Festive Stress and Digestive Issues. Don’t Suffer Over the Holidays!

The holiday season is generally time to rest, have fun and enjoy spending time with your friends and family. But, it’s also a time when many people experience higher levels of stress, as well as changes to their diet that can put a lot of pressure on the digestive system.

Gastrointestinal issues such as indigestion or other problems can seriously interfere with your ability to enjoy the holiday season. So here’s a quick guide to help you ensure you keep your stomach happy while you enjoy yourself!


Why do People Experience More Trouble with Indigestion over the Holidays?

It’s probably no surprise to you that if you overindulge on food over the festival period you are likely to experience some form of gastrointestinal discomfort. But there can be a whole host of other causes for stomach problems that are about more than simply eating a little too much.

People can find digestive issues over the holidays are caused by a range of factors, including:

  • Trying new food you are not used to or eating meals at different times to when you normally would eat.
  • Taking a “holiday” from your usual diet during the holiday season – and eating food that you are sensitive to or find hard to process.
  • Eating richer food that is higher in carbohydrates, fat and sugar. This can make them harder to digest, or lead to weight gain over the holidays – causing stress that affects your digestive system.
  • Large portions which can lead to bloating and constipation or other issues such as diarrhea if you are eating food you are not normally used to.
  • Heightened emotions over the holidays can lead to a stress-response, or cause you to eat more/differently to how you normally do.
  • Issues such as IBS which can flare up if you eat food which your IBS is sensitive to. This can happen for some IBS sufferers when they eat away from home or break their diet because it’s the holiday season.
  • Alcohol and fizzy drinks can cause digestive discomfort and people tend to drink more of these types of drinks during the holidays. In some cases, diarrhea could be caused by drinking water if it’s contaminated.


Symptoms of Indigestion and Digestive Issues

Indigestion and stress-related digestive issues can manifest in a variety of ways. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Bloating, flatulence and gas
  • Reflux and heartburn
  • Constipation, alternating with diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Seeing food partials in stools
  • Constipation and painful defecation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Incomplete bowl emptying
  • Diarrhea
  • Metallic food taste “loss of taste sometimes”
  • Bad breath
  • Abdominal pain relieved on defecation


What can You do to Reduce Digestive Issues Over the Holiday Season?

Having any of the digestive problems listed above can seriously hamper your ability to relax and have a great time over the holiday season. Here’s some tips to help you can prevent digestive issues from occurring:

  • As much as possible, try to stick to eating the same foods you normally eat. It might be tempting to break your diet, especially if you suffer from something like IBS or reflux and heartburn – but it might not be worth the consequences!
  • Start each meal with a glass of water to help digestion. Make sure it’s bottled or you know the source of the water.
  • Make sure all of the food you eat is well-cooked and all vegetables and salad items are washed in water you know the source of. keep your meals as balanced as possible, starting with your vegetables, then protein and lastly your carbohydrates and a small dessert.
  • If you know you are going to be stressed emotionally try and find times to relax and recharge. You could try mindfulness or other forms of focused relaxation to help you keep calm over the holiday period.
  • Take time to relax over the holidays. Rest and spend time with friends and family rather than trying to rush around and fit in work stress and other extra tasks as well as holiday commitments.
  • Try to keep a good relationship with food over the holidays. Don’t overindulge and then comfort-eat because you feel negative about the overindulgence! Treat yourself but keep your diet as balanced as possible.
  • Keep your physical activity levels up. It’s tempting to spend a lot of time sitting and eating over the holiday period. Make sure you go for walks, do yoga or go for a run – whatever works best for you, as long as you stay active.
  • If you are eating somewhere unfamiliar make sure you ask about what you’re eating! You might be traveling to another country or eating somewhere you don’t normally eat. Don’t be afraid to discover what’s in different dishes and how the dishes have been cooked. This can help you avoid issues, especially if you have any allergies or food sensitivities.
  • Try keeping a stock of some over the counter medicine to help with bloating and indigestion. Make sure that you consult a health professional if you have not used them before.
  • Eat food that is rich in fiber to help your digestive process. Keep hydrated and try not to indulge too much in fizzy drinks and alcohol.
  • Don’t forget to take your medication over the holidays. This is especially true if you suffer from IBS or other gastrointestinal issues. It is also important to continue to take your medication if you suffer form an issue with your psychological health such as depression. Holidays can be stressful and stopping medication at this time will only add to that stress, and digestive issues.


If you are feeling unwell and need further assistance, remember you can always seek medical advice. Digestive issues can be as simply as indigestion, but it could also indicate something far more severe such as food poisoning that could need medical intervention.

Health at Hand are open throughout the holiday season, so if you need to get in touch for advice or support with a digestive or other health issue, please don’t hesitate.

Dr Rami Said

General Practitioner

If you have any questions about Ramadan and your health, our doctors are available for you everyday as usual.
Ask your Health at Hand doctor for advice through our app that can be easily downloaded from the App Store.