Tips to ‘gobble up’ the holidays if you have IBS – Consumer Health News

THURSDAY 24 Nov. 2022 (HealthDay News) — Stress affects gut health and exacerbates pain, which for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can make traveling to see family during the holiday season unbearable.

“People living with IBS often say that the holidays are particularly stressful beyond the typical holiday stress most people report,” says Tiffany Taft, a medical social scientist and clinical psychologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

For the 15% of Americans living with IBS, Taft provided some tips as they gathered for the season.

“Stress affects IBS directly through the gut-brain axis, which includes parts of the brain that are part of the body’s fight-flight-freeze response,” she said. “Stress can amplify pain, change gut motility — either speeding up or slowing down, depending on the person — and changing the composition of the gut microbiome.”

That can make the symptoms more severe. For some, that means going to the bathroom more often. For others, it may mean less than usual. Symptoms may include increased abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, and an increased urge to go to the bathroom.

Taft said the holidays can be stressful because some people have family members who don’t understand or support IBS. They may be concerned or afraid to request changes to the holiday menu due to dietary requirements.

Instead of having an unpleasant conversation, the person with IBS may eat foods that don’t agree with it, Taft said.

In addition, she pointed out that “travel can be stressful for patients, including worrying about symptoms while flying or driving long distances. In short, the holidays can throw a spotlight on someone’s IBS, and the strategies the person has for managing their IBS symptoms can be compromised, which can become incredibly stressful.

If you have IBS and are stressed about travel, practice relaxation strategies beforehand, she advised.

The body gives physical signals that you are stressed, for example shoulders reaching towards the ears, a clenched jaw or tension in the chest. Pay attention to these signs and take five minutes to relax, Taft said.

This could be meditation with an app, deep breathing, or imagining a relaxing place. All this can reduce stress in the body.

Listen to a favorite song, or take a moment to stretch, Taft suggested.

“Identify unhelpful, catastrophic thinking. This is not the power of positive thinking, but taking away the power that negative thoughts can have over how we feel,” she explained. “If you find yourself thinking, ‘What if grandma doesn’t understand my IBS diet and she’s going to get so mad,’ that could very well be true. Instead of repeating the ‘what if’ over and over, lean in it. What can I do if it happens? Make a list of possible ways to solve the problem of the ‘what if’ situation.”

When people are in the midst of worry, they forget everything they’ve already conquered or navigated through, Taft noted.

“Grandma can get mad, and you can handle it,” she said.

More information

The US National Library of Medicine has more information on irritable bowel syndrome.

SOURCE: Northwestern University, press release, Nov. 21, 2022

Tips to ‘gobble up’ the holidays if you have IBS – Consumer Health News

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