Managing Digestive Distress During The Holidays


The holiday season is meant to be a time of delicious food and overwhelming joy, right? But when you are constantly battling with your gut symptoms, it can be a time of high anxiety, even when the big holiday parties are on hiatus.

You might be thinking things like this…

-How do I talk to my family about making low FODMAP dishes for the holidays?
-Can I enjoy a holiday drink with friends?
-How do I fit everything in while keeping my low FODMAP diet on track?

We get it. Just take a moment, breathe, and follow the steps below.

1. Create A Calm Belly Plan
Stock your fridge with quick and easy low FODMAP options.

During the holiday season, life gets busy. It’s easy to skip meals and make poor food choices that leave you stuck on the toilet. Get prepared now by batch cooking a few low FODMAP meals and popping them in the freezer, or grab some pre-made meals from Epicured’s low FODMAP menu.

Plan your holiday feast menu early.

If you’re planning a holiday feast, then it’s a good idea to sort out the menu now. Have a chat with friends and family about adapting your favorite recipes to be low FODMAP. It can be as simple as asking for garlic and onion to be left out of a dish or using the easy swaps we list in the next section. Try to plan one low FODMAP dish per course, so there will always be food you can enjoy. If you need delicious low FODMAP recipe ideas, then head to

Choose low FODMAP options before a night out.

This year, most of us are staying in, but if you are venturing out safely this year, here are a few tips for navigating holiday gatherings:

You will probably come across some high FODMAP foods when eating out at various holiday celebrations. Help keep your belly happy by choosing low FODMAP options before your ‘eat out’ meal. The lower your overall FODMAP load is, then the more likely your body will cope with small amounts of high FODMAP foods.

Opt for a smaller plate.

When enjoying a special meal opt for a smaller plate. During special meals it is tempting to stack your plate high and eat large meals. The more you eat, the higher the level of FODMAPs will be in the meal. Our suggestion is to choose a small plate and select smaller portions of food. Take time to focus on the food while you are eating so you can enjoy the flavors and still feel satisfied.

Be drink savvy.

Your alcoholic beverages can contain FODMAPs, so you need to be smart about your choices. Low FODMAP options include beer, red or white wine, vodka, gin, and whiskey. Although alcohol can be a gut irritant, it is often the mixes added to your drinks, which are high FODMAP and can cause tummy troubles. Check all tonic waters, sodas, juices, and pre-made cocktail mixes for sneaky high FODMAP ingredients like honey, high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, apple, mango or other high FODMAP fruits.


2. Use Easy Swaps To Transform Holiday Recipes

Think about using easy swaps for your favorite recipes and keep your gut happy. Try using these low FODMAP ingredient swaps to transform your recipes:

– Milk → lactose free milk or low FODMAP milk alternatives like almond milk, macadamia, cashew milk, or quinoa milk.

– Wheat flour → gluten free all purpose flour. Just avoid gluten free flour blends that include lentil flour, gram flour, soy flour, besan flour or chickpea flour as these contain higher levels of FODMAPs.

– Bread → spelt or wheat sourdough bread or a gluten free bread option.

– Honey → pure maple syrup. Maple syrup will give your dish a great flavor and can be used in the same ratio as honey.

– Onion → the green leaves of leek, green tips of green onion, fresh chives, or onion infused oil. In cooked dishes, we recommend swapping in 1 cup of finely chopped leek leaves for 1 small onion.

– Garlic → garlic infused oil, a pinch of asafoetida powder, or a tablespoon of garlic chives. Try swapping in 1 to 2 tablespoons of garlic infused oil in stews, soups, roasts, and casseroles. In uncooked recipes, like dips, try adding a couple of drops of garlic infused oil per clove of garlic. 


3. Manage Your Stress

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and a tad strung out during the holiday season, as you juggle family commitments, work deadlines, celebrations, and travel. This extra stress can kick your gut symptoms into overdrive and make it even more critical for you to look after yourself.

So here are a few stress-busting tips to help you navigate the next few weeks:

– Deal with your holiday shopping early. The faster you get this done, the quicker you can stop worrying about it.

– Make time for a 5 to 10-minute walk each day. The fresh air will help you clear your head, and the movement can help your digestive system relax.

– Schedule in some meditation or mindfulness each day. Meditation can be as simple as three minutes of deep breathing where you focus on your breath and the feeling of your chest and stomach rising and falling. You can also use a mindfulness app, like Headspace, to guide you through your mindfulness practice. If possible, try and find a regular time each day to practice.

– Roll out your yoga mat. Research shows that yoga not only helps reduce stress but can also help relieve IBS symptoms. You don’t need to head to a yoga session to practice; instead, try looking for a 15-minute restorative yoga session on Youtube and practice at home.

– Keep up your regular exercise. Your body and digestive system like routine to stay happy. If you have an exercise program you usually do, then try to keep that going over the holiday season.


4. Just Breathe. You’ve Got This.

Now’s your moment. Grab a cup of tea and a pen and create your action plan for the holiday season. List out some practical meal options (bonus points if you whip up a couple of bulk cooked meals) and place your Epicured order. Don’t forget to jump on the phone with your friends and family and get your feast menu sorted soon. Then focus on finding little pockets throughout each day to look after you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated 12/21/20

Alana Scott

Alana Scott


Vanessa Cobarrubia, RD

Vanessa Cobarrubia