Making Christmas Merry on a Special Diet

The festive season is a time of joy, celebration, and indulgence. It’s a time when tables are laden with delicious treats and tempting delights. But what if you’re one of the many individuals with a digestive condition like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), celiac disease, or food sensitivities? Christmas on a restricted diet doesn’t have to mean missing out on the festive fun. So, how do you navigate the festivities while staying true to your special diet?

Understanding Restricted Diets

Restricted diets come in various forms, from gluten-free and dairy-free to sugar-free and beyond. They are not just a choice; often, they are a necessity to manage uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhoea, and gas. I know this firsthand because, for the past four months, I’ve been following the GAPS diet to manage a severe Crohn’s disease flare-up.

Energy levels

The GAPS Diet: My Personal Journey

The GAPS diet, short for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, is a therapeutic protocol designed to heal the gut lining and alleviate digestive issues. It emphasizes whole, nutrient-dense foods including healthy fats, stocks and broths, meat, fermented vegetables and cultured dairy while excluding grains, starchy foods, regular dairy, and sugar. My decision to embark on this dietary journey was not made lightly, but it has been a game-changer in managing my Crohn’s symptoms.

In September, my symptoms took a sudden turn for the worse. I experienced chronic diarrhoea, bloating, and debilitating pain, leaving me doubled over. When my bowel movements reached an alarming 50 a day, and hospitalization loomed on the horizon, I turned to the GAPS Diet. This dietary protocol had proven effective during my previous flare-up in the jungle, so I embarked on the journey once more, starting at the most restrictive stage—consuming nothing but bone broth and 24-hour yogurt.

Activity cost in spoons

Preparing all my meals from scratch is an incredibly time-consuming process. I find myself tirelessly crafting litres of bone broth, yogurt, ghee, cultured cream, and fermenting vegetables. To aid digestion, I ensure that the food I consume is well-cooked, and my diet primarily consists of nourishing soups and stews. While these dishes are undeniably delicious, they can become monotonous, leaving me yearning for diverse textures and the satisfying crunch of something different.

Though I’ve gradually expanded my dietary choices, my symptoms remain erratic, and I often find myself needing to regress and limit my diet to gain control over the situation. Recognizing the urgency of my health, I’m embarking on a comprehensive treatment plan alongside dietary and lifestyle adjustments to expedite my recovery. While the diet has undeniably improved my quality of life by reducing my symptoms, the severity of this current flare-up underscores the importance of seeking all the help I can get to effectively manage and alleviate the symptoms.

The Holiday Challenge

Now, as the festive season approaches, I face a new challenge. How do I maintain the discipline of my restricted diet while surrounded by a sea of tempting treats and traditional dishes this Christmas? It’s a question that many of you might be asking yourselves too.

Strategies for Festive Success

  1. Plan Ahead: The key to success during the holidays is preparation. Plan your meals and snacks, making sure they align with your dietary needs. This will help you resist impulsive indulgences. I’ve made my own Christmas puddings, pumpkin cookies and mincemeat for grain-free pies. 
  2. Communication: Don’t be afraid to communicate your dietary restrictions to your hosts or guests. Most people are understanding and willing to accommodate.
  3. Bring Your Own: Consider bringing a dish or treat that fits your dietary requirements. This way, you can enjoy the festivities without compromising your health. A thermos of broth regularly accompanies me when I leave the house.
  4. Mindful Indulgence: It’s okay to treat yourself occasionally, but do so mindfully. Choose your indulgences wisely, savour each bite, and be aware of how your body reacts. However, it’s essential not to jeopardize your diet and set yourself back for momentary pleasure. Only opt for what is safe or what you can accept in terms of the cost to your health. Prioritise your well-being while enjoying the festivities.
Spoon Theory: Energy Spent

Stay Healthy This Christmas

Following a restricted diet this Christmas might seem challenging, but it’s entirely possible. With careful planning, effective communication, and mindful indulgence, you can enjoy the holidays while staying true to your health goals. Check out another recent post with tips and recipes for navigating food restrictions at Christmas here.

Remember, your well-being is worth every effort. As I embark on this festive journey myself, I hope my experience and these strategies help you enjoy the holidays while maintaining your commitment to your health.

Let’s make this holiday season both merry and healthy! If you have any questions or would like to share your own experiences, feel free to leave a comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter for more tips and updates.

A Very Merry, Healthy and Happy Christmas!

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