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When IBS Ruins The Holidays

The problem with a chronic illness is that it sneaks up on you when you need it the least. For me, that is every time I leave for a trip. Whenever I have a giant to-do list I have to accomplish. And on the holidays, of course.

In 2019, the holiday season was something I was really looking forward to. I currently live far away from my family and hadn’t seen them in months. You can imagine how excited I was to spend those couple of days with them and make the most of it! But my IBS wouldn’t have it. Instead of enjoying cozy days and festive evenings, the holidays were punctuated by numerous bathroom breaks and me not feeling well.

Thankfully, the flare-ups I had weren’t the worst and I could still spend time with my family. But it really got me thinking: why does my IBS tend to flare up on special occasions?

Special occasions create stress

The first reason, at least for me, is the stress associated with any special occasion. Even if it’s positive stress, like being excited to see my family. The fact is, it’s not an everyday situation and I’m definitely not feeling as calm as I would on a normal day.

Now, stress and anxiety are my major IBS triggers, so I shouldn’t be surprised when anything out of the ordinary leads to a flare-up.

There’s not much one can do about this type of stress, except create the most relaxing atmosphere possible. Maybe my IBS would have been less noticeable if I had taken time to do yoga or meditate in the mornings like I usually do.

I skipped my routine during the holidays because I wanted to take advantage of every moment I could spend with my loved ones. But in hindsight, I would have preferred spending 20 minutes on yoga or meditation and avoid all those bathroom breaks later on!

Special occasions make us less careful

Do I know that I shouldn’t eat chocolate? Yes. Did I still consume way too much of the chocolate candy my brother gave me for Christmas? Also yes.

There’s something about the holidays, and other special occasions, that make me want to live in the moment and throw caution into the wind. I always do, and I always end up regretting it. It’s really hard to stick to a restrictive diet on a daily basis. It’s even harder when everything around you looks so delicious and you can’t have any of it.

I guess that the only way to resist temptation (for someone with no self-discipline like me) is to remind myself that I’d rather spend quality time with loved ones than indulge in foods that will only make me sick. After all, the pleasure of eating good foods lasts a couple of minutes, and that’s nothing compared to the long-lasting memories we make when we’re around friends and family!

Special occasions break our routine

Whether it’s my morning yoga session, my sleeping schedule or the safe meals I tend to eat every day: I strongly rely on my routine to keep my IBS at bay. However, special occasions are bound to break at least part of that routine.

During the holiday season, I got less sleep because I stayed up late talking to everyone. Instead of eating my usual breakfast, we had some type of brunch every day. And I’ve already talked about my lack of self-discipline when it comes to unsafe foods and treats.

Now, it’s kind of impossible to maintain a routine on special occasions. They wouldn’t be special if you could, would they? But I think that it would be a good idea to try and limit the damage. I wouldn’t want to miss out on evenings with my family, so sticking to my regular sleeping schedule is not really an option. However, I could have easily kept up my morning and breakfast routines nonetheless.

By sticking to an IBS-friendly routine as much as possible, I probably would have minimized the flare-ups I ended up having. It’s all about priorities, I guess. I’d love to know how all of you deal with holidays and special occasions! Do you manage to keep IBS at bay, or do you tend to face similar struggles as I do?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Elizabeth Alvarez moderator
    1 week ago

    I can so relate to this!

    This holiday season was rough for me. My symptoms were flaring because of the stress and excitement. It was to the point that my symptoms were so bad that I missed half of Christmas due to running to the bathroom so much.

    I think you nailed it on the head by saying it’s the stress and the fact that our routine changes. I have become a creature of habit in order to control symptoms, so when things change typically my symptoms act up.

    Elizabeth (team member)

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