There’s no doubt that irritable bowel syndrome can dramatically impact your life and prevent you from doing the things you love. You may be someone who loves to travel, but the thought of traveling with while managing your digestive issues just causes you go into a tailspin of anxiety and worry.
Having IBS brings about a lot of unpredictable and uncomfortable symptoms. Often times travel can make these symptoms much worse. If you experience chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating, then the idea of being outside of the environment you’re used to, can be extremely worrisome.
It can raise a lot of questions and fears, such as
How will I feel on the plane? Will I be sick?
What if I’m having to run to the bathroom every 10 minutes?
What food will I be able to eat?
What if the long flight or car ride makes me feel really bloated and constipated?
All of these thoughts are legitimate concerns. It’s miserable being sick while you’re away from home. When my IBS was at its worst, I did not travel. I just wasn’t willing to put my body through that. I typically never felt well after a flight or a long car ride anyway. Plus, I knew that eating out every meal was not a good option for me at the time. I was in a pretty bad state.
However, since I’ve significantly healed my gut, I still have worries about travel. Travel has always been a huge passion of mine; I absolutely love to see the world. So, while I still have some anxiety around travel, I’m not willing to succumb to that stress and not go anywhere. I want to experience life to its fullest, so I now plan ahead when I travel and make sure I’m as prepared as I can be.
Below are a few travel tips that can help you if you’re suffering from IBS. You don’t have to let IBS keep you from doing the things you love.
Pack your own food.
Personally, I tend to go to the extremely with this, but I pack a bunch of food items that I can take on the plane with me. Its best to avoid the food at the airport, and definitely stay aways from any food served on the plane. With IBS, it’s so important that you stick to high quality, anti-inflammatory foods. By packing your own food, you can make sure you’re avoiding inflammatory ingredients like gluten, dairy, soy, and industrial seed oils that can wreak havoc on your GI system.
Some of my favorite foods to travel with are Epic bars, fresh fruit, avocado, grass-fed beef jerky, bacon, and organic dark chocolate. If you tolerate nuts and nut butters, those are great items to pack as well. I’ve also taken left over dinner before. I made my Bowl of Goodness and packed the leftovers. It was a great meal on the plane!
Bring supplements to support your gut and immune system.
I have a pill case that use for my supplements when I travel. Traveling exposes you to different pathogens and bacteria and it can wear down your immune system. It also throws off your body’s clock and can mess up your sleep as you travel through different time zones.
Therefore, I make sure I have my supplements for general wellness, such as a multi-vitamin, B-complex, probiotic. Then I pack my digestive aids which include digestive enzymes, Betaine HCL, and magnesium. The magnesium also helps with relaxation.
Traveling by plane is extremely dehydrating, so it’s critical that you drink plenty of water. This will help prevent constipation and bloating. I always buy a large bottle of water right when I get to the airport. Be sure to avoid alcohol on the plane as this will add to your dehydration.
Relax, practice stress management.
One of the most important things you can do is relax and practice stress management. Try deep breathing before and during your flight. Go to a yoga class the day before your travels. Stress and anxiety can make your digestive problems so much worse. I probably struggle the most with this aspect.
I tend to get really anxious before a flight which will mess up my digestion for the next couple of days. To help prevent this, I use journaling, prayer, deep breathing, and essential oils. I always travel with Lavender essential oil to help me relax.
Being sedentary for a long period of time can worsen digestive problems and cause more bloating and constipation. When you get to the airport, walk around until it’s time to board your plane. This can also help relieve anxiety. If you’re on a long flight, walk up and down the aisles periodically.
Get an aisle seat.
This is especially important if your main symptom is diarrhea. If you think you’ll be getting up a few times during your flight to visit the restroom, then do your best to get an aisle seat. This will make things easier and less stressful for you. It’s also a good idea to get an aisle seat, so you can easily walk up and down the aisles if you need to move around.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Many of us, myself included, are hesitant to ask questions out of fear of appearing high maintenance. I’ve realized how ridiculous this is. You want to feel great while you’re traveling, so don’t be afraid to ask questions at restaurants about their food. Be very firm when explaining that you can’t eat gluten or dairy. There is nothing to be ashamed of here. Try to keep your meals simple as well. Order animal protein (chicken, fish, beef) and cooked vegetables. Ask them to put any type of sauce on the side or not use it at all. You simply want to stay healthy and enjoy your trip.
Drink in moderation
If you’re going on vacation then it’s always nice to have a drink with dinner or while sitting by the pool. (If you’re in the sun all day, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.) If you choose to consume alcohol on your trip, keep it to a minimum. Avoid the fruity, beach drinks as they contain a ton of sugar and other not-so-great ingredients. Stay away from beer as well since it contains gluten. Choosing wine is a safer alternative. If you’re going somewhere tropical, you can probably order rum with coconut water, which is very tasty. Of course, depending how bad your symptoms are, it may be wise to avoid alcohol completely. Listen to your body, and do what you think is best.
Now that you have a few tips on traveling with IBS, I hope you can prepare for your next adventure with more excitement and less anxiety. Safe travels!