The holidays are truly one of the best times of the year – you have so much more freedom, time, and often a lot more parties, and social events. Inevitably this is accompanied by feasting on delicious foods higher in fat, higher sugar foods, alcohol and less routine which can certainly wreak havoc with your pain management with endometriosis too!
So, how can you navigate enjoying being with your favourite people, enjoying delicious foods and drinks whilst minimising how much of an impact this may have on your pain?
Before we go any further, it is important to acknowledge that food is so much more than the sum of its nutrients, it is also about memories, connecting with people, traditions, culture, fun and so much more, and it is so important to engage with food without fear, and without a sense of perfectionism, especially during the holiday season!
I wanted to share a few tips to help make your holiday season as enjoyable and pain-free as possible.
1. Don’t Skip Meals
Many people skip out on meals anticipating a feast to “make room” for a large meal, hoping it will mitigate that post-meal bloat. But the truth is, your digestive system actually appreciates the consistency of food coming in, so don’t skip breakfast anticipating a large lunch!
Still eat your regular meals, the meals you know sit well in your unique body, your digestive system will thank you later!
Naturally, bloating, especially after a large meal is sometimes unavoidable, but sometimes its worthwhile for 1 or 2 days a year to connect with your family, enjoy yourself and eat your favourite foods that aren’t in your regular diet.
That’s only a judgment call that you can make for yourself!
But stay tuned for some tips to help you ease the bloat later in this article.
2. Give Alcohol Drinks a Miss
Alcohol seems to punctuate every social event, particularly in the silly season!
However, from both the science and surveying endo warriors over on my Instagram page @endo.dietitian over the years, it is clear that alcohol can noticeably increase pain and endometriosis-related symptoms.
We know that alcohol is a gastric irritant, which means it can impact our bowel function and bowel movements (hello, diarrhoea and constipation!).
Alcohol may also mess with your estrogen metabolism, may contribute to excess inflammation, may come alongside high sugar drinks like fruit juice and soft drinks, and it may negatively affect your food choices (I mean, who doesn’t love some salty deep-fried hot chips when having a cocktail or alcoholic drink?)
All these factors can impact how you feel after having a drink.
Whether you choose to completely abstain from alcohol or if you set yourself a limit, having that intention before you get to the event and communicating that to who you are with can be really helpful! Bring something along that is non-alcoholic that you like to drink, perhaps it is kombucha, a flavoured sparkling water, sugar-free soda, or a homemade mocktail!
And if you are drinking, space it out with waters, ensure you are eating sufficiently and if you know you may react, allow the space and time for this later that day or the following day so you don’t feel pressure to be somewhere or do something whilst navigating some of those symptoms.
Please note some medications may mean you cannot drink any alcohol at all, please consult with your healthcare provider for advice.
3. Be Prepared with a Bloating & Pain Management Kit
Being prepared is CRITICAL when you are living life with a chronic illness! And this rings true when it comes to navigating the silly season and the potential flare-ups, pain or bloating that may be incurred thanks to some changes in routine, food, exercise, sleep and more.
Some helpful things to add to your kit may include:
- Over-the-counter or your prescription pain medications
- Peppermint or Ginger Tea to aid with digestion and ease bloating
- Peppermint oil capsules – available over the counter from most pharmacies can be really helpful way to ease the bloat and gas build up (note these are not recommended if trying to conceive or pregnant)
- Heat pack
- TENS machine – if you know this works for you, make sure it is charged and ready to go
- Try out a gut-directed mindfulness exercise, check out the app, Nerva, it has been found to make a significant impact on your symptoms, after all there is two-way nervous system highway between your brain and your gut!
- Stay hydrated – sip on your emotional support water bottle!
4. Be Kind To Yourself
If you intentionally, or unintentionally, eat something that you know sets you off, drink a little too much alcohol or just know you have overdone it with social events for your energy levels and capacity, it’s okay.
At the end of the day, having a chronic illness is hard and you’re in it for a long haul. You don’t need to be perfect, and you deserve to engage in your social life as you wish! Sadly, for some of us there are consequences to those behaviours, and it is truly unfair! It is easy to become resentful of your diagnosis and your body during these times, especially if you compared yourself to others around you who seem to bounce back.
Remember, you are unique, and living life with a chronic illness is hard, and you don’t need to be perfect! Try to not beat yourself up, you can’t go back in time and change what happened, so focus on what you can do to re-fill your cup, let go of the guilt or resentment and keep on going, warrior!
5. Fall Back on What Works In Your Lifestyle
The holiday season can drag on a bit, but usually the big events are just a couple of days or so, or even a few meal times! It is important to keep this perspective to help you re-focus on the habits, routines and patterns that you know works for you at all the other times!
If eating well, moving your body, getting enough sleep, following your unique care plan and path is what helps with your pain and symptoms, then try to be consistent with that outside of these main events. This may mean you tolerate some of these changes more so, as sometimes the accumulation of multiple triggers can be what precipitates a flare-up, everybody’s threshold is unique!
Wishing you a safe, happy, healthy and low pain holiday period!
Want expert endometriosis nutrition and lifestyle support from an endometriosis dietitian & nutritionist? Click here to drop us an enquiry to work with us in the new year