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Festive Season – Tips For Managing Your Gut Symptoms

By Jo Cunningham

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The holiday season is full of delicious food, drinks, catching up with loved ones, and generally having a good time. However, if your gut is giving you grief and you’re constantly struggling with gut symptoms the idea of social events and endless eating can be tough!  

Here are some handy hints from the team at The Gut Health Clinic to help you enjoy the holiday season and keep your tummy happy.

  1. Whilst the festive season is a time for indulgence which may include sweets and chocolate, don’t forget about the fibre for your microbes too! Continue to aim for plant-based diversity if you’re having some time off work or out of your usual meal pattern. And don’t forget adequate hydration!
  1. Go easy on the booze! It can be a gut irritant, and sometimes so can the mixers we have. Try to space alcoholic drinks with a non-alcoholic alternative such as soda water with berries, kombucha or an alcohol free spirit. 
  1. Avoid skipping meals and keep to a normal routine of eating if possible.  “Saving space” for the main event (christmas dinner) is likely to lead you to over indulge which can worsen gut symptoms such as bloating.
  1. Some simple recipe switches can help reduce the FODMAP load and help minimise gut symptoms
    1. Try green leaves of leeks or spring onions rather than white or red onion
    2. Garlic infused oil is a great alternative to garlic
    3. Instead of honey roast carrots, try maple syrup roasted carrots
    4. If having a nut roast, switch out cashew and pistachio nuts for pine nuts, walnuts, macadamia or peanuts
  1. Consider limiting/having smaller portions of those highly fermentable carbohydrate foods (aka FODMAPs) such as brussels, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, savoy cabbage. Opt for veg such as carrots, green beans, broccoli (heads), and swede and enjoy the delicious turkey and roasties. 
  1. Remember to get some good quality sleep, as late nights (whether partying or watching those films) can disrupt your circadian rhythm which can impact our gut microbes. Plus being super tired can lead to overeating those starchy foods the following day for some which can contribute to that bloated feeling. 
  1. Keep moving! It’s super tempting to keep your PJ’s on and sit on the sofa all day, snuggling up to Christmas films, but get the legs moving and some fresh air, even if just for half an hour or so. This can really help your digestive system.  
  1. Plan ahead to minimise stress which can be a trigger for symptoms for some. Consider getting family/friends to be involved in meal prepping, and think in advance about how you may want to use up those delicious leftovers. Remember the gut-brain connection and make time for yourself doing whatever helps you relax, whether it is 10-20mins a day practicing mindfulness, yoga or unwinding with a warm bath.

Last but not least, enjoy the festive season, and see you in 2022!

Jo Cunningham is a gut specialist dietitian with in-depth clinical dietetic experience ranging across both NHS and private healthcare settings. Jo is experienced in helping clients to resolve gut symptoms including reflux, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. She also specialises in the management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and in the use of the low FODMAP diet.

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