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Dr Mani Naghibi, Consultant in Gastroenterology and an expert in Human Nutrition, shares his expertise about eating and drinking at Christmas, in particular for oncology patients and those with digestive conditions. Food is important at Christmas and at The London Clinic we ensure our oncology patients and those with digestive problems, enjoy the very best cuisine with individual dietary twists.

About Dr Mani Naghibi

Dr Naghibi is trained in all aspects of gastroenterology and have clinical interests in nutrition, functional bowel disorders, conditions causing change in bowel habit and abdominal pain and reflux.
View Dr Mani Naghibi’s full profile

What advice would you give to your patients about eating and drinking at Christmas?

First and foremost, enjoy Christmas! It’s a time to indulge a little, be merry and enjoy a good meal with friends and family.

For those with a big appetite, I would recommend sticking to a healthy diet in the run-up to Christmas, including having alcohol-free days, and then you can relax and indulge a bit more on the day. 

What are your recommendations for people with a poor appetite, in particular oncology patients?

It depends on where you are in your journey. 

In the pre-operation stage, there is good evidence to suggest that a high-protein diet is good for maintaining muscle mass and going into an operation with good muscles is important for the recovery period.

Maintaining a good level of Vitamin D is also important, either through supplements or foods that are naturally high in Vitamin D, such as oily fishes. Also, if you are diabetic, then switching to a high-fat diet rather than a high-carb diet is advisable, in the lead up to the operation. 

During chemo and radiotherapy, you can have abnormal taste sensations, reduced taste sensitivity, or even a complete loss of appetite. Chemotherapy can affect your mouth and the tissues therein and swallowing can also become problematic. 

My advice is to look up recipes that are particularly high in energy but can be consumed in small quantities, so fatty foods, cakes and creams.

If you’re having difficulties with swallowing, have foods that are high in moisture instead of dry. Even if you’re choosing a meat, choose lamb or beef which are moister than turkey, for example. 

For the post-surgery group, focus on a low-salt diet, reduce intake of red meat, and reduce processed food which includes sausages, bacon and meat not cut up into chunks.

Increase or, take up regular activities and avoid having a sedentary life. It goes hand in hand with reducing sugars, because sugar leads to weight gain and obesity is a risk factor for a number of cancers.

Table showing a selection of Christmas dishes

How important is nutrition for our general health and how much does it contribute to other conditions?

Nutrition can impact upon every condition, from lung disease, to heart disease, to psychiatric diseases, to cancers.  We are finding out more and more that good nutrition and directed nutrition for each condition, has a central role in recovering and moving on from diseases. 

What advice would you give to your digestive patients around Christmas?

Digestive patients include those with gastroenterology issues, irritable bowel syndrome, people who tend to get diarrhoea and bloating, or those who might have carbohydrate intolerance.

Many patients are now aware of the low FODMAP (fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) diet.

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that are poorly absorbed by the body, resulting in abdominal pain and bloating. A low FODMAP diet particularly helps IBS patients with bloating, diarrhoea, general abdominal pains.

In general, high fodmap food stresses your gut.  

Some of the foods eaten over the Christmas period are naturally higher in FODMAPs (e.g. dried fruits or raisins, Brussel sprouts), so the advice would be to choose the foods that you know that have high FODMAPs that you really like, but have them in small quantities.

Potatoes, carrots and parsnips are low in FODMAP and good news for meat eaters, turkey is low in FODMAP, also. For vegetarians I would recommend regular tofu (not silicone tofu) as tofu has low FODMAP, also.

How detrimental is a Christmas diet to our nutrition and health?

It’s not really detrimental. If you usually follow a healthy diet and avoid food when you have intolerances or allergies, then actually one day off isn’t detrimental at all. 

If we are talking about the whole of the Christmas period, then that’s different. I would recommend portion control over the festive season, having alcohol-free days and try to avoid the high, densely energy-rich, fatty foods.

Further information

Dr Naghibi provides All-Inclusive Packages for colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy and gastroscopy, so that you can take comfort in knowing that you will pay one agreed fixed price that will not change.

Request an appointment with Dr Mani Naghibi and the services he provides. Alternatively, telephone Alice Martin-Lumbard: 0203 9076579 or email

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