When doing my research, I found that there were a lot of posts aimed at people dealing with food allergies at Christmas, and none regarding ‘intolerances’ or ‘sensitivities’. I wanted to make this post using my personal experiences to give advice to those facing sensitivities/intolerances or diet restrictions. I don’t eat Gluten/Wheat/Dairy/Egg and mainly follow a diet called FODMAP, so I have been in my fair share of awkward food related situations.
Christmas can be a challenging time of year if you do suffer. The parties, the naughty food and let’s not even start on the portion sizes, all have consequences. Feeling unwell is horrible, but feeling unwell at Christmas is even worse. Here are some of my ideas on how to avoid being in that situation, because the goal is to PREVENT IT; but of course mistakes happen so I’ve also touched on how I deal with things if it does happen.
- BE KIND TO YOUR STOMACH IN DECEMBER
I know it often hits this time of year and we use it as an excuse to eat things way out of moderation, but this is where we need to be sensible. On the lead up to Christmas I try to fill my body with things I know I tolerate well and are good for me; vegetables, fruit, smoothies and not too much processed food. This can be difficult when you’re surrounded by treats, but if you eat them within moderation your body will thank you for it. Of course on Christmas Day, like anyone, I eat too much and too much sugar, but at least my digestive system is in a healthier state to deal with it then it would be if I spent my entire December eating like that. I kind of see it as a way to balance things out a bit.
- BE STRICT
Unfortunately, as magical as Christmas is, it doesn’t magic away your intolerances or sensitivities. It can be tempting to try things you know you shouldn’t, but if you’re anything like me – that’s probably not a good idea. If there’s something you might be trying to re-introduce, don’t do it on Christmas Day, try it before hand; because if it doesn’t go to plan, you will regret it. You have to be strict with yourself. People always ask me how I ‘resist’ certain things, but the simple answer is I know how they make me feel, and why would I want to make myself unwell? We know touching fire hurts us, so we just don’t do it – it’s the same thing.
- MAKE AND/OR BRING YOUR OWN FOOD
Wherever I go, I usually have an ‘emergency snack’ in my bag, just in case I can’t eat anything. But if you’re going to Christmas parties or gatherings where there are nibbles, bring your own! Do some baking, or go to the shop beforehand for your favourite snacks that you can tolerate. Yes, people will probably want to taste, so bring extra!
- SPEAK UP
I am lucky in that I am surrounded by people who are used to my diet by now. I also have Christmas dinner at home, cooked by my Dad who knows exactly what to do (i.e. how not to cross contaminate). But, if you’re having someone cook for you for the first time, speak to them. Explain your restrictions in advance, ask if you can help, or if you can bring anything; make it as clear as possible. Check the ingredients with them, check again, and a third time. If they’re your friends, they should understand. It’s a really brave step to put your trust in someone else’s cooking, so offering to help is a great way to sneakily monitor what they do. Don’t leave it until you’re sat at the table with food that you can’t eat, because you’ll either have a really awkward, mood killing moment of explaining you can’t eat it, or you’ll force yourself to eat it and be unwell. SPEAK UP.
- PACE YOURSELF
It’s inevitable that on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there’s a 99.9 percent chance that I am going to eat more than my body is used to. It sounds so simple, but we actually forget to pace ourselves. Don’t eat too quickly, or too much at once. If you’ve seen that programme where they chuck the food people eat in a day in to tubes, I kind of remind myself of that (sorry for the disgusting imagery). But combining certain food and drink can be a major trigger. So just be aware…
It’s so important to stay hydrated and we need water to help our digestion. Especially at Christmas, it can be easy to forget to keep drinking water. But, if you do have any bad reactions to what you eat, water is the first step in helping yourself. I know when I suffer, drinking is often the last thing I feel like doing, but water, more water, and even more water WILL HELP.
- NATURAL SOLUTIONS
I know this is a bit different for everyone and can become a bit controversial as to what is right. Sometimes I do just have to face the facts and take medication to get myself through things, but I always go for some natural solutions first. These can help me, but obviously if they’re going to make it worse for you, please ignore me – it’s all individual dependent.
– Ginger (in food or in tea)
– Lemon water
– Peppermint tea (I have grown to dislike this stuff, but it helps many others)
– A good old hot water bottle
Those are my top tips for managing food intolerances and sensitivities this Christmas, but just because they work for me, doesn’t guarantee that they will for you – you have to listen to your own body.
What are your ways at dealing with things at this time of year?
Twitter – @blog_little (or search TheLittleThingsBlog)
Instagram – Thelittlethingsblog.tlt