How to Celebrate the Holidays When You Have a FODMAP Intolerance
Celebrate – with food
Holiday celebrations are very much centered around food and it is easy to feel isolated when you have an intolerance to FODMAPs that requires avoiding certain foods.
Some people decide to be as vigilant as possible and end up missing out on partaking of dishes at family gatherings or holiday parties for fear they might trigger symptoms. Others may go the opposite way and just eat anything and everything that is presented to them, but then have to pay the consequences.
There can be a happy medium between completely depriving yourself of holiday treats and going all off only to suffer later. It’s important to remember that, while it is understandable to want to manage symptoms as much as possible, it is ok to indulge in a few treats at this time of the year and participate in celebrations.
As the effect of FODMAPs is cumulative, the best strategy is to keep your “tank” as FODMAP empty as possible before a holiday meal, so that, even if you have a serving or two of high-FODMAP foods, the repercussions on your GI system will be minimized.
At this time of the year, I also like to remind my clients that going “off” their schedule or diet plan won’t undo what they have done so far. There is no “starting over” just “picking up where you left off”.
If you eat high-FODMAP foods – whether they trigger symptoms or not – just go back to eating low-FODMAP for a few days until you feel better; even if you did not have serious symptoms, this “washout” period will ensure there are no cumulative effects once you re-start the re-challenge or go back to your personalized FODMAP diet.
Celebrate – with friends and family
Holidays are not just about celebrating with food (although that is an important and enjoyable part of it). They are also a time we reserve to enjoy the company of family and friends. Try to focus on the activities that give you joy at this time of the year.
Do you look forward to going to the ice-skating ring with your nephews and nieces? Decorating your house to feel the holiday spirit? Wrapping up presents and writing greeting cards with messages of thankfulness and love? The list could go on but you get the idea.
And this is a time when most of us take some time off work and may have more time to ourselves. If that’s true, indulge in some rest and relaxation. Do you enjoy cuddling up with a cup of hot cocoa (see my Spiced Hot Cocoa recipe below) and a good book in front of a fireplace?
Watching classic holiday movies that put you in a good mood? Taking an extra-long restorative yoga class (by the way, there is research showing that yoga helps to manage IBS symptoms)? Bundling up for a long walk by the beach on a sunny winter day? Sleeping in more?
And don’t forget to…Exercise and Sleep
It is well known that exercise and adequate sleep relieve stress and improve mood. The holidays can be stressful and busy and, in spite of time off work, we may find ourselves skipping our regular exercise or staying up later than usual and getting less sleep.
Stress can worsen IBS symptoms even when you are not eating anything that might trigger them.
Be mindful of this and try to find ways to get in a 10-minute exercise session here and there (no need for a full hour at the gym if you don’t have the time for it – you can split it up in small increments) and make adjustments to your schedule so you can get some extra sleep.
Spiced Hot Cocoa
2 cups lactose-free milk or almond milk
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (14 g)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, according to taste
A smidge of cayenne pepper (optional, if you like it and tolerate it)
1. In a small saucepan, warm up the milk over medium-low heat.
2. Add the cornstarch, cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, salt, and spices.
3. Whisk until well blended and continue to heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture starts to thicken.
4. While the cocoa is heating, pour boiling water into 2 cups to warm them up. When the cocoa is ready, empty the cups and pour the hot cocoa. Enjoy!
Yield: 2 (8-oz) servings
Variation: you can omit the spices for traditional hot cocoa.