The prospect of traveling can be daunting when you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Will you be able to eat the food? Will your tummy behave? What if you need the bathroom while you’re in the airport security line? These are questions that may have crossed your mind.
Pain, constipation, diarrhea, constant trips to the restroom… No doubt, the struggle is real when you’re living with IBS. Fortunately, when you need to travel, there are things that you can do to minimize the discomfort and embarrassment, setting you up for a good trip.
Here are 13 tips to make traveling with IBS more tolerable…
After making your travel arrangements, take some time to mentally prepare your body for the upcoming trip by visualizing yourself successfully handling any challenges that you might face.
A good way to do this is by sitting in a quiet place, closing your eyes, and walking yourself through the trip in your mind. Then, open your eyes and devise a plan for handling worst-case scenarios.
Ease your mind (and consequently your digestive system) by packing smart for your trip. This includes items such as baby wipes, sanitary towels, and a change of undergarments and clothes.
You’ll also want to pack in some IBS-friendly snacks, such as fruit, trail mix, nuts, high-fiber grain bars, etc. If you are prone to diarrhea, then pack foods that bind. Avoid lactose and gluten products.
Consult Your Doctor
Before the trip, visit your doctor and inquire about prescription medications that you can use for severe irritable bowel symptoms. Also, ask about over-the-counter options for diarrhea and constipation.
While you may not need any of these drugs on your travels, knowing that you have them at your disposal will bring you peace of mind. If you do need them, then they can minimize your discomfort.
Know Where the Bathrooms Are
Various mobile toilet-finding apps can help you map out bathroom access, such as SitOrSquat. Knowing ahead of time where the restrooms are can minimize IBS travel anxiety.
If you’re traveling by plane, bear in mind that aircraft lavatories tend to get busy at certain times. They are normally busiest before landings, just before the seatbelt light goes on, and after movies.
Since traveling can be stressful, your body will face many potential IBS triggers, but you can avoid discomfort by not eating foods that trigger IBS. This includes junk food and high-FODMAP foods.
Finding healthy foods that are gut-friendly can be challenging when you’re traveling. However, healthier alternatives such as salads and grilled chicken have become more widely available on the go.
By learning and practicing relaxation exercises before and during your trip, you can minimize stress, which tends to aggravate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for most people.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, body scan, and mindfulness meditation can be incredibly effective at reducing stress. Simply find what works for you and keep practicing.
Tell Your Travel Companions
Hiding your distress from travel companions only increases anxiety and makes things worse when you have IBS. Instead, tell those traveling with you that you have irritable bowel syndrome.
If you require special accommodations, let the relevant people know. After all, IBS is a legitimate medical disorder, and since the problem is so common, you may encounter fellow sufferers.
Stick to Your Sleep Schedule
A lot of travelers find sleeping on an airplane difficult. But, it’s important to try to rest when you fly and maintain your everyday sleep schedule, as sleep schedule shifts can trigger bowel problems.
The body has its own biological clock. When the natural rhythm of that clock is disrupted by unusual wakefulness, IBS symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation can occur.
Maintain Your Eating Times
When you’re traveling, eating at the same times is important, too, and not maintaining mealtime consistency can set off unpleasant symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in some individuals.
Circadian rhythms, metabolism, nutrition, and eating patterns are all interconnected, so when you eat at different times than your body is used to, it’s not unusual for the bowels to act up.
Keep your muscles and joints moving and your blood circulating – before and during the trip. Why? Because exercise is healthy. And because it relieves stress, a known IBS trigger.
Engaging in strenuous activities isn’t necessary; light exercise will do, like walking. In fact, workouts that are unusually intense should be avoided during travels, as they can strain the immune system.
Drink bottled water throughout your trip to keep your digestive system working properly. Dehydration, which can occur on airplanes due to a lack of humidity in the cabin air, puts you at risk for constipation.
On the other hand, if you’re an IBS sufferer who tends to experience bouts of diarrhea, then the water you drink will replace any fluids you lose through repeated trips to the toilet.
Avoid Getting Sick
Travelers’ diarrhea from contaminated foods and drinks is a thing. That is the last thing that a person with irritable bowel syndrome needs when they’re traveling. Fortunately, you can protect yourself.
To prevent infections, steer clear of street vendors and only drink bottled or boiled water. You’ll also want to avoid raw and undercooked foods like meats, seafood, and vegetables.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be a frustrating and isolating disorder to live with, among other things, but don’t let that distract or deter you from the many enjoyable benefits that traveling has to offer.
It is possible to have fun on your travels when you have IBS. It’s just a matter of planning ahead and taking steps to minimize symptoms and discomfort. Plus, the more you travel, the easier it gets.