Happy Tummies, Happy Holidays

Tips for reducing stress and symptoms this holiday season

Extra helpings of travel, food, and stress make the holidays a trying time of year for everyone, especially if you have a digestive disorder. IFFGD has several suggestions for how to make your holidays less likely to lead to digestive upset.

Tips for Avoiding Holiday Heartburn


  • Don’t lie down within 3 hours of eating. That’s when acid production is at its peak, so plan early dinners and avoid bedtime snacks.
  • Avoid large meals, especially late in the day. Try to make your main meal the mid-day meal.
  • Be extra cautious around the holiday foods that most commonly aggravate symptoms: chocolate, caffeine, onions, fried or fatty foods, alcoholic beverages and even peppermint may cause reflux.
  • Chronic heartburn can often be a symptom of something far more serious – Gastroesophageal reflux disease, (GERD). Relief of symptoms after a two-week trial therapy with a proton pump inhibitor (a medication that inhibits gastric acid secretion) is an indication that GERD is the cause.

Healthy Thinking During the Holidays

Barbara Bradley Bolen offers a number of detailed suggestions for reducing the impact of IBS during the holidays.

Practice active self-care. Practicing these new skills will help you to keep your focus on your own well-being rather than just being caught up with all of the myriad tasks that this time of year seems to require:

  • Plan ahead
  • Practice relaxation exercises
  • Practice kind and gentle feeding
  • Tell the caring people in your life about your IBS
  • Speak up about any special needs that you have
  • Take steps to protect yourself from critical people

Read in-depth suggestions: Irritable Bowel Syndrome and a Healthy Holiday Season

holiday picture

IBS Travel Tips

Travel can be very difficult for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers, who fear they may not be able to control their symptoms when away from home. If you are one of these persons, here are some travel tips from IFFGD designed to help you avoid and manage symptoms, and help create a sense of being more in control when traveling.

  • Allow enough time in the morning to get to the airport on time without worry. When traveling to and from your destination, bring an extra bag with a change of clothes in the event that your luggage is lost.
  • Traveling by plane can be difficult for those who suffer from bowel symptoms. Ask to sit as close to the restroom as possible. Also, sit on an aisle for easy and fast access so you will not have to ask others to move.
  • Divide your medication(s) into two containers; keep one in your hotel room and one with you at all times.
  • If you are making a long drive to get to and from your destination, know how much distance there is between rest areas or highway exits with available restrooms. Map your walking and driving routes ahead of time and determine how to get from point A to point B as quickly and directly as possible.

Read More Travel Tips Help IBS Sufferers Enjoy Their Vacations

Gastroparesis Travel Tips

While managing gastroparesis at home can be difficult, traveling poses an even greater challenge. Crystal Zaborowski Saltrelli offers suggestions that make it possible to enjoy time away with family and friends without compromising symptom management.

Before You Go

  • Be sure to take your needs into account when making travel arrangements.
  • Keep an on-going list of gastroparesis-friendly foods that you know you can safely eat. This will come in handy when dining away from home.

Travel Day

  • Regardless of how you’re traveling, bring your own food and pack twice as much you think you’ll need. Delays are unpredictable and you can never be sure there will be gastroparesis-friendly options along the way.
  • You may find that you’re more prone to motion sickness than you were prior to having gastroparesis. Have a variety of nausea remedies on hand, just in case.

Once You Arrive

  • Continue to follow your regular schedule, both in terms of diet and lifestyle activities. For example, if you typically practice yoga or relaxation exercises in the morning, plan that into your daily routine.
  • Maximize nutrition in every bite and sip you take. This is not the time to consume empty foods that fill you up without providing any nutrients. Without proper nutrition, you’re less likely to have the energy to fully enjoy your vacation.

Read more of Crystal’s tips: Traveling with Gastroparesis

Can Probiotics Prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea?

Dr. Peter Whorwell answers this question in our Clinical Corner:

I will soon be travelling to several countries where finding safe drinking water will be a challenge. In the event I eat or drink something that would cause traveler’s diarrhea would it be wise to preventatively start taking a probiotic? Is it alright to take loperamide at the same time as taking a probiotic?
There is some evidence that taking a probiotic can help prevent travelers’ diarrhea although probiotics are notoriously variable in terms of their activity…

Read the full answer: Can a Probiotic Help to Prevent Travelers Diarrhea?

Travel “Survival Kit”

Linda Pribek makes the following suggestion for how to be prepared while travelling:

I keep my “survival kit” packed at all times. In appropriate weather I just leave it in my car. If any item is used during the day, I simply replace it when I get home. I would like to be able to say that I have never had to make use of any of these items but, unfortunately, living with bowel dysfunction means facing the fact that accidents DO happen. I can say that, with the help of caring friends and family, I have found that it is possible to regain control and manage the challenges of living with bowel dysfunction. This preparation involved putting together items I find necessary or helpful into my “survival kit.” (Note: the following items are specific to my situation. You may want to consider variations to suit your own personal needs.)

Carry Case
Choose something you are comfortable with. Some suggestions are: camcorder/computer bag, briefcase, large purse, carry-on, sports bag, small duffel bag, back-pack.
Plastic Bags with Fasteners
I carry a few different size plastic bags that can be used to seal soiled garments until I get home. I also use the bags for disposal of soiled items.
Change of Outerwear
Pants, slacks, skirt, or shorts should be a neutral color that can be worn with many items. Choose a lightweight material that folds to compact size and is wrinkle resistant. Sports or workout clothes are ideal. Make your selection something you are comfortable wearing, since you may be very self-conscious at the time you need to change your clothes.
Deodorizing Spray
Do NOT substitute perfume for this item. Choose a product that eliminates fetid odors, rather than trying to cover up the odor with a heavy perfume, which will generally result in an even stronger offensive odor. You may want to check with your local hospital, clinic, or pharmacy for products in your area. Test the product at home to see if it works for your situation. Keep in mind that you will want a small carry size.
Read more of Linda’s suggestions: Living With and Managing Fecal Incontinence

Learn more

Watch our 2021 Virtual Advocacy Event presentation about the resources available to patients traveling with GI conditions. 

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IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization. Our mission is to inform, assist, and support people affected by gastrointestinal disorders.

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