Surviving the Christmas season when you have Digestive issues

Cosy fire

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New year can be one big nightmare for people who suffer from Gastritis, IBS and other digestive issues. With a mixture of the Stress leading up to each event, too much Sweet stuff, Alcohol and overindulgence, it’s no wonder that your Digestive system struggles to deal with it all.

A time that should be fun, spending quality time with friends and family ends up turning into an uncomfortable possibly painful time.

Many of us, including myself, often have good intentions heading towards Christmas, Although I have been healed for some time now, I know that if I overindulge too much then I will be setting myself up for problems again.

So I find the best way to deal with the holiday season is to plan well ahead. This helps with the stress and stops you from making too many wrong decisions on meals and snacks.

Plan your meals

Planning is key. Deciding what meals you are going to cook ahead of time will stop you from making bad choices, like grabbing a takeaway or overeating. So grab a planner and plan your whole week’s meals. This also helps with your food shop and stops you from buying all the impulse buys in the supermarket.

Food sense 

Stick to what you know – sticking to food that you know you tolerate well is hard to do this time of year, with so much delicious food everywhere! But keeping your meals the same as usual for most of the time will help you enjoy the festive period. Then decide which meals you are going to eat differently to treat yourself, without going too over the top.

Eat your usual breakfast – This is something I always try and do when there is a chance my diet may be different for the rest of the day. A good healthy breakfast like Oats, almond milk and fruits will line your stomach and stop you from getting too hungry later on, causing you to overindulge with the naughty things.

Eat smaller portions – It’s always a good idea to eat smaller portions if you have digestive issues like Gastritis but over the holiday season it’s even more important, especially if you are going to be eating foods you don’t normally eat. If you are going to friends or family for a meal, make sure to ask for a small portion and don’t be scared to ask if they can leave certain items off your plate.

Chew your food well – Chewing your food well is something that lots of people forget to do. Food should be almost of a paste-like consistency by the time it hits your stomach. There fore your digestive system doesn’t have to work so hard and food can be digested quicker.

It’s estimated that you should chew your food an average of 32 times before you swallow, depending on what you are eating.

Foods to avoid 

So much of the food around the festive season is rich and fatty and contains lots of sugar, and much of it is a recipe for disaster for Gastritis sufferers. So this is where the planning comes in handy to avoid just putting everything on your plate and hoping for the best.

Everyone is different with what they can tolerate and what they cant, but there are some tips that can help most people.

So if you can avoid the following you will be going a long to help your body cope.

Sugary desserts – I know they are hard to resist but rich, sugary desserts are hard on the stomach and if you can avoid them your body will thank you. I often bake some Gastritis friendly Banana bread and have this instead. I found the recipe in the Gastritis Healing book and it’s delicious.

Heavy creams – Christmas puddings, mince pies and delicious fruit pies aren’t the same without a dollop of something creamy but try replacing creams with low-fat Greek yoghurt or Crème Fraiche.

Fatty foods – Try and eat low-fat foods if possible. Things like Roast potatoes are a must with a Christmas dinner in our house, but I cut the potatoes quite large as they absorb much less fat this way.

Roasted vegetables – Again roasted vegetables absorb a lot of fat, so steamed or boiled vegetables are a much better alternative.

Watch your alcohol 

Even if you don’t normally drink alcohol it can be nice to enjoy a glass of fizz or a maybe glass of baileys on Christmas eve. Unfortunately, Alcohol and Gastritis don’t mix well and can end up making you feel unwell if you overindulge.

But if the temptation is too much and you want to have a tipple, remember to not have too much. One or two drinks may be ok for some but any more than that and you are asking for trouble.

The best alcoholic drinks for Gastritis tend to be tequila, Vodka and gin as they are less acidic. Just be careful what you mix with them though as things like Coke and tonic contain citric acid which should be avoided.

For more information on Alcohol and Gastritis, see my blog post here:- Missing Alcohol? What can I Drink with Gastritis?

Get out for a walk

Getting out for some fresh air and exercise quite often gets overlooked around the holiday season. Sitting by a roaring fire all cosy with some nibbles and a Christmas film often seems like a better idea. But get yourself and your family all wrapped up and head out for a nice stroll, you will feel so much better for it. It will also help your digestion, which can get a little sluggish when you are sitting around a lot. It will also help expel gas if you suffer from trapped wind.

Avoid constipation

Constipation can make you feel miserable and will only aggravate your other digestive issues. So it’s so important to avoid it becoming an issue.

It can be easy to forget about eating enough fibre over the festive season. I generally have a fibre rich cereal in the mornings and so I try to keep this routine.

For more tips on avoiding Constipation, see this post – 10 Gastritis friendly ways to Avoid Constipation

Don’t forget your supplements and medication

If you are lucky enough to go away for Christmas or Thanksgiving or you get invited around a family or friends for dinner, don’t forget to pack your medicines or supplements. It can sometimes be tempting to not bother with supplements when you are away, especially if they need preparing i.e slippery elm, which needs to be mixed with water etc. but if they help you at home you definitely should take them away with you, as your stomach is likely to need them even more than usual.

Take your own teabags

Many Gastritis sufferers cant drink Coffee or tea either, which can be difficult when staying with others as they won’t always have alternatives. I always carry a box of Camomile tea bags with me, then you never have to go without when everyone else is having a drink.

Woman holds cup of coffee or tea

Stay calm

Although not strictly food-related, Stress is a major contributor to digestive issues and for me, it’s been the reason I have had many a gastritis flare-up.

Thanksgiving and Christmas can be super stressful. It feels like the shops start advertising Christmas earlier and earlier every year, it’s enough to send you into a panic by the start of November that you need to get shopping for those presents.

I find doing my shopping online is so much easier, sit down with a list and a hot cup of camomile tea and let the shopping come to you.

Set a budget 

One of the main reasons people get stressed around the festive period is money. It can be a daunting time worrying about being able to afford all the presents your kids want. So the best way to make sure you aren’t spending more than you can afford is to discuss with your family how much you will be spending on each other. Especially with extended family, It can be fun to set a smaller budget like no more than £10 ($15) on each other, it makes you get more creative, perhaps even making something homemade.

Alternatively, do a secret Santa and then you will only need to buy a present for one person.

Write down a list of what you have bought, it can be far too easy to put things away in the cupboard when you buy them and then forget all the presents you have bought the family, ending up in you buying more presents.

Enjoy! 

Although all the food over the festive season is lovely, it’s not the most important thing. It can be hard to enjoy yourself if you have made bad choices and are now not feeling great. So do try and stick to a routine with meals, avoid stress and take your usual medication and supplements.

Spending time with your family, playing games, getting dressed up, all help you to stop dwelling on your digestive issues for a while. So enjoy yourself and make some precious memories.

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