Have you noticed that your irritable bowel syndrome flares get worse when you are travelling? Or does your IBS tend to improve when you’re on holiday?
It can really go either way, so the more prepared (and relaxed) you are, the better.
Travel can be an anxiety-including experience for some people with IBS. Whereas others are sipping prosecco from the get go and seem to be IBS symptom free for the most part.
Why is my IBS worse when travelling?
There are many possible reasons for this, including:
- Changes in your routine
- Lack of, or increased activity
- Changes to what you’re eating
- Disruption to your sleep pattern
- Excess alcohol
- Stress of getting to where you need to be on time and without hiccups
So how can you reduce your risk of an irritable bowel symptom flare up on holiday or vacation?
The Gut Experts’ IBS Travel Checklist:
- Know your trigger foods – getting a good grasp of the foods that trigger your IBS and avoiding them can help you reduce IBS symptoms when travelling. The FLAT Gut Diet helps you to identify your triggers and your individual thresholds for these foods, so try to make some headway on this before you go on vacation
- Carry IBS-friendly snacks with you such as nuts, crackers or fruit that you know you tolerate well
- On the days you’re travelling, try to have regular meals and sufficient fluids
- If you find travelling stressful, continue with (or even increase) your usual stress/anxiety management techniques e.g. exercise or meditation – as stress/anxiety can increase IBS symptoms
- An exciting part of travelling is trying the local dishes. You may want to try all the wonderful new foods on offer but by sticking to foods you are used to for the most part, this may help to reduce risk of an IBS flare up. Enjoy the new, untried foods more sparingly
- If you’re going on a hike or visiting somewhere remote, try to find out in advance if/where there will be toilet breaks/access.
- If you take medication for your IBS ensure you bring enough with you. It may also be useful to bring some anti-diarrhoea medications like loperamide if you have IBS-D or laxatives if you have IBS-C
- Make sure that you drink enough fluids – this can help to prevent constipation. And, adequate fluids are vital if you’re experiencing diarrhoea so that you can replace the fluids you’re losing.
- Bathrooms may not always have toilet paper so keep a packet of tissues in your bag and some hand sanitiser
- Learn how to ask where the bathroom is in the language of the place you’re visiting
- Choosing an aisle seat near the toilet on the plane might reduce your anxiety about having to go to the bathroom when flying
- If you feel comfortable, tell your travelling companions about your IBS as this may help to alleviate some of your stress/anxiety – you can adapt your plans and restaurant choices together
Don't let IBS ruin your holiday
Try to stick to your usual routine as much as reasonably possible – eating, sleeping and exercising – although we know this can be hard when changing time zones and you want to go with the holiday flow. If you’re holidaying with others, they too might like to go for more walks, do some yoga or take some down time.
Most importantly, have fun. Travelling is a wonderful experience, it’s a great chance to explore, relax, and meet new people.
Hopefully taking these steps will help to reduce your IBS symptoms and allow you to make the most of your trip.
If you would like to learn more about managing irritable bowel syndrome and the female gut take a look at our book What Every Woman Needs to Know About Her Gut here.
©The Gut Experts 2022
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