. But overeating is not the only reason for stomach and digestive problems. 

Various components influence digestive issues throughout the holiday season, including:

  • Stressing during traveling 
  • Enhanced emotions during the holidays lead to anxiety and stress, resulting in unhealthy eating patterns
  • Consuming drinks with alcohol and carbonation can cause digestive flare-ups and discomfort
  • Overindulging can lead to bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Eating foods that you are sensitive to or that are difficult to digest
  • Devouring food that is high in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar, making it harder to digest or leading to weight gain
  • Altering your regular eating pattern or trying new foods

5 Easy Ways to Avoid Holiday GI Flare-Ups

Every individual has different triggers for their IBS, IBD, ulcer, or GI symptoms, including:

  • Lifestyle 
  • Specific foods
  • Stress
  • Certain medications

If you haven’t done so already, talk to your physician and construct a plan to avoid these triggers during the holidays. 

Keeping Your Digestive System Happy During the Holidays: Tips to Prevent Unhealthy Habits

1. Change Your Daily Routine

The following lifestyle changes help reduce the symptoms of IBS, IBD, and other GI issues over time:

  • Eliminating caffeine
  • Eating fibrous foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Drinking at least one liter of water each day
  • Giving up smoking
  • Allotting time for relaxation
  • Getting enough sleep

Sleep is vital to reducing stress and maintaining a properly functioning digestive system during the holiday season. Even if your holiday to-do list is packed with holiday tasks, such as baking and wrapping gifts, getting enough sleep is more important.

2. Stay Away From Certain Foods

Holiday meals are hard to refuse. But by staying disciplined, your GI issues will remain dormant, and you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays with your family and friends. 

Meals that are high in fat, greasy, or include fried foods may provoke symptoms of abdominal cramps and diarrhea that can aggravate IBS and IBD symptoms. Foods and beverages containing caffeine, spicy ingredients, and certain sugars that are not absorbed by the bowel may result in cramping or diarrhea. These sugars include :

  • Sorbitol, commonly used as a sweetener in many dietetic foods, candies, and gums
  • Fructose, also used as a sweetener and found naturally in honey as well as some fruits

Overeating gas-producing food may cause increased gaseousness. This is particularly true with IBS since it can be associated with bloating and retention of gas. Gas producing foods include:

  • Legumes (like peas, peanuts, soybeans)
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Raisins
  • Bagels
  • Cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli

Furthermore, milk and dairy-based foods like ice cream can also cause problems, as some people are unable to digest milk or milk products (lactose intolerance), as they may experience symptoms similar to IBS. Lactase pills often provide relief in some cases. 

3. Relax

Keeping Your Digestive System Happy During the Holidays: Tips to Prevent Unhealthy Habits

Many people with IBD and IBS report that stress makes their symptoms worse. Relaxation techniques and mind/body exercises, such as tai chi, yoga, and meditation may help, especially when combined with other forms of treatment.

Holiday shopping can heighten stress levels, whether you shop at the mall or online. If holiday traveling increases your stress level, plan out your holiday, and pack for peace of mind. Consider your destination and what you need to make the trip enjoyable. Where are the nearest bathroom locations? Will the trip be long, and will you need to bring snacks that you can easily digest?

Make sure you pack everything you need in advance if you are staying at a hotel with family, including healthy beverages and snacks to ease stress and minimize your chances of digestive symptoms. 

4. Get Physical

An active lifestyle is important for reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Taking long naps or sitting back to watch a big game can be tempting. But, that can lead to digestive distress and discomfort. Your chances of experiencing heartburn, acid reflux, and gastrointestinal issues increase when you lie down or slouch in a chair for an extended period.

After eating, you should stand up and walk around to avoid problems. Physical activity improves GI symptoms in people with IBS. A brisk walk around the block may be just what the doctor ordered — and the exercise may help alleviate stress.

5. Take Your Meds

Things can get hectic during the holidays, which makes it hard to remember to take your medications. However, it’s essential to maintain treatments that keep your symptoms under control in day-to-day life when you are in stressful conditions. Set up reminders on your cell phone or in a journal, so that you don’t forget to take them during the excitement of the holidays.

Getting enough rest will significantly reduce holiday stress and help keep your digestive system functioning properly. Don’t sacrifice sleep, no matter how tempted you are to check off every item on your to-do list — from wrapping to baking to decorating.

If you would like to learn more about how to reduce or prevent common symptoms of IBS, IBD, or other GI disorders, please feel free to contact us.