How to avoid IBS flare-up over the festive period

By Susie Willsher | December 17th, 2020 | Digestive Disorders, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

We definitely all need cheering up after the challenging year we’ve been through. So Christmas treats are in order! But if you suffer with IBS, Christmas can be challenging  because eating foods you don’t usually eat or having a blowout might mean having to deal with the consequences for the following days/weeks. Gas, bloating, brain-fog, pain, constipation and diarrhoea are all symptoms which could bring a downer on our festive celebrations. So I am going to share a few tips on how and what you can eat to help you feel good over the holidays and avoid an IBS attack.

Things You Can Do To Reduce The Risk Of a Flare-Up

One of the best parts of Christmas is the big traditional meal – so let’s do it right!

  • A little planning goes a long way – plan meals with foods you know won’t cause your symptoms to flare-up and do your shopping in advance so you don’t get caught out.
  • Have your meal earlier rather than later – our digestion works in-sync with our body clock so we digest our food much better earlier in the day and our digestion slows later. So a big lunch is much better than a big dinner and we will be less likely to get gas and bloating.
  • Don’t over eat – I know it’s part of that Christmas feeling but if you suffer from IBS, over-eating can set off the full spectrum of symptoms; cramps, urgency, bloating. And that is no fun. Eat until you’re 80% full and save the rest for the delicious leftover meals to come.
  • Chew your food well, this will help with digestion and because it slows how quickly you eat it, it might help you to eat less too.
  • Take a walk – it’s so tempting to stay in your PJ’s all day and not leave the house on Christmas day but if you go for a walk this will help with digestion and circulation which is import to avoid constipation and keep the bowel working.
  • Drink plenty of water – this is essential, particularly if you drink alcohol because dehydration can cause constipation, cramps, and water is so important for helping our body flush out toxins. Herbal-teas count so you could treat yourself to some of the wonderful christmassy teas out there, fennel, peppermint and camomile are wonderful for helping with gut symptoms.

What to Eat

Unfortunately there are some classic Christmas favourites that are a minefield for those of us with digestive problems:

  • Sprouts – oh how I love sprouts, but you know the consequences of too many, even for people with no digestive issues. If you suffer with IBS or SIBO sadly I would suggest you avoid the sprouts until you have addressed your gut problems, because they are high in FODMAP’s.
  • Christmas cake/pudding/mince pies – unfortunately these too can wreak havoc with your gut if you suffer from gas and bloating. They contain a lot of dried fruit and dried fruit contains a lot of fructose and some people can only process a small amount and too much can set off gas, bloating and pain – so only have a small piece or one mince pie.

Foods To Go For

  • Turkey, carrots, potatoes, parsnip, chestnuts, clementines, all of these are low in FODMAP’s and full of nutrients.
  • If you can tolerate a little dairy, a traditional trifle might be a good option and if you make it fresh you can use dairy alternatives for the custard and cream. If you make a jelly trifle, good quality gelatine can actually be very beneficial for our gut.
  • If you are partial to the cheese and crackers and you can digest a little lactose (diary) go for gluten free oat crackers and choose harder cheeses and those made with goat and sheep milk which contain less lactose. Traditional cheeses made from non-pasteurised milk actually contain bacteria that be good for your gut too.
  • Some good news is that dark chocolate is low in FODMAP’s so it could be the time to get some of the good stuff.


Two supplements that are also good to keep to hand over this period are some probiotics and plant source digestive enzymes. You can start taking a multi strain probiotic now until after the holidays. And the enzymes are taken with main meals when needed and can help support digestion and reduce constipation, gas and bloating.

Happy holidays enjoy the festivities or just take a much needed rest.

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About Susie Willsher

How to avoid IBS flare-up over the festive period
Susie Willsher is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, with a BSc (Hons) degree in Nutritional Therapy and over 12 years clinical experience. Susie specialises in digestive health and the microbiome and helps people to take back control of their gut health. By reduce their symptoms, improving energy levels, she helps people enjoy food again by getting to the root of the problem. Susie is registered with the British Association of Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

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