As the Festive season gets into full swing, many of us will be eating and drinking far more than we normally do. From the Christmas lunch to the office party to the mince pies and sherry, this time of year is an invitation to let our hair down (and maybe let our belt out a notch or two!) and enjoy ourselves.

But for some of us, all this overindulging can turn Christmas cheer into a Christmas groan. Our digestive system is finely balanced and an onslaught of rich food and too much alcohol can cause bloating, indigestion and diarrhoea. If you suffer from IBS or Inflammatory Bowel Disorders, you are, particularly at risk.

So, how can we enjoy the festivities without causing ourselves digestive discomfort? Here are our top tips for preventing Christmas tummy troubles…

1. Avoid Heartburn

Heartburn occurs when acid from the stomach travels upwards into the oesophagus causing a burning sensation. A muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus naturally weakens as we age, allowing the acid to leak out. It can also be affected by lying down so it is a good idea to walk after a big meal rather than lying down.

Avoiding fatty food can also help to prevent heartburn. If you do experience it, antacids can help to neutralise stomach acid while acid blockers, such as Pepcid AC or Zantac, bring down the production of stomach acid. Prescription medication is available for severe heartburn.

2. Take Care Not To Overeat

When we are surrounded by Festive treats the temptation to overeat can be overwhelming. However, learning to recognise when you’re full and stopping yourself from eating any more will help you to avoid the uncomfortable bloated feeling that comes from overindulging. Men tend to be particularly prone to overindulging.

Read more about the links between diet and bowel cancer risks.

3. Eat Slowly

Many of us eat too fast. It is better to eat slowly and chew every mouthful properly.

Also, avoid eating too close to bedtime as we need time to digest our food before lying down – four hours is the optimum time.

4. De-Stress

Christmas is acknowledged as one of the most stressful times of the year, with the pressure of spending time with family, shopping for gifts, cooking, socialising and making the money go around.

If you can, find some ways to relax, such as meditation or deep breathing, as stress can be a trigger for IBS symptoms.

5. Watch Your Alcohol Consumption

To minimise the risks associated with drinking, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers have published guidelines about safe drinking limits. No more than 14 units of alcohol per week, spread over three or more days, with a few days of not drinking, is recommended for adults.

Fourteen units is approximately six pints of lager or one and a half bottles of wine. While long-term alcohol-related health risks are greater for women, men are more at risk of immediate harm from alcohol, such as injuries. For this reason, the guidelines are now the same for both men and women.

Keeping good digestive habits all year around

Of course, the festive season is just for a few days but the above points remain relevant for 365 days per year!

Keeping good digestive habits leads to a healthy digestive system, which lowers your risk of bowel disease, including colon and rectal cancers.