It’s almost that time of the year..it’s almost Christmas! ‘Tis the season to be jolly..yes..but remember not to make it a season to be boated! It’s a fact that most of us eat and drink far more than we should over the Christmas season. But our digestive system pays the price and one of the problems we can face is bloating.
Bloating is the horrible, uncomfortable feeling we get when our tummies feel over-stretched and distended. There are a number of reasons why we may experience bloating. It may be linked to diet – eating foods that produce excess wind – or swallowing too much air when we eat. Both of these problems can be easily tackled.
But bloating can also be an indicator of IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome and dealing with this may be a little more involved.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common, long-term condition that affects the digestive system. It causes stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation.
It is estimated that one in five people in the UK will suffer from IBS at some point in their lives. Symptoms vary from person to person and they can vary in severity, depending on what is going on for individuals at any one time.
Our five-point Festive IBS Survival Guide will help you get through the season and avoid a flare-up of IBS.
If you have not suffered from IBS before, or if your symptoms worsen it is a good idea to see your GP as IBS shares many of the same symptoms with other, more serious conditions.
Our stress levels often peak around Christmas. So practising a few stress management techniques will help both your state of mind and your IBS symptoms.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or visualisation (imagining a peaceful, relaxing scenario) are effective for some people.
Certain food or drink can be a trigger for IBS symptoms. There are some common foods to avoid or cut down on such as beans, onions, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower. Remember that IBS trigger foods will vary from individual to individual.
Keep an eye on what you are eating and if you notice certain foods cause bloating, try and avoid eating them.
IBS can be painful and debilitating. It can easily become a vicious cycle as the pain of IBS can lead to feelings of anxiety, which can, in turn, exacerbate symptoms. It is important to have regular exercise, eat a healthy balanced diet, try to say no to unhealthy food, and get enough sleep. These are good ways of reducing tension and can help to improve both physical and emotional wellbeing.
Because stress is such a big component of IBS, it is important to pay attention to your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Behavioural therapies – relaxation therapy, hypnosis, cognitive behavioural therapy, and traditional psychotherapy – are effective at relieving some IBS symptoms although they may not help with constipation or abdominal pain.
Self-help groups can be particularly effective as other people in the group will be experiencing many of the same symptoms and can share effective ways of managing the problem, as well as offering support and understanding.
Although not a short-term Festive fix, if you are suffering from IBS, it is important to take the condition seriously and make lifestyle changes that will help you manage the condition and reduce the severity of symptoms.
You may need to look at the stress levels in your life, making time for plenty of relaxation and fun, whether it is socialising, shopping or yoga.
In two-thirds of cases, IBS sufferers get better with change in diet, better stress management and medication. The other third may benefit from talking to a mental health professional or joining a self-help group.