How to Handle IBS and Other Digestive Issues During the Holidays

There’s evidence that stress can aggravate both I.B.D. and I.B.S. symptoms, Dr. May said. And the holidays are full of stressors.

Scheduling downtime before and after holiday parties or travel may help stave off potential symptoms. Dr. May recommended mindfulness activities like meditation, yoga, and massage aromatherapy.

Shay Habestroh, a 25-year-old content creator from Rochester, N.H., said she has experienced holiday I.B.D. flare-ups when trying to participate in every family activity. To combat this, she tells her husband when she doesn’t feel well, and he relays the message to their larger family. “It’s nice because the family hears it from another healthy person, so they kind of listen a little bit more,” she said.

Enlisting help is an important part of feeling prepared for the holidays, said Catalina Lawsin, a Los Angeles-based therapist who has run support groups for people with I.B.D. and I.B.S. “You don’t have to tell them everything. It just has to be someone who you can go to when you need space or when you need backup. It’s identifying someone you can really trust.”

Mrs. Habestroh has learned to avoid anything with corn and milk, which can rule out many holiday dishes. Her safe Thanksgiving foods are plain turkey, mashed potatoes and squash.

Beth Morton, a 43-year-old from Vermont, manages her I.B.S. by bringing her own dishes to holiday gatherings. Through working with dietitians, she discovered that garlic and onions are her biggest triggers, and she has learned to cook without them. “I’ve found substitutes that I think taste the same,” she said.

Being aware of your triggers, however, doesn’t mean you’ll always be able, or willing, to avoid them. Sometimes getting into the holiday spirit includes eating something that will cause discomfort. Dr. May suggested that anyone deviating from their normal diet “do it in moderation,” adding that even moderation might result in a few tough days.

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