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Written by Julie Thompson RD, Specialist Gastroenterology Dietitian at Calm Gut Clinic, Lancashire, United Kingdom.
The holiday season is very much a time when food takes a central role. Many with food intolerances must navigate through this period. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be wondering if it’s possible to have a great time, and still have seasonal treats? Symptoms are also driven by eating behaviour and other lifestyle factors, which can affect how your IBS acts. You might be anticipating a season eating nothing but plain food – well, look no further, this post will help prevent you having a Dickensian holiday only eating gruel!
- Planning is important, know your limits too. Scenes on TV cookery shows promote the domestic goddess, don't forget, all those well-choreographed scenes take time and likely months of planning too. So, don't try to live up to this myth of being able to manage it all, you will only end up exhausted. You could have a Jacobs join - were everyone brings a different part of the dish. Or you could ask people to bring dishes from around the world and think of others. It really doesn't have to be a traditional day - make new traditions!
- When it comes to the day itself, ensure you eat regularly - leaving hours between meals will not help symptoms, plan to have a light breakfast before your Christmas lunch - this doesn't mean grazing all day, either. Manage your portion sizes - use a smaller plate if you like your plate full and you will be just as satisfied!
- If you are following the Low FODMAP diet on the day, turkey, carrots, parsnips and potatoes, are suitable. You may also manage 3-4 Brussel sprouts, if the meal is otherwise Low FODMAP.
- Use stock from cooking the turkey and spoon or pour off the fat that settles on the top, thicken with corn flour to make a nice gut-friendly gravy. Or you could buy a Low FODMAP gravy and use that instead.
- For an easy stuffing, use sausage meat (gluten and onion free, do check) or chicken livers, add plenty of gluten free breadcrumbs and herbs to flavour.
- For pudding, perhaps consider a gluten free ginger sponge with lactose free custard instead of a traditional Christmas pudding.
- Family dynamics can be a source of conflict during the season, this can lead to arguments in the period leading up to Christmas and especially on the day itself. Arguments at mealtimes are not advisable, this will do nothing to help your digestion. Arguments cause your body to produce adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, this is a response to conflict. Your body is therefore NOT concentrating on digesting lunch. So, you might need to be assertive and lay down some ground rules, so that the meal can be enjoyed with pleasure.
- Yes, Christmas is a time for thinking of others, but not at the expense of experiencing anxiety at not being able to live up to your idea of their expectations. Tell people in advance what you can manage, you may find that people are relieved that they don't have to meet these expectations either.
- Stick to your tolerated foods before the day, so if you accidently eat something causing symptoms (or plan to – yes, symptoms are not pleasant - but remember they will not cause long term digestive system damage), you possibly won't have as severe symptoms as you would have with eating as you please.
- Alcohol is a digestive tract stimulant and dreaded hangover symptoms commonly affect the gut. Drink plenty of fluids through the day - a least six to eight cups of non-carbonated drinks and if you do drink alcohol, match every alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic one - this will mean you drink less and stay hydrated at the same time. IBS health advice is to limit alcohol to no more than 1-2 units consumed with food, avoiding rum and dessert wine which are high FODMAP.
Most of all have a happy Christmas and I hope your gut gives you peace in the New Year!
If you do enjoy cooking, then check out my website and blog for seasonal recipes – www.calmgutclinic.co.uk. You might find Julie's book useful to learn more about diets to help calm your gut https://amzn.to/2UxomCP.Link to book on Amazon Australia: https://amzn.to/2L95gyz