Facing the upcoming holiday celebrations and the inevitable food frenzy they provoke can be difficult if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (or colon)-and more than 20 percent of U.S. adults suffer from it. Although the disorder doesn't usually lead to other diseases, it can be extremely uncomfortable, causing

  • Abdominal cramps or pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen or bloated stomach
  • Gas

For many IBS sufferers, traditional holiday fare such as chocolate, alcohol, creamy soups, sauces, fried foods, carbonated beverages, and some fruits and vegetables can exacerbate symptoms. But that doesn't mean that you have to forego holiday parties or family celebrations this year. Just be aware of your particular food triggers and make some simple adjustments. Here, some tips to consider:

  • If you're having turkey, choose white meat and leave the dark meat behind. Red meat can be fine as long as you avoid high-fat cuts like strip steak or rib eye. Also try substituting fish for meat or poultry.
  • Try baked sweet potatoes or plain baked potatoes if butter and milk causes problems. And be sure to leave out the gravy.
  • Stick to foods high in fiber such as brown rice, steamed vegetables, lima, kidney and navy beans.
  • Cooked fruits such as applesauce and cranberry sauce are generally well- tolerated as are steamed vegetables.
  • Pass up the white dinner rolls and pick the whole grain ones instead.
  • If pie is your passion, but the crust is hard on your digestive system, try eating only the filling and leaving the crust behind.

The holiday season can be a stressful time of year, but you can keep your stress level low by remembering to do the following:

  • Practice meditation, yoga, and other stress management techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, and biofeedback.
  • Maintain your exercise routine. Regular exercise helps relieve depression and stress and stimulates normal contractions of your intestines.
  • Before going out, set aside at least 20 minutes to relax. Listen to music, read, play computer games, or soak in a warm bath.
  • Stick to eating several small meals, rather than three big ones.
  • Drink plenty of water. Herbal teas such as peppermint, which soothes the gastrointestinal tract, and chamomile, which reduces intestinal inflammation, are also good choices.