Taking care of your gut while planning your wedding

By Gabrielle Morse

Dr Megan Rossi in a lab looking through a microscope

For IBS awareness month, I’d like to unpick the nuanced ways in which planning big celebrations (such as a wedding!) can lead to the onset, or exacerbation of, unpleasant gut symptoms. Whilst this article has been written with weddings in mind (either your own, or as a guest), the experience of event planning and gut symptoms can occur from anything to birthdays, to Eid, to Christmas.

As a gut health dietitian, I have compiled together a range of tips below to help navigate nervous system relaxation, and a gentle approach to nutrition in this time. This list is not exhaustive, and it is not personalised to your needs. If you resonate with any of the content of this article, visit your GP and request a referral to local gastroenterology teams where you should be able to access a gastro-specialist dietitian. Of course, we have a team of gut health dietitians at The Gut Health Clinic who can support you.

The gut-brain axis and gut symptoms in a nutshell

We understand that gut symptoms are a result of physiological, psychological and social factors. This area of medicine is known as “Disorders of the Gut-Brain Interaction”, evidencing just how integral the interactions between the gut and the brain (via the gut-brain axis) are in gut symptoms. The communication between the gut and the brain is influenced by our nervous system state. We have two main nervous system states, one is fight and flight (stress-response), and the other is rest and digestion (relaxation). Experiencing both states on a daily basis is normal, however spending more time in fight and flight (stress, excitement, apprehension) can lead to poor digestion, poor sleep quality and burnout.

Naturally, planning a wedding will lend itself to more time spent in fight and flight. I hope this article will help you to recognise the ways this might manifest (or be able to spot and support friends and family), as well as considering ways to increase “rest and digest” in busy times.

As always, if you do notice a change in your bowel habits and/or the onset of some new gut symptoms like persistent bloating, the first action to take is to visit your GP to check this is IBS and not something else like coeliac disease, bile acid malabsorption or inflammatory bowel disease.

Let’s unpick some of the contributing factors around wedding planning, stress and gut symptoms:

A man sitting by a laptop with his head in his hands, there are people pointing things like phones and papers from him in different directionsThe pressure of the event

This might be your first experience of organising 50+ people for a day; there are a lot of moving parts which need to come together on time which is a huge pressure! 

Financial stressSeveral £20 notes laid out on a table

Many undertake additional work, on top of full-time work to help pay for a wedding, all of this can contribute to feeling very time-poor. In terms of nutrition, this could look like working in the evenings and needing to eat later, perhaps having less time to cook and food shop and needing to make meals more simple/quicker.

The back of a wedding dress being buttoned up on someoneBody image and weddings

There is no denying, as the couple, it can feel very exposing being the centre of attention for a day, especially if your relationship with your body has ever been strained. This can also be experienced by the wedding party too. I searched the internet for “wedding prep and disordered eating” and was met with thousands of matches for how pre-wedding diets lead to, or exacerbate, an existing disordered relationship with food for so many. Crash diets, restrictive eating, under-eating, and over exercising have all been reported by couples in the lead ups to their weddings. There is a known relationship between disordered eating and gut symptoms, and restrictive diets (which are far from nutritionally balanced) can have significant negative effects on our mood and energy levels.

That being said, there are some potential outlets in the process, and some general tips shared below to try and help keep your gut health thriving during the process.

Ask for help, and accept help when it is offered! If a task is causing you too much of a headache, review if it is essential and review if another member of the wedding party could help.

A photo of craft materials on a yellow tableCrafting is a great way to relax your nervous system. Confetti can be made from hole-punched colourful cards and paper, you could draw/craft ideas for the day, organise a walk to pick some fallen leaves/flowers to make corsages/confetti, make bunting from old bedding, incorporate some crafting activities on sten/fox parties, and after the wedding, use photos from the day as a springboard to craft your own wedding art. If you are interested in crafting but unsure where to start, lean on friends and family members who can help get you started.

