Festive Cheer Minus IBS flare-ups

Enjoy Festive Cheer Minus IBS flare-ups

The Tummy Clinic | December 9th, 2022

Your quick guide to managing IBS with low FODMAP options, minimizing stress, and avoiding stacking.

The holidays are meant for joyful celebration with friends and family. However, IBS can often play spoilsport, leading to bloating, wind, abdominal discomfort and/or disturbances in bowel habits. The holiday season is generally accompanied by higher stress levels and higher consumption of rich foods and alcohol. But it needn’t be a time to suffer tummy trouble. Here are a few useful tips to keep IBS at bay as you stay merry and bright all season long…

Partying hard isn’t ideal

It’s a known fact that IBS symptoms can be triggered by stress and anxiety. Hence, it’s important to give yourself time to recover in between parties. Try not to over commit yourself; limit your social whirl. Schedule some quiet nights at home. On these days, eat balanced, low FODMAP meals, sip on lots of water, stay away from alcohol and also limit screen time so you can catch a restful sleep.

Eat up before you party

You cannot and should not miss out on the festive celebrations. But do yourself a favour and eat your regular meals and snacks before you attend them. Fact is, cocktail party food is generally high in fats and contain FODMAPs in sauces, and dips etc. Fill up with a light, low FODMAP meal that contains proteins, salad or vegetables, and starch. This will also reduce the chances of gorging on unhealthy party food at the big Christmas functions and dinners.

Go the low FODMAP way

Identify and eat more of the low FODMAP variety foods, while avoiding those that are high FODMAP or ones you aren’t sure about. Tuck into plain barbecued or roast meats, roasted vegetables and greens, salads (that don’t contain onion), fresh seafood, smoked salmon, cold meats, and sushi. Be mindful of gravies or stuffing if you’re not sure what they contain. Snacks like rice crackers, peanuts, as well as hard yellow cheeses, and olives can be enjoyed in moderation.

Drink moderately – if you must

There is no getting away from the fact that alcohol irritates the gut. With this in mind, you could try drinking alcohol only at alternate events – in between sip on sparkling water instead. It’s also recommended that you pair alcohol with low FODMAP foods, and choose water when low FODMAP options are unavailable.

Plan safe options

There are many delicious variations that are low in FODMAPs compared to the traditional festive fare. These include appetizers such as smoked salmon with cucumber, fingerling potatoes, or gluten-free blinis. Avoid bagels or bread. Choose lactose-free yogurt or sour cream. For entrées, try an Italian style antipasti plate – but don’t add garlic and also choose spelt sourdough bread over regular. A fresh seafood platter is also recommended. You can tweak traditional stuffing by using chunks of garlic and onion to infuse the oil or butter but removing them before serving. Also, opt for gluten-free bread or breadcrumbs.

Prep in advance

During the overly hectic festive season, it’s difficult to ensure you have low FODMAP options at hand. That’s why it makes sense to prepare and freeze low FODMAP meals in advance. To reduce the chances of buying high FODMAP snacks while you are out, carry along muesli bars, a savoury muffin or a sweet potato and feta frittata that you have stacked in your fridge.

Carry a low FODMAP share plate

At parties with friends and family, do take along a dish that is delicious yet won’t risk triggering IBS symptoms. Some safe options can include potato salad with green beans, grapefruit prawn salad, parmesan and thyme roasted parsnips, and roast pumpkin and haloumi salad. Low FODMAP needn’t mean boring!

Go slow on the caffeine

If you are sensitive to caffeine, reduce your coffee intake over the festive season. Instead opt for herbal teas.

Manage your stress

The holidays can be a very stressful time of year but it’s important to find ways to reduce stress and the risk of it triggering IBS symptoms. Some form of exercise is invaluable whether going for a walk, using the stairs, or choosing an online exercise option like Pilates or yoga that can be done at home itself. Calm your mind by learning to meditate; find an app that could help you. In case you find your stress levels increasing, do speak about it to a friend, family member, counsellor, or your regular GP to get the support you need.

Avoid FODMAP stacking

FODMAP stacking refers to two or more foods in low FODMAP portions, containing the same FODMAPs, at the same time thereby adding up in the gut before they cause symptoms. In order to avoid this, first of all do space out your meals leaving a gap of three to four hours between meals and snacks. Eat foods that are naturally low in FODMAPs such as rice, carrots, meat, fish and eggs. Have just one serving of fruit per meal, and limit your overall fruit intake to two servings a day. Avoid eating the same meal or foods constantly; instead, aim for a variety of different foods.

Relax and don’t panic

If you have accidentally eaten a few high FODMAP foods, don’t torture yourself over it. It will not undo all your hard work. If you do experience symptoms, take care of yourself, follow some self-care activities to reduce constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain or bloating, and begin on a clean slate the next day. Focus on enjoying this most wonderful time of the year with your loved ones – isn’t that what the holidays are all about!

IBS-friendly Food Replacements

With only a few days to go until Christmas, we’ve outlined some holiday food ingredients you can swap for low FODMAP options!

Replace onion (used in stuffing, soups, stews, and roasting trays) with chives, onion-infused oil, green leek tips or the green tips of spring onion. Use about 1 cup of diced green leek tips for 1 small onion.

Replace garlic (used in dips, soups, and seasonings) with garlic-infused oil, which is low FODMAP.

Replace bread (used in stuffing or puddings) with gluten-free bread or low FODMAP sourdough bread. Choose breads that do not contain high FODMAP ingredients.

Replace milk (used in sauces, mashed potatos, puddings, and baking) with lactose-free milk or a low FODMAP milk alternative
Replace all-purpose flour (used in sauces, baking and desserts) with a gluten-free all-purpose flour. You might need to add guar gum, xantham gum or a chia seed mixture to help the dessert or baking hold better.

Replace honey (used in glazing or as a sweetener) with maple syrup, rice malt syrup, sugar (white, brown, raw) or another low FODMAP sweetener.


Frequently Asked Questions

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. The cause is not well understood.

There is no definitive test to diagnose IBS. IBS is diagnosed after your doctor has reviewed your symptoms and occasionally ordered tests to rule out other conditions.

Visits at the Tummy Clinic are not covered by OHIP or your provincial health care system, however, most extended healthcare plans cover many aspects of the care you will receive here, such as visits to Naturopathic Doctors, Dietitians, Social Workers or Psychotherapists. Check your benefits package or contact your insurance company for more information.