IBS at Christmas: A Survival Guide

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As a pharmacy that truly cares about its patients' wellbeing, Medical Specialists® has decided to list some of the key ways that IBS sufferers can minimise their symptoms over the hectic festive period.

irritable bowel syndrome
There are numerous factors over the festive period that can all combine to create a perfect storm to heighten the severity of the IBS symptoms.

Let’s face it, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is difficult to live with at the best of times. Trying to tackle this chronic and debilitating disorder of the gut can prove a difficult task…It can be frustrating for IBS sufferers trying to pinpoint the food, drink and other triggers responsible for the symptoms which include: diarrhoea or constipation, alternating bowel habits, abdominal cramps and heartburn too.

However, IBS at Christmas time can be even more of a nuisance. There are numerous factors over the festive period that can all combine to create a perfect storm to heighten the severity of the IBS symptoms.

Before the big day itself, there is the stress and anxiousness involved with making sure everyone’s presents are bought, not to mention getting all the decorations, wrapping paper and food for Christmas Day. Stress is commonly recognised as one of the primary causes/triggers for IBS and its subsequent symptoms.

Then there is all the Christmas parties, fatty grub on offer and plenty of flowing booze. Simply put, this time of year can be catastrophic for the estimated 1 in 5 people around the UK that have IBS. Fear not, Medical Specialists® Pharmacy are at hand with some tips to try and avoid festive flare-ups:

Control portion sizes

As tempting as it is to pile up the plate with festive grub, party goers don’t have to stuff themselves like the Christmas turkey. Remember, the more food eaten, the harder the digestive system has to battle to process the volume of food…which will inevitably lead to excess gases.

Don’t ditch the exercise

It can be tempting to slack off over the festive period. The TV is usually good, the nights are cold and dark, and the last thing anyone probably wants to do is haul themselves to the gym for a strenuous workout. However, it is wise to try and keep up with the usual exercise routine. Digestive symptoms tend to become more sluggish when we aren’t as active, plus exercise helps to relieve stress too!

Minimise stress where possible

As mentioned previously, stress is a primary cause of IBS, and there is never a more stressful time of the year than Christmas time. The expense of shopping for presents and food can cause havoc for the gut. Where possible, try and plan ahead. This could involve buying the majority of presents and other essentials way in advance of the typical late-December rush. Yoga, relaxation tapes and massages may also keep stress at bay.

Be careful what goes on the plate

Try to avoid gorging on stodgy, fatty foods as this will only increase the risk of diarrhoea. The biggest culprits and definite must-avoid foods include: chocolate, fried foods (i.e. crispy wontons, spring rolls and samosas), mince pies and pastry-based products (i.e. quiche, vol-au-vents, sausage rolls and pork pies). Healthier buffet options would be fresh prawns, salmon and lean meat, chicken satay sticks and egg sandwiches.

Limit the booze

Alcohol and IBS are never an ideal combination. Alcohol may lead more severe IBS symptoms due to the fact that alcohol acts as an irritant on the bowel. Beer is particularly one culprit that often exacerbates a sufferer’s symptoms. Those who want to avoid feeling gassy this Christmas are advised to severely limit all bubbly drinks, such as beer, champagne, Prosecco and soft fizzy mixers.

Anyone suffering with moderate or severe IBS where constipation is the main problem, there is now a treatment option available named Constella.

Constella is available from Medical Specialists® Pharmacy today and can help to subside IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation and bloating. To obtain this treatment, all patients must first undergo an online consultation with one of the GMC-registered doctors at Medical Specialists®, or send in a private prescription by post, obtained from the patient's own doctor.

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David Bailey

Mark Riley
Medical Specialists Pharmacy
since: 10/2012
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