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Halloween: A Gut Trick or A Gut Treat

As an extension of our recent blog "10 Signs and Symptoms of Irritable Bowl Syndrome", we thought it would be a good idea to help folks tackle the Halloween month (i.e. the candy!).

Whether you have a child who struggles with IBS or you’re an adult with IBS, Halloween candy is everywhere, I hope that this blog can help you tackle this halloween without dealing with those scary IBS symptoms. First, let's talk about why is candy a trigger... Halloween is known by us all to be a holiday that has us surrounded by delicious treats -sour patch kids, skittles, mini chocolate bars, small bags of chips, lollipops, and the list goes on! Although this one time a year gives us one hell of a free pass to indulge in sugar the couple weeks following the 31st, they aren’t always the best for digestive health and can lead to increased IBS symptoms after consumption.

That’s because they contain some high FODMAP ingredients including polyols (sugar alcohols), fructose and lactose, which can all lead to IBS symptoms (to read more on, see our original IBS blog). Everyone is different with their own unique triggers, which means everyone has their own tolerance to how many candies they can eat before feeling digestive symptoms. It's important to not ignore your body when it deems you've had enough sweets and you start to feel IBS symptoms. Try incorporating some, or all, of these tips to tackle Halloween with IBS this year...Get control of your IBS symptoms while still allowing yourself to enjoy some sweets.

1. Communication Trying to communicate with your child when all they can think about is all of the candy they got this Halloween can be a big challenge, but it’s important to try. Let them know that eating too much candy at once will make them feel sick, so it’s better to space it out and have a little bit here and there. Let them have some power to decide what time of day they would like to have their candy and how much they think is a reasonable amount. It’s important to have some compromise here so that everyone leaves the discussion happy.

2. Don’t restrict One of the number one tips here is to not restrict yourself from the candy. I face this challenge every time I try to tell myself I'm on a diet, where you want it so much more if you don’t allow yourself to have it - anyone else?? And I don't know about you, but this will most often lead to overindulging later on and eating way more than your digestive system can handle(such regret!). Instead, it’s a good idea to allow yourself to have some if you want it. If you know that eating some candy will give you IBS symptoms, then replace the craving for candy with something different that works with your digestive system, like is a low FODMAP dessert (i.e. cookies or brownie).

3. Out of sight, out of mind Having the candy in plain sight is a disaster waiting to happen! Constantly walking by a bowl full of candy might lead you to casually eating little pieces of candy all throughout the day without realizing it. Have you ever tried having a bowl of m&m's or a tray of cookies out around the holidays? They are gone in no time at all! Instead, hide it away in a cupboard so that you are not constantly seeing it and reminding yourself. This might help to drastically reduce the amount of candy you eat throughout the day, which might lead to reduced IBS symptoms. 4. Discipline Coinciding with tip #1, to restrict, discipline is key. It is important to make a limit and stick to it. By this I mean to decide how many candies you think you can tolerate without having IBS symptoms and then try not to eat more than that in one sitting. Overindulging in anything can lead to uncomfortable IBS symptoms and we don’t want that, especially if you know you’re going to be eating more candy the next day.

5. Eat 'good for digestion' food Before trick-or-treating and in the weeks after Halloween, it is important to eat good for digestion food throughout the day if you know you’re going to be indulging in candy later on. If you have a day where you go out for dinner, order takeout, eat a trigger food or have an increased amount of stress, then maybe it’s best to refrain from the candy that particular day. It’s important to try not to overload your digestive system with too many IBS triggers in the same day so that you can keep any IBS symptoms to a minimum. 6. Replace the habit If you find that you’re getting too many cravings to eat the candy throughout the day, you might benefit from replacing the craving with something else. This could be eating a different food, like a piece of fruit or dark chocolate, or it could be keeping your mind busy by reading a book or going for a walk. Again, we don’t want to restrict ourselves from the candy, but we need to practice some discipline so we don’t end up eating it all day because that won’t keep our digestive system happy. 7. Don’t buy it Maybe you don’t have kids but are surrounded by candy at the grocery store. What do you do in this case? You can either refrain from buying it and buy a different treat that will satisfy the craving while still being good for digestion - maybe some dark chocolate? Or, you can purchase a small amount to eat in moderation.

During this Halloween month, try to apply these tips to your life to see if they help you manage your symptoms this Halloween. This would be a great challenge for your digestive system to see if you can tolerate a small amount of candy. By following some of these tips, you might find that your cravings for the candy are reduced and you might find yourself having less IBS symptoms. Halloween is about having fun and dressing up, not for uncomfortable IBS symptoms!