It’s that time of year. A season of holiday feasting that kicks off during Thanksgiving and continues until January 2021. For most of us, it’s hard to think of these celebrations without considering the food — and how they affect IBS. Most of us look forward to indulging.
But the reason why most of us overindulge at this particular time may not be so much the countless opportunities for extra munching but rather the need for extra comfort because of stress, according to a study that was published at the University of Konstanz, Germany several years back.
The study showed that participants who had a tendency to eat more when stressed (hyperphagics) did not continue to do so after they were more relaxed (hypophagics). In simple terms, people overeat when they’re stressed.
For people with IBS, the holidays can be extra stressful because IBS symptoms can be exacerbated by stress, according to the American Gastroenterology Association. The gut-disrupting hormone, cortisol, works in overdrive, making it difficult for the body to digest foods appropriately.
So yeah, people overindulge during the holidays because of stress. Now with social isolation, it appears that many of us may eat way more than ever. That’s why it’s important – no matter how difficult – to reduce stress levels during the holidays.
The editors at IBS Life know that this is easier said than done. But there are some suggestions that could be helpful.
1. Develop a plan. Recognize what emotions trigger the search for comfort foods. If it’s the idea of not being able to see family members, it can be easier to deal with those feelings of angst before reaching for another serving of pie.
2. Share the goodwill. Baking cookies, pies, and bread are part of many holiday meals. But if there are less family members at the table, consider just making enough for one meal and share the rest with neighbors, seniors, and the homeless.
3. Check the calories beforehand. Checking on calories per serving before buying the meals or prepping them might help curve cravings. It might also be surprising to see that certain items that seem healthy, like baked potatoes, are actually not.
4. Do an initial walkthrough before getting food. Attending an intimate gathering where there is more food than guests? A good strategy is to first check out the menu or the buffet table without taking any food. Looking ahead of time can help with planning on which dish to take instead of overloading the plate. Do the same with dessert; survey all the items first and then choose one or two to eat or consider smaller samples of a few.
5. Don't give up. We all make mistakes. That second helping may not have been a wise choice. But instead of giving in to temptations for the rest of the holiday season, don’t give up.
6. Sleep! Several studies have shown that people tend to overeat when they’re over tired. Lack of sleep can also affect IBS so it’s best to not stay up binge watching Netflix or listening to music.