Traveling should be a time to destress and enjoy a holiday but traveling with IBS can be the opposite of this.
When you have IBS, the very thought of being stuck on a plane for hours with only a handful of public toilets is stressful. Not to mention the lack of control you will have over your diet.
We have teamed up with FODZYME who have kindly sponsored this post to help guide IBS sufferers on how they can enjoy traveling with IBS.
Below you will see 10 tips that are easy to implement. These ‘tips’ come from years of working with people who have IBS and so they are tried and tested.
Please note that this blog post contains affiliate links.
1. Reduce your pre-travel stress
In the week leading up to traveling you will have lots of additional tasks to complete. For example, you may need to get those ‘last minute’ things and organize travel insurance.
You may also find that you have to finish off work projects before going on annual leave or organize processes to cover your job role whilst you are away.
Having an extended to-do list can make you feel stressed which will trigger your fight or flight response.The fight or flight response is a natural reaction we have to being stressed but it can cause digestive symptoms in people with IBS.
You can read more about the connection between mental health and IBS here.
To manage your ‘pre-travel’ to-do list more effectively, schedule it in 2 weeks rather than leaving everything to the last minute. Allowing yourself more time to tackle this list will reduce the level of stress.
2. Activate your parasympathetic nervous system
When you have IBS, being told to use deep breathing may sound strange or perhaps a little patronizing.
However, when you take forced, deep and slow breaths it activates your parasympathetic nervous system which helps reduce the impact of your stress or anxiety.
You can use this deep breathing technique in situations where you feel anxious as anxiety can trigger IBS symptoms. For example you may feel anxious in a queue to board the plane or before eating out at a restaurant.
3. Use FODZYME enzyme to break foods down for you
FODZYME is a digestive enzyme supplement which breaks down some FODMAPs in foods before they reach your gut.
FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates which can cause symptoms in people with IBS. The low FODMAP diet is commonly used to help people with IBS.
FODZYME is very useful for traveling when you don’t always have control over what foods you will be eating.
You will also be pleased to know that FODZYME comes in a sachet format which is amazing for traveling. You can simply carry a few sachets in your bag rather than carting around a whole tub.
We have done an in depth review on FODZYME which you can read here: ‘Does FODZYME Work? 2023 Dietitian Review’.
4. Opt for self-catering
Most of us travel for pleasure and do not want to be cooking on our holiday. However, when you have IBS the thought of relying on restaurant food all day can be stressful.
Instead, consider self-catering. Staying in accommodation when you have the option to cook your own food doesn’t mean that you have to. You can still eat out but if you have a more sensitive stomach then you also have a safer option to fall back on.
Self-catering accommodation also allows you the option to bring your own snacks or prepare a lunch to take out with you as you explore a new part of the world.
5. Request gluten-free food
Gluten is not a trigger for IBS but many foods that contain gluten also contain FODMAPs.
It is unlikely that a restaurant on holiday will be able to do a full low FODMAP menu for you. However, many places now offer ‘gluten free’ low FODMAP bread which will help you to reduce your overall intake of FODMAPs.
All airlines offer a gluten free meal option but please note that you need to request this more than 24 hours before you fly. Some airlines now also offer a ‘sensitive’ gut option as well.
6. Do not neglect fiber
Airport food and airplane food is typically low in fiber.
Fiber is needed to help symptoms of loose stools and constipation in IBS. So, many people find that their IBS flare ups on the first few days of holiday.
Instead of letting a low fiber intake cause your symptoms, be mindful. Making small changes like opting for side salads when you eat at an airport or taking your own, high-fiber snacks like fruit and vegetable sticks can help.
7. Do not neglect fluid
Many people with IBS find their constipation is triggered on the first few days of a holiday due to dehydration. Even if you are usually diligent about staying hydrated, it can be difficult when you are out of routine.
Start tackling your fluid needs in the airport by taking a reusable water bottle. You will be allowed this in your hand luggage as long as it is empty when you go through security.
Many airports across the world have an environmental policy and provide drinking water free of charge so you can fill up your bottle. If this is not the case then you will need to purchase a big bottle of water to use on the flight.
8. Masking your poo smell
As much as we can tell you that all humans poo and it is normal, most of us feel embarrassed about the smell.
Now this smell is usually in our own homes so it is private. When you travel, this is not quite the case. Simply trying not to poo can make your IBS much worse, instead consider using a specialist spray.
‘Poo-pourri’ is a classic example of a toilet spray which you spray into the water of the toilet and it actually does mask the smell! Magic.
There are now multiple brands offering similar solutions, try them at home before you travel.
9. Dress for altitude bloating
When the plane goes into the air, the cabin pressure drops. This drop in pressure can leave you feeling bloated.
Instead of wearing tight fitting clothing which will become uncomfortable, opt for clothes with elasticated waists. As your stomach expands, the elastic will expand to accommodate it rather than pushing against your body.
10. Prepare a gut health travel kit
The ideal traveling with IBS scenario is that you do not have symptoms. But, if symptoms do occur then it is best to be prepared. We have created the following list of items that can help you recover from an IBS flare up;
- A hot water bottle – applying heat to abdominal cramping can help to relax the muscles and reduce the pain
- Antidiarrheal medications – these change be purchased over the counter but please check with your doctor or pharmacist
- Psyllium husk – this is a type of fiber which can help both symptoms of loose stools and constipation
- Laxatives – again check with your doctor or pharmacist on which would be the best ones for you
- Foldable yoga mat – this is great for when you have trapped painful gas. Simple stretches on a mat can help release this gas.
Traveling with IBS can be difficult. Having a lack of control over your food options and increased stress can trigger symptoms.
However, there are also multiple ways to avoid the risk of getting IBS symptoms or reducing their impact if they do occur.
Thank you to FODZYME for sponsoring this post. You can find out more about their enzyme and how it works here.
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.
Last updated on June 15th, 2023 at 06:24 am