• Masarat Jilani

Don’t go cold turkey this Thanksgiving: tips to survive with IBS

Thanksgiving should be an exciting time to celebrate with family and feast on traditional delights. But with IBS, things are often not so idyllic. Whether it is having to refuse the green bean casserole or avoid the otherwise tantalising turkey- holiday time can become a lot more stressful with an irritable bowel.

For some people, IBS can make Thanksgiving a very punishing experience. The enjoyment of food is reduced and this can make you feel isolated from family and friends who do not understand the problem. That isolation can breed more stress leaving your IBS to completely take over.

But it doesn’t have to be that way and hopefully, these tips can help!

Top tips to survive Thanksgiving

In fact, rather than just surviving Thanksgiving- we want you to thrive!

1. It’s ok to say no

No one wants to appear rude when loved ones are offering delicious Thanksgiving treats. But if you have an irritable bowel - it’s nothing personal - it’s ok to politely decline a known trigger food or to stop eating when you feel full. Overloading an IBS bowel can be one of the biggest problems around holiday time.

It’s definitely ok to say: “That looks yummy and thank you for offering but I’m already full!”

2. Try mindful eating

When family and friends are enjoying themselves and there is so much tasty food on offer, it’s really tempting to overeat. But the best way to combat this is to be mindful. If you can take a few moments before the meal, try and relax your mind with some breathing exercises. Then when you are sitting comfortably, start your Thanksgiving meal!

Take a small portion of food at a time. Then, enjoy the experience, really engage with the food, the smell, the taste and the texture. Take small bites and savour them. Maybe even take these during a lull in the conversation so you do not get distracted. Then when your plate is clear, listen to your body - do you feel full? If you do, then stop eating and start joining in the conversations without eating! You should also drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep hydrated and during the meals, too.

3. Watch the Thanksgiving Parade on TV

It’s important to move the focus of Thanksgiving away from food, especially if food can trigger anxieties and cause tummy upsets with IBS. And luckily, the Thanksgiving Parade has not been cancelled this year. You can tune in to watch it on NBC. Macy’s have promised to showcase the traditional floats and street performers and you may even see Santa Claus. This can be a nice time to let your tummy rest and digest with a smile on your face! The sense of community and familiarity will hopefully create a sense of calm in what has been a very unusual year!

4. Deal with isolation

Suffering from IBS alone can be tough, especially if you feel like your family does not understand. And when it comes to our gut, we can feel embarrassed. You may find it awkward to talk about bloating or gas- if you can talk to someone at your Thanksgiving dinner about your tummy troubles you may be surprised. Having a support system present will make you feel relieved and at ease. But if you really feel that you cannot share your IBS troubles with those at your Thanksgiving dinner - you can share them with an online community. Whether that’s a Facebook group or the Community section of Zemedy- you are not alone and sharing your troubles can not only give you amazing tips but solidarity can also help massively.

5. Tackle flare-ups

Despite your best efforts, a flare-up may occur. It’s important to be kind to yourself at this moment. Feeling stressed about your flare-up can create a vicious cycle. Just take a moment to deal with it- lie down and take some deep breaths. Doing some mindful meditation will help ease your stress levels. We have a range of tools in the Zemedy app which you can use when you have a flare-up which helps soothe the mind and activate the gut-brain connection (read more here) to tackle IBS.

We would like to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. No matter what, we are here for you and you can always drop us a message or comment. Do you have any particular Thanksgiving IBS troubles? Let us know and we will reply.

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