The last two months of the year are filled with holidays: Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa. And what do they all have in common? Family, festivities, food and, hopefully, fun. Of course, with all the planning and shopping and wrapping and traveling and partying and…umm…eating, people sometimes do experience a wee bit of stress.
Now, for IBS sufferers, the stress is more than “a bit”. The additional stress and demands of the holidays often aggravate the unpleasant and unpredictable symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (a.k.a. IBS, colitis or spastic colon). The delicious goodies, big family dinners and changes in daily routines don’t help the situation either. Sometimes the challenge of managing this painful and chronic condition during the holidays is so stressful that it discourages IBS sufferers from participating in the festivities and family gatherings. It can be an isolating and frustrating time.
It is estimated that 2 out of every 10 people (about 50 million) in the U.S. suffer from IBS. Many people have the condition but remain undiagnosed and untreated. Those who are unfamiliar with IBS may not appreciate the seriousness of the condition. An IBS attack can result in a variety of symptoms that include abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, hemorrhoids and alternating diarrhea and constipation. These are not things you want to bring to the holiday party! They are painful, embarrassing and terribly inconvenient, even debilitating at times.
So, what can people with IBS, a chronic and unpredictable illness, do to deal with their condition and not miss out on all the holiday cheer? While there is no “cure” for IBS, there are ways to boost your ability to prevent or decrease the severity of an attack. The following ten tips are suggested for managing IBS during the holidays.
1. Talk to your doctor. If you are already under a doctor’s care for IBS and taking medications, ask your doctor if there are additional steps that you can take during the holiday season to treat your symptoms. If you have not been diagnosed by a physician but you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, then maybe it is time to seek help.
2. Know your body. IBS is different from many other illnesses in that it occurs uniquely in each person. Everyone has their own combination of symptoms and “triggers”, and what works to alleviate symptoms for one person may not work for the next. Self-study is the key to managing this condition. Research is helpful – there are many books and websites on the subject. There is also one good workbook that leads people step-by-step through this process of self-analysis. It is the “Yes, You CAN Manage IBS” workbook by Cindy Baker, a licensed professional counselor. She shares her story and offers her workbook online at cindybakercounseling.com. This workbook is highly recommended in discovering what is necessary to manage your own IBS symptoms.
3. Plan and prepare. The stress of the holidays can be reduced through planning ahead. A schedule of activities can help to minimize the mental and physical stress of last-minute tasks and unfinished details. It can also ensure that important elements like sleep, exercise and using medications and supplements are not ignored. Don’t procrastinate – do as much as you can as early as you can to limit the hustle and bustle. Preparation and organization can take the hectic out of the holidays.
4. Address the stress. This is such an important element for IBS sufferers. Stress has a significant impact on this condition and is a common trigger for attacks. All the other tips listed here relate to this one, because managing your stress is also managing your IBS. There is no one answer that works for everyone. Find what works for you by knowing your body, attending to your needs and using all the tools at your disposal. Rest, relaxation and a controlled diet are all important elements, but there are a few more things that you could try to reduce stress. They include: walking, meditation, yoga, massage, controlled breathing techniques, positive affirmations and counseling. They are most effective if done on a consistent basis. Find what works for you.
5. Lean on the routine. Change, no matter how small, is often difficult. People with IBS seem to be impacted more than most by change. Maintaining a routine related to personal needs, work and social life can be essential in managing any medical condition, IBS included. Do what you can by planning ahead for additional demands (see tip 3) and by explaining to friends and family the importance of your routine. This is particularly relevant in regards to traveling, which can be challenging for IBS sufferers. Travel may be unavoidable during the holidays. If it is, give yourself extra time and consideration.
6. Express yourself. Many people have a hard time talking about their condition; IBS symptoms can be embarrassing to discuss. But, it is better to express to loved ones the seriousness of the condition and ask for their indulgence and consideration than to withdraw from them or make too many compromises and encourage a severe attack. You don’t have to hide or suffer in silence. Explain your needs and limitations. Usually, people will understand – especially people that love you and want you to be well.
7. Be a player – not the whole team. It is easy to take on too much during this time. Put aside your pride, if necessary, and let others know that you need their help. People may surprise you with their willingness to pitch in and do what is required. They may not take the initiative on their own, but they will take on tasks when they are asked and directed. If people are unwilling to help, then don’t compromise your health by insisting on completing everything yourself. Remember, you are more important than any gift or trip to the post office or holiday party. Rather than hurt yourself by overdoing it, just say “no”, take it slow and let go.
8. Be comfortable, rather than cosmetic. Being physically comfortable by wearing loose-fitting clothing, claiming the best spot on the sofa, and avoiding irritants in the environment (smoke, odors, noises, etc.) is as important as getting enough rest and eating right in managing your IBS. A tight waistband on a bloated belly or enduring odors that make you nauseous is not going to help you. It may sound silly, but it makes a difference. Be comfortable, even if it’s not fashionable. That’s the only way to really enjoy yourself.
9. Keep laughing. Along with the sweet potatoes and glittery packages and musical snow globes, don’t forget to bring your sense of humor to the party. It is supposed to be fun, celebrating the holidays. So, have fun! Everything doesn’t have to be perfect – you don’t have to be perfect – in order to enjoy yourself. I know: IBS is no joke. But you can keep laughing anyway. Laughter truly IS the best medicine. Take a healthy dose every day.
10. If you have any concerns concerning where and how to use difference between ibs and ibd, you can make contact with us at our own web page. Love yourself. During the holidays, after the holidays, everyday, love yourself. No matter what you can do or can’t do, no matter what your condition or situation or limitations; love yourself. Then, let that love spill over to the rest of us. Love is amazing. The more you give away, the more you have. You can never exhaust your supply. You may hate your IBS, understandable, but love yourself. It will give you the strength and courage to face anything…even the mall.