Travel with IBS Can Be Done!
Travel with IBS does not have to be miserable. I love to travel. When my digestive problems became a full blown case of IBS, I worried about no longer being able to engage in one of my favorite activities.
It's hard enough to deal with IBS in social situations. But at least at the end of the evening you can just go home, or at worst, excuse yourself early.
However, travel with IBS is a different story. When you are traveling, there is not always easy access to bathrooms and comfortable, quiet places to relax. You may worry that the pain, gas and bloating is going to keep you from enjoying all the fun activities involved in traveling and exploring new places.
The most worrisome, of course, is the food. To me, trying the foods in different cities and even different countries is one of the best things about traveling. However, with IBS, there is always the risk that something will trigger your symptoms and make your trip miserable for a couple of days until you can get back on track.
Travel with IBS Tip #1 - DO NOT AVOID TRAVELING!
This is a very important tip for one main reason: traveling and exploring new places takes your mind off of your IBS and reduces stress!
That's why we do it, right? To enjoy ourselves. By doing so, you will help your mind and your body.
That said, you still need to make sure you are comfortable and have what you need to avoid any unfortunate IBS attacks.
Travel with IBS Tip #2 - Give Yourself Extra Time to Settle in
I am always, without fail, a bit irregular my first couple days of vacation. It could be lack of exercise on the day of travel (sitting in the car or on a plane for several hours), but I am always more tired and my system just seems to be “off” for at least two days. It doesn't mean I don't enjoy those first two days, but I try to take it easy and give myself time to settle in. So for instance, if you are attending a wedding out of town, plan to arrive a couple of days early to relax, enjoy the sites or visit with others. Then on the day of the wedding you will feel more at ease and your body will be in a more settled state, too. This will prevent an IBS attack at the wedding.
For international travel, give yourself three days. You can still plan on seeing some sights, but save your power touring for the middle to end of the trip.
Travel with IBS Tip #3 - Don't Drink the Water!
Anywhere! This is not just for international travel. Different regions of the country have different water than your sensitive stomach is used to. Don't you notice how your Aunt Millie's tap water has a different taste than your own tap water at home? Why risk aggravating your IBS?
I always find it safest to just buy a couple large bottles of water and take it in the car, or on the plane. Then I stop and buy more when I arrive at my destination and use it throughout the trip. It may be more expensive than tap water, but it is much more costly than spending part of your vacation with an IBS attack.
Travel with IBS Tip #4 - Keep Your Supplies Handy
Bring with you ALL the supplies you use at home that help you with your IBS. I always pack smaller supplies of my supplements, special foods (carrots) and snacks (those vending machine snacks are usually not IBS friendly) pain reliever, relaxation materials, even a heating pad. And I keep most of this in a bag I keep with me (okay, not the heating pad, but you get the point). You never know when you may need to access these items and you don't want to be a bother to whomever is driving the car, to stop and open the trunk and rearrange the suitcases, because you need to get in yours. Also, if you are traveling by plane, you never know when your plane will be delayed or your luggage may be lost. It is just easier to have all of these necessary items handy. You may be thinking, “I can just get all that stuff when I arrive, or borrow it.” Please, don't rely on this. You will feel much more relaxed and in control if you have your own little care package to use when and if you need it.
I still remember many years ago when I was visiting some friends, but staying with some people I didn't know too well. I needed to go to the store to get some personal items. I had a rental car, so I thought it would be no problem to just go. But my gracious hostess, first of all, kept asking what I needed because she had plenty of everything and I could just use hers. And then, she also kept insisting that she come with me to the store. It would have been so much easier, and less frustrating, if I could have just reached into my bag to get what I needed. I could have chosen another time to get more of what I needed, and I didn't have to feel so desperate and in someone else's control.
Travel with IBS Tip #5 - Take Your Medications
I don't like to rely on medications when I am at home, but when I travel, it is certainly good to have them on hand. The prescription medication my gastroenterology doctor gave me for IBS is pretty strong stuff, but if I am stuck on a plane with abdominal pain, I am going to want to take it. Being gassy and bloated may be okay if I am home alone, but if I am relaxing and watching a movie with family and friends, I don't want to have to be uncomfortable or be thinking about my IBS more than the movie. So bring any prescription medication, anti-diarrheal medication, laxatives and anti gas medication. A small bottle of ibuprofen can also be a life saver. If your doctor has not given you any medication for your IBS, do not be afraid to ask for it and explain to your doctor that you want to have it in case you need it on your trip. Try it out before you leave, so you know how your body is going to react to it and what side effects you can expect.
I traveled to Europe with IBS. I worried before the trip how this was going to work. But, surprisingly, I didn't really even notice my IBS when I was there! “How could that be?” you ask. Strange food, strange water, hardly any good bathrooms and most of which you need to PAY to use. Well, I came prepared. I asked one of my friends that I was going to visit if she could get me a few things so I would have them when I arrived. I made sure I did the same rituals I did at home with my supplements and types of food to eat. Yes, the first three days of the trip I did not feel quite myself, but