Are you looking forward to Christmas? Probably not if you're among the estimated one in three women who have their festive fun spoiled by an embarrassing health problem that they'd rather not talk about with their BFF, let alone anyone else.
We're not just talking bad breath or sweaty pits here. No, it's something way more embarrassing. Bowel problems, to put it frankly. And period pain too (well, who wants to admit they've got a bad case of the cramps when everyone else is belting out Christmas carols?)
But let's not get too hung up on the cringeworthiness of such things. They're just normal bodily functions, after all. And when it comes to unruly bowels, there's so much of it about at Christmas there's even a name for it: jingle bowels.
"It's not unusual to experience bowel complaints during the festive season," says Professor Peter Whorwell, professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Wythenshaw Hospital in Manchester. "However a few simple tricks can help you maintain your digestive health."
Festive food swaps
Watching what you eat during Christmas is never going to be easy, but Professor Whorwell says the following food swaps will help keep your bowel feeling normal:
Poached pears instead of Christmas pudding and mince pies
Steamed veggies instead of cauliflower cheese
Crème fraiche instead of full fat ice cream
Water instead of fruit juice and fizzy drinks
Carrots instead of Brussels sprouts
Foods to avoid
Other things to steer clear of where food is concerned include onions, tomatoes, beans, peas, prunes, apples, broccoli, cauliflower and anything containing fructose (fruit sugar) or the artificial sweetener sorbitol. That's because they can all make you gassy.
Chew, chew, chew
Not chewing your food properly can also upset your bowel. Try eating more slowly and chew each mouthful thoroughly. It also helps if you avoid eating too much at one sitting. And keep active too, as exercise also helps your bowel function normally.
Strike a pose
Meanwhile if period pain is a problem, there are several natural remedies you can try. Yoga can help too (though avoid inverted poses at your time of the month). Try the following, called janu sirasana (or head-to-knee pose):
1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Use a small cushion or folded towel for support if you need it. Bend your right knee and rest the sole of your foot against your inner left thigh (if your right knee doesn't touch the floor, support it with another folded towel). Gently twist your upper body so your navel is in line with the middle of your left thigh.
2. Sit up as tall as you can, then on an out breath bend forward and take hold of your left foot with both hands. If you can't reach your foot, use a folded towel to make a strap and hook it around your foot. If you can reach your foot with your hands, lower your torso down as far as is comfortable. Hold the pose for a few breaths.
3. Inhale as you sit back up. Then repeat to the other side by switching legs.