Thanksgiving will be here soon with all the celebration, family time, travel, and, of course, the indulgent meal. For someone with IBS, this can be a challenge. That’s because of the large portion sizes, the alcoholic beverages, the many courses in the typical Thanksgiving meal, and the presence of FODMAPs in some of the traditional dishes. All these may trigger gut symptoms such as uncomfortable bloating and gas, abdominal pain, and irregular bowel movements. However, it doesn’t have to be this way! Let’s explore how you can enjoy Thanksgiving without having to “pay for it” with gut symptoms.
5 Tips to Enjoy Thanksgiving When You Have IBS
1. Don’t skip meals
It is common practice to “save room” for the big meal by skipping breakfast and/or lunch before the holiday meal. If you arrive at the Thanksgiving table starving, however, you are more likely to eat a larger amount of food than you normally would. As a result, you may get bloated and experience other gut symptoms.
In order to avoid this, make sure to have a good breakfast. And, if needed, a light lunch or filling snack before the Thanksgiving meal. It will be more likely you can enjoy moderate-size portions of your favorite holiday items without overdoing it.
2. Keep your FODMAP intake low
Plan your meals earlier in the day to include mostly low-FODMAP foods. This will allow you to avoid filling up your FODMAP “bucket” and go over your personal threshold for FODMAPs. For instance, oatmeal with low-FODMAP fruit and/or nuts and a lactose-free yogurt, or scrambled eggs with veggies and sourdough toast are excellent ways to have a nutritious, filling breakfast without filling up on FODMAPs. Check out the Monash FODMAP App for the most up-to-date information on FODMAPs in foods.
As a result, you will have more room for high-FODMAP ingredients to splurge on in the Thanksgiving meal. And you will be less likely to experience gut symptoms.
3. Choose your “splurge”
Choose your favorite high-FODMAP dish you get to eat only at this time of the year and enjoy it! For example, you can have mashed potatoes or ice cream all year long. But there may be a dish – perhaps apple pie, or stuffing, etc. – you don’t get to enjoy often. Therefore, prioritize that dish over other high-FODMAP items.
4. Take a breath
This is also a good time to remember that food is not the only trigger for IBS symptoms. Stress is a major one as well. For many, the holidays can be hectic and stressful. In addition, the mere fact that you are eating foods that you didn’t prepare yourself, or the fear they might trigger an IBS flare, can create anxiety.
To minimize this, take a few deep breaths before the meal to set your body into a “rest and digest” mode. This will decrease any anxiety you may be having around eating the holiday meal for fear of symptoms. Moreover, relaxing and enjoying the meal without worry can greatly decrease the chance of experiencing gut symptoms.
5. Enjoy yourself!
On that note, remember what is most important to you during this Thanksgiving holiday. Is it the time you get to spend with your family, or the opportunity to take time off, etc.? Enjoy the celebration and your time with friends and family rather than obsessing about the food. Keep a positive mindset and be kind to yourself. As a result, you will be less likely to experience symptoms even if you eat some of your trigger foods.
In conclusion, although the classic Thanksgiving meal could potentially trigger an IBS flare, it doesn’t have to! Paying attention to portion sizes and to other foods you may eat on the same day, as well as finding ways to de-stress and enjoy the holiday can make it so you can celebrate Thanksgiving without upsetting your tummy.
If you need help with finding relief from your IBS symptoms or figuring out what your triggers are, I can help!