A photo of a woman sitting on a couch with her legs crossed, hand on her chest, doing a breathing exerciseBreath work, meditations, mindfulness and gut-directed hypnotherapy are all well researched for stress management.

A photo of a woman holding a ballet bar, working outMake movement work for you. It might be challenging to stick to the usual routine with the added time constraints of wedding planning, you may feel you “ought” to be doing more exercise in this time. If you feel more tired than usual, and certainly if you are experiencing bloating or loose stools, higher intensity exercise can worsen symptoms. Generally for gut symptoms movement like yoga, pilates, and walking can all be relieving.

Prioritise A man hugging the pillow while sleepingsleep. Suddenly the mental load of life is doubled during this period, and particularly if you are working extra hours to help with costs of weddings, aim to make sleep a priority (even over exercise). We know that poor sleep and tiredness can alter our immune health, as well as appetite and digestion, which can all impact our gut symptoms. If you are struggling with sleep, try apps like Calm and Headspace for wind-downs before sleep.

A photo of two people talkingBe open with friends, family and colleagues about your feelings of stress and being time-strapped. This is a period of time where you might feel more distracted or perhaps even less motivated at work, and this might be a period of time where you require more support and help than you can give. Know that it all comes around, and there will be times in the future where friends and family need the same from you. There are many ways to show your gratitude for other’s understanding and support.

A photo of someone writing in a book with a candle lit in the foregroundJournaling and gratitude journaling (when time allows) is not only a great evidence-based outlet for stress, but it can also be a lovely memoir of this special time.

A photo of three containers filled with sweetcorn, fruits, legumes, wholegrains & vegetablesMake quick meals more diverse with frozen fruit, vegetables, tinned legumes and nuts and seeds in the cupboard. If you are feeling time-strapped and noticing this is affecting your meals (this might look like having less time to food shop and cook, and meals becoming more simple like beans on toast), fill your freezer with a range of frozen fruit and veg.

A favourite example of mine is pesto pasta, with a well stocked freezer and some chickpeas in the cupboard, even pesto pasta could have 4-5 different portions of frozen veg, chickpeas and mixed seeds.

An image of a women eating and smiling. She has a bowl of food in front of her, orange juice and an apple.Adapt your eating patterns to changes in your appetite. Appetite can be very easily altered by stress, if you notice your appetite is reduced for more than 1 day then consider adapting to a little and often approach to meals and snacks. Include planned snacks, and aim to eat something small every 3-4hrs on days with lower appetite.

If you are struggling to finish meals, consider adding some heart healthy (unsaturated) fats to the meal to increase the energy content of the meal. You could add olive oil, mixed nuts, peanut butter, yoghurt, avocado, oily fish.

A personal favourite is salmon with roasted vegetables and lentils, with mashed potatoes made with olive oil, butter, cheese, mustard and mayonnaise!

A photo of the logo for Beat Eating DisordersKnow the signs of changes to your relationship with food, and your body. This might include a preoccupation with food labels, calorie counting, rapid weight loss, excessive exercise. This might include intentionally skipping meals, or eating less than you need. If this resonates with you, the BEAT website has many helpful resources and their helpline is 0808 801 0677.

This article really has just scratched the surface on gut symptoms and life events, and there is so much more than can be done to support anyone living with gut symptoms.

This article was authored by Gabrielle Morse. For personalised support to your circumstances, Gabrielle and the team at The Gut Health Clinic are always delighted to support. You can book an appointment here.


Related articles

Follow us

The Gut Health newsletter shown on an iPad

Sign up for our free newsletter & gut health guide

Not sure where to start on your gut health transformation? Sign up for free and we’ll empower you every month with the latest educational blogs, gut-loving recipes, research updates and helpful resources delivered straight to your inbox. You’ll also receive a downloadable guide with an intro to gut science, practical advice and exclusive recipes. Lots of support and no spam.