The holiday season can bring a lot of joy, fun times with family and friends and delicious food – but it can also bring a lot of stress, feel overwhelmingly busy and alter your routine when it comes to your daily schedule, movement routine and your food intake. All of these things can contribute to worsened GI symptoms this time of year – especially if you already struggle with a digestive health condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), gastroparesis, reflux, celiac disease and other digestive disorders. In our practice, we work with clients who are tired of dealing with bloating, pain, altered bowel habit and other digestive symptoms so we can help you to feel better and enjoy an improved quality of life. This way, you can focus more on family, memories and delicious food that you tolerate and less on your digestive symptoms! Curious about how to manage your GI symptoms during this tricky time of year? Keep reading below to learn our top tips from Registered Dietitian, Alyssa Lavy!
Keep as consistent of a routine as possible
It’s common for schedules to go rogue this time of year between office holiday parties, school concerts and classroom parties, winter break, holiday festivities and the rush to cross off your holiday shopping list – I’m exhaused just thinking about it! However, our bodies crave routine and rely on a steady circadian rhythm. Try your best to stick to a fairly consistent bed time, wake time and meal/snack schedule. Consistency lets our bodies know what to expect!
Incorporate gentle movement
Incorporating regular, gentle, mindful movement can help to keep things moving through your GI tract and manage stress levels. While oftentimes people focus on making every workout the hardest possible, this is not necessarily going to be best strategy for improving health and fitness and it most certainly isn’t going to help alleviate your GI symptoms. Instead, focus on including stretching, walking, yoga and low impact activity focused on breath work and strength training often.
Most of us are walking around dehydrated and we don’t even realize it! While individual hdyration needs will vary, a general starting point is to aim to drink at least half of your body weight in fluid (ideally water) as ounces. Ensuring adequate hydration is important for bowel function and can help combat bloat. Dehydration can also lead to fatigue and headaches – which we definitely do not need during this busy season! If you struggle to remember to drink water, simply starting with a goal of drinking 1 glass of water upon waking (before enjoying breakfast and coffee) or setting alarms throughout the day as reminders can be a helpful place to start. If you don’t love the taste of water, considering flavoring water with fresh fruit/veggies/herbs to create an infused spa-style water, trying flavored water drops and including lots of fruits and veggies in your diet (as these foods contain high water content).
With busy holiday schedules it can be easy to neglect our shut eye time – but sleep is essential for our body processes and plays an important role in regulating the hormones associated with appetite and stress. Focusing on both quantity and quality of sleep is important – so set a consistent bed time and wake time (as mentioned above) and improve your sleep hygiene by limiting screen time before bed and developing a relaxing night time routine. This can set you up for a more restful and better quality sleep!
Tip #5: Offer to bring a dish (or a few) if you are not the host
If you struggle with food allergies and sensitivities, the holiday season can feel extra stressful. If you are aware of your specific dietary restrictions, I recommend offering to bring a dish (or a few) to your holiday destination so you can ensure that there will be food available for you to tolerate and enjoy. If you suspect dietary triggers worsen your symptoms but you are not yet sure what those specific triggers may be, then I recommend working with a dietitian to identify your triggers and develop a sustainable plan with you. Depending on your specific needs, you may need to be more strict with your dietary restrictions and more direct with your party hosts – such as in the case of celiac disease and food allergies. Make sure to communicate your needs beforehand so you can feel comfortable during the holiday festivities.
‘Tis the season for an abundance of holiday parties, requests for gifts and donations and a schedule that seems to be busting at the seams. Assess your personal bandwidth and schedule and say “no” to things that do not fit. This can be one of the most challenging skills to develop, but it is also so important for your mental and physical health!
Take time to reset and fill your cup daily
When we stretch ourselves too thin and try to pour from an empty cup, we usually end up feeling the effects of burnout and our mental and physical health can suffer. As a parent, you likely already spend the bulk of your time taking care of other people and the holiday season can seem that much more overwhelming! Take time to reset and do one thing to fill your cup daily – even if it is something small. This may mean taking 5 minutes to meditate in the morning before a busy day, sitting for 5-10 minutes with a cup of tea in quiet, taking time to journal, taking a brief walk or carving out 20 minutes for yourself at the end of the day to read.
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season! If you want more individualized guidance so you can manage your GI symptoms, identify your dietary triggers and enjoy a more liberalized diet and improved quality of life, contact us to schedule your complimentary discovery call so we can see if we are a good fit to work together!
Alyssa Lavy, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian who specializes in digestive health – with a special interest in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food relationships and sports nutrition using a weight-inclusive, Health-At-Every-Size approach. She has been an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer since 2012 and offers personal training in addition to nutrition counseling within her private practice located in Connecticut. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science with a minor in psychology from The George Washington University in 2012 and then earned her Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Teachers College Columbia University in 2015. She completed her dietetic internship at Teachers College Columbia University in 2015, where she experienced specialized training in GI nutrition. She previously worked as the GI dietitian within a large gastroenterology practice comprised of over 50 gastroenterologists and allied health practitioners before opening her own practice with a focus on digestive health and food relationships in 2018. In 2021, Alyssa expanded her practice to include another
registered dietitian who specializes in digestive health and eating disorders. Earlier this year, Alyssa launched her first virtual group course, Trust Your Gut, which provides group nutrition counseling for individuals diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Alyssa has contributed to national media outlets, such as Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Readers Digest, Huffington Post, Cooking Light, Shape and more and she also provides recipes and nutrition-related news on her blog at alyssalavy.com/blog.
Alyssa believes that food should be satisfying, nutritious and delicious and that all foods can fit – as tolerated – into a healthy lifestyle.