Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects your large intestine and colon. Those who suffer from IBS will experience many different symptoms like cramping, bloating, and abdominal pain. Some may suffer constipation for days and others will experience an awful bout of diarrhea.
If you’re living with IBS and planning on traveling, don’t fret. The key to controlling your IBS is to understand your symptoms. Before traveling, try keeping a diary of what you eat, when you experience discomfort, and detail your symptoms. After some time, you will discover patterns and will know what your personal ‘triggers’ are.
No one likes feeling bloated and uncomfortable when going on a great adventure. The good news is that IBS is completely manageable even when far away from home.
Here are some tips from Lisa, an experienced traveler from the UK, who has successfully managed her IBS while on safari in Tanzania as well as exploring jungles and oceans in Borneo.
Avoid your ‘trigger’ foods
This can be torturous. Lisa explains, “I cannot drink beer and I know from experience that it’s better in the long run to avoid. It was tough while in Borneo because alcoholic drinks are really expensive, where they are available. Beer is by far the most economical drink if you want something alcoholic but because I can’t really drink it I was having to spend 6x more on a glass of wine instead.”
Pack extra amounts of relevant medication.
Be sure to stash some away in your purse, hand luggage, and suitcase in case one is lost, stolen, or delayed.
Drink lots of water.
It doesn’t matter what type of IBS you have, you need to keep properly hydrated. Buy bottled water and drink lots of it! This is particularly true when flying.
Do a lot of research on local food.
For example, people that struggle with yeast can still eat certain flat breads, which means sometimes foreign foods are better than your food from home!
Trying to stay calm and relaxed no matter what the trip throws at you.
Stress is one of the primary ‘triggers’ of IBS. My doctor suggested that I imagine the worst-case scenario about a trip (delays, lost luggage, bag stolen, etc.) and then plan how I would combat each situation. If you are prepared for the worst then you will feel confident about managing any crisis during your trip. Calming techniques such as meditation or yoga can help as well.
Take along healthy snacks on travel days.
Remember to pack fruit and vegetables to keep your fiber level up and eat at regular hours while you adjust to a time zone change.
Try to eat little and often.
Lisa’s advises, “Going hungry in the day and then gorging until you feel sick in the evening usually spells disaster. When I was trekking through the jungle in Borneo, or on safari in Tanzania this was more difficult than usual. Most tours have a lunch break and most places will have somewhere you can stack up on bottled water and snack foods that are ideally healthy to last between meals. I have never found that eating local food has upset my stomach, as long as I don’t over-eat. I eat local dishes everywhere, from curries in Borneo to stewed goat dishes in Africa, and I’ve loved them all!”
Exercise is good for getting the digestive system running and it also acts as a stress reliever. Active holidays are a great idea for those with IBS. Always make sure you have plans for any stomach surprises, such as food poisoning or waterborne illness.
With a bit of planning, and these expert tips from Lisa, IBS won’t hold you back from traveling the world.