As we prepare to celebrate another holiday season, most people are looking forward to spending time with friends and family, and—of course—some festive foods. But for anyone who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the thought of holiday parties and themed treats can be intimidating.
“Managing ordinary meals can be challenging enough for anyone with IBS, but it’s especially difficult during the holidays, when much of the focus of a celebration is on food,” explains Thomas McKenna, MD, gastroenterologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
And food isn’t the only trigger. Added stress, whether it’s over attending a party or the hassles of travel for a long weekend, can also affect IBS symptoms.
Fortunately, IBS doesn’t mean you have to enjoy celebrations from the sidelines. Below, Dr. McKenna offers tips for how you can prevent or control IBS symptoms and enjoy summer parties.
Many people are embarrassed to tell others about their IBS, but if you’re headed to a party with a host who doesn’t know about your condition, call them ahead of time to let them know about your dietary restrictions. If you don’t feel comfortable telling your host that you have IBS, tell them that you can’t or shouldn’t eat certain foods, or choose to skip the party. There’s nothing wrong with opting out if you don’t feel completely comfortable.
Chances are you’ll never be at a loss for alcohol at parties, but don’t use it as an excuse to indulge. Alcohol is a strong irritant, and just one drink can trigger an IBS attack. If you do decide to have a drink, drink a glass of water with it, as well. This can help prevent dehydration, which can affect constipation and bloating.
Pay attention to your triggers
During the holidays, it’s easy to get carried away. Pay attention to your triggers, and write down what you are doing, eating, or thinking when your symptoms worsen. Take note of any patterns, and do your best to avoid situations like this in the future. If you are having trouble resisting a specific trigger food, allow yourself a very small portion.
Wear comfortable clothes
If you suspect you might feel bloated or experience gas pain, make sure you’re wearing loose-fitting, comfortable outfits. Find something you feel comfortable and confident in, so you’re more likely to wear it.
Take a walk
After you’re finished eating, take a short walk to help aid digestion.
Although IBS can affect anyone, more than half of those suffering from it are women. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, approximately 60 to 65 percent of those who report IBS symptoms are female. Keep an eye out for symptoms like persistent cramping, pain, bloating, gas, or diarrhea and talk to your doctor about your discomfort.