How to survive the holiday season without too many gut problems

The holiday season means many different things to different people, it is supposed to be a period of joy but often it really doesn’t live up to all those expectations that we often have. The media portray images of idealistic families around the Christmas tree having all their dreams come true. For some people the reality is somewhat different, Christmas can be a traumatic time and managing with all the family can be challenging, but it can also be a time when some people are alone too. Here are some tips to help you navigate your way through the period and avoid your gut spoiling the fun.

1. Tis the season to be jolly – really? You have my permission to be a Grinch too if you wish. You should not be expected to see people and be jolly, especially people who you never get along with during the rest of the year. If you don’t get on with someone then Christmas is not a time that somehow the ‘magic’ will make a difference, and likely if your inhibitions are lowered with the odd glass of Advocaat (add your choice of tipple here!) it will not end well! Suggest that you have other plans this year, make your apologies for not seeing them if you wish.

2. Scenes on TV cookery shows promote the domestic goddess, but don’t forget all those well choreographed scenes take time and lots of other people to help, likely months of planning too. Not so much of a goddess then! So don’t try to live up to this myth of being able to manage it all, you will only end up frazzled and this will likely make symptoms worse. You could have a Jacobs join – were everyone brings a different part of the dish. Or you could ask people to bring dishes from around the world, and think of others or you could go out to eat on Christmas day. Consider inviting someone who might be on their own on Christmas day. It really doesn’t have to be a traditional day – make new traditions!

Click on here to see what Nigella really thinks
Click on the image to see what Nigella really thinks.

3. Ensure you eat regularly on Christmas day – leaving hours between meals will not help, plan to have a light breakfast before your Christmas lunch – this doesn’t mean grazing all day either. Manage your portion sizes – use a smaller plate if you like your plate full and you will be just as satisfied and not over full and unable to move!

4. Don’t slouch on the sofa eating snacks whilst watching those Christmas movies, let gravity help you gut and try to sit up when eating – or don’t snack, you will eat more than you realise if you are not being mindful about what you are eating. Alternatively plan how much you are going to eat and put it in a bowl so you know when you have had enough. Your body will thank you for it.

Seriously – not a good idea!!

5. Include some light activity mid afternoon if you are able – a gentle walk in the park perhaps or some games to get you moving around.

6. Family dynamics can be a rich source of conflict during the season, this can lead to arguments in the period leading up to Christmas and especially on the day itself. Arguments at mealtimes are really not advisable, this will do nothing to help your digestion. Stress causes your body to produce adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, this is a response to conflict or dangerous situations, originally utilised so you can escape from predators. Your body is therefore NOT concentrating on digesting lunch. In the distant past a dose of indigestion was a very small price to pay to avoiding being eaten. So you might need to be assertive and lay down some ground rules for everyone to follow so that the meal can be as calm as possible.

7. Budget as much as you can. Planning is the key here and Christmas is for thinking of others, but not at the expense of experiencing anxiety at not being able to live up to their expectations. Again tell people in advance what you are planning, say that you are only going to be able to afford to do certain things – you may find that people are relieved that they don’t have to meet these expectations either.

8. Stick rigidly to your Low Fodmap foods (or other tolerated foods) before the day, so if you eat something that you react to, you possibly won’t have as severe symptoms as you would have with eating as you please for the full season.

9. Drink plenty of fluids through the day – a least six to eight cups of non carbonated drinks and if you do drink alcohol, match every alcoholic drink with a non alcoholic one – this will mean you drink less and stay hydrated at the same time. Drinking whilst eating slows the absorption of alcohol into the body. Stay within the healthy drinking guidelines (no more than 2-3 units per day) and watch mixers for fodmaps and fizz. Make a glass of water the final drink before going to bed to counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Remember alcohol is a gut stimulant and hangovers won’t help your IBS symptoms although some people can tolerate small amounts. Try not to over indulge – intoxication can remove your resolve and you might be tempted to have more than you planned. Check out Drink Aware for details of how much alcohol is in your favourite tipple.

The true toll of Christmas tipple how excess plays havoc with mind and body

10. The best tip is – remember to enjoy yourself – it is not money that makes the difference but being in the presence of friends, family and company on the day – spending time with others.


Happy Holiday!

Inviting Salmonella to your festive dinner this year? A dietetic holiday lecture (you were warned!)

This post is about how to keep your gut healthy this christmas and avoid an infection of your digestive tract. What do I mean by this? Well, you might be at risk of an infection resulting in severe diarrhoea, abdominal pain and sickness during the holiday if you are not observing some food hygiene tips when preparing or eating food. No one would want this and we do have evidence that some people have a legacy of functional gut symptoms (irritable bowel syndrome) after such infections – worth a little bit of care then, to avoid.

Here is what the Food Standards Agency and NHS choices advises: (mercilessly ripped from their websites – but they are the experts!! Thank you to both organisations, see below for links)

Understanding ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates
‘Use by’ dates appear on foods that go off quickly. It can be dangerous to eat food past this
date, even though it might look and smell fine.
Check the ‘use by’ dates on the food in your fridge on a regular basis and be sure to use (eat, cook or freeze) food before its ‘use by’ to help you avoid throwing food away unnecessarily.

You can freeze food anytime up until the ‘use by’ date. Check the packaging to make sure
it’s suitable for freezing.
Once food with a ‘use by’ date has been opened, follow any storage instructions such as ‘eat
within 3 days of opening’, but not if the ‘use by’ date is tomorrow.
Best before’ dates appear on food with a longer shelf life. They show how long the food will
be at its best quality. Using food after the ‘best before’ doesn’t mean it will be unsafe. The
exception to this is eggs, providing they are cooked thoroughly, they can be eaten a day or
two after their ‘best before’ date.

Fridge looks like this at Christmas? Seriously – asking for an infection!

Use leftovers safely
Eating leftovers can be a good way of making food go further.
If you are going to store leftovers in the fridge, cool them as quickly as possible (ideally
within 90 minutes) cover them and eat them up within two days.
If you are going to freeze them, cool them before putting them in your freezer. Once food is
in the freezer, it can be safely stored for a considerable time – but the quality will

Eurgh! Cover your food – even if close to serving!

deteriorate so it’s best to eat it within three months.
Make sure you defrost leftovers properly before reheating. Defrost them in the fridge
overnight, or in the microwave if you intend to cook them straightaway.
Eat leftovers within 24 hours of defrosting and do not refreeze. The only exception is if you
are defrosting raw food, such as meat or poultry, once it’s cooked it can be refrozen.
Cook leftovers until steaming hot throughout.
Don’t reheat leftovers more than once.

Plan your meals
Before you go shopping check what’s in the fridge and freezer.
Think about what you are going to eat that week, plan your meals and write it down.
Make a list of what you need to buy and stick to it! Impulse buys can be expensive and, if not part of your plans, could lead to something else being wasted.
If you do get tempted by special offers in the shop, such as ‘buy one get one free’, think
about adjusting your meal planner for the week to add it in, or freeze the extra pack before
the ‘use by’ date, ensuring that it is possible to freeze the food. Or you could cook larger
portions and save some for another time.
Label food and date it before it goes in the freezer, so you know what it is and how long it’s
been frozen for.

Preparing and cooking your turkey here is what NHS Choices recommend:

Defrosting your turkey

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure that the turkey is properly defrosted before cooking it. If it’s still partially frozen, it may not cook evenly, which means that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process.

Defrosting checklist:

  • Work out defrosting time in advance, so you know how much time to allow – it can take at least a couple of days for a large turkey to thaw.
  • When you start defrosting, take the turkey out of its packaging, put it on a large dish and cover. The dish will hold the liquid that comes out of the thawing turkey.
  • Remove the giblets and the neck as soon as possible to speed up the thawing process. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey, giblets or any other raw meat.
  • Before cooking, make sure there aren’t any ice crystals in the cavity. Test the thicker parts of the turkey with a fork to tell whether the meat feels frozen.
  • Turkey (and any other poultry) is best defrosted in a covered dish at the bottom of the fridge so that it can’t drip onto other foods.
  • Pour away the liquid that comes out of the defrosting turkey regularly to stop it overflowing and spreading bacteria. Be careful not to splash the liquid onto worktops, dishes, cloths or other food.
  • If the bird is too big for the fridge, put it somewhere out of reach from animals and children, and where it won’t touch other foods. For example, a cool room, shed or garage.
  • If you’re not using the fridge, watch out for sudden changes in room temperature as they could prevent the turkey from thawing evenly.

Defrosting times

To work out the defrosting time for your turkey, check the packaging for any guidance first. If there aren’t any defrosting instructions, use the following times to work out roughly how long it will take to thaw your turkey.

  • In a fridge at 4ºC (39ºF), allow about 10 to 12 hours per kg, but remember that not all fridges will be this temperature.
  • In a cool room (below 17.5ºC, 64ºF), allow approximately three to four hours per kg, or longer if the room is particularly cold.
  • At room temperature (about 20ºC, 68ºF) allow approximately two hours per kg.

When your turkey is fully defrosted, put it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it. If this isn’t possible, make sure you cook it immediately.

Preparing the turkey

Wash you hands before preparing or touching food.

Keep the uncooked turkey away from food that’s ready to eat. If raw poultry, or other raw meat, touches or drips onto these foods, bacteria will spread and may cause food poisoning.

Bacteria can spread from raw meat and poultry to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. To keep your Christmas food safe, remember the following things:

  • After touching raw poultry or other raw meat, always wash your hands with warm water and soap, and dry them thoroughly.
  • There’s no need to wash your turkey before your cook it. If you do, bacteria from raw poultry can splash onto worktops, dishes and other foods. Proper cooking will kill any bacteria.
  • Always clean worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils thoroughly after they have touched raw poultry or meat.
  • Never use the same chopping board for raw poultry or meat and ready-to-eat food without washing it thoroughly in warm soapy water. If possible, use a separate chopping board just for raw meat and poultry.
  • Cooking times The cooking times below are based on an unstuffed bird. It’s better to cook your stuffing in a separate roasting tin, rather than inside the bird so that it will cook more easily and the cooking guidelines will be more accurate.If you cook your bird with the stuffing inside, you need to allow extra time for the stuffing and for the fact that it cooks more slowly. Some ovens, such as fan-assisted ovens, might cook the bird more quickly – check the guidance on the packaging and the manufacturer’s handbook for your oven if you can.As a general guide, in an oven preheated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4):
    • Allow 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes for a turkey under 4.5kg.
    • Allow 40 minutes per kg for a turkey that’s between 4.5kg and 6.5kg.
    • Allow 35 minutes per kg for a turkey of more than 6.5kg.

    Cover your turkey with foil during cooking and uncover for the last 30 minutes to brown the skin. To stop the meat drying out, baste it every hour during cooking. There is some debate over the cooking times so have a look at the Live Well website comments below – and also check out the time for other birds.


Best not to watch this next one if you have a sensitive disposition! I don’t remember this video being released – very good though!

LOFFLEX how to manage a #crohn’s flare up during the festive season

It probably isn’t very good to be following the LOFFLEX diet during the festive season but crohn’s is no respecter of holidays and it may be that you have had to return to a very bland diet during the festive season. You can eat food during this time – here are some recipes I developed to help you to have at least a Christmas lunch, or you could use this recipe for thanksgiving too.

Turkey is suitable for stage one of the lofflex diet, so are carrots and boiled potatoes (no skins.)

Roast potato

Peel potato and wash with clean water.

Cut into pieces and par boil in salted water for five minutes.

Drain off cooking liquor

Shake the pan to roughen the edges of the potato

Spray with a small amount of vegetable oil.

Cook in the oven for minutes at gas mark 7/220°C

Have 1-2 pieces.


3oz/75g Rice crumbs

1 teaspoon of sage

1 teaspoon of mixed herbs

100mls/4 fluid ounces of boiling water

Spray with rapeseed oil

Salt to taste


Add sage and herbs to a cup; pour on water and leave to brew.

Sieve herb liquor to remove solids and retain liquor.

Weigh out rice crumbs and add herb liquor till a consistency of stuffing is achieved, add salt to taste.

Place stuffing into a ramekins and flatten the surface, spray oil on the top.

Put into an oven at gas mark 6/200 degree celsius for approximately 20 minutes or until the surface has browned.


Use turkey stock – drain off the fat from the surface and thicken with rice flour.

Cranberry sauce with no alcohol added – sieve out skin and seeds.

  1. Pear or apricot crumble with soya custard

Serves two

50g/2 oz Rice crumbs

12g/½ oz granulated sugar

2 tablespoons sieved, or skin free apricot jam

2 pears

Spray rapeseed oil

Peel and remove the stalk and core from the pears

Slice the pear and add to two ramekins.

Add one tablespoon of sieved apricot jam to each one, (warm the jam in a pan till the jam is runny and sieve off skins, or purchase skin free apricot jam, available for Christmas cake decorating.)

Mix rice crumbs and sugar and sprinkle on the top of the apricot and pear

Spray surface with spray oil

Cook in the oven for 15 minutes gas mark 6/200°C – take care when serving as it can be very hot! Serve with soya custard.

Christmas can be a difficult time if you have restrictions on your diet, so try to keep focused and think of some treats that are not food related, such as going to see a movie at the cinema, watching your local football team on boxing day, going to see a play or pantomime or inviting friends round to watch a Christmas DVD.

Keep well hydrated and if you experience severe symptoms seek help from your healthcare provider. Everyones intolerances can be different so if you have noticed that some of the ingredients in the above recipes make your symptoms worse it’s probably best to avoid them, discuss this with your dietitian.

Spicy turkey burgers, Low FODMAP, milk free, Gluten free.

Went out for a 2 hour walk Saturday, the weather was sunny and hot, it doesn’t appear that way from the picture, but it is quite rare for us to have a cloudless sky.

Turkey Burgers

600g Turkey Mince

1 Egg

2 Small grated carrots

10g Chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 Teaspoons of powdered coriander

1 Teaspoon of chilli powder (omit if this causes symptoms.)

20g Grated ginger

1 Teaspoon of cumin

1/2 Flat teaspoon of asafoetida (if following a gluten-free diet ensure that asafoetida is wheat free)

Salt and pepper to taste

Served with brown rice and wild rocket.


Place turkey mince into a mixing bowl and add other ingredients. Mix well (clean hands are best!)

The mix is rather wet, spoon a tablespoon of mix into a dry frying pan and cook for 1-2 minutes each side till the surface is brown, repeat till all mix is cooked. You can either then finish the cooking in the oven or grill till cooked through. Some of the water will leach out during cooking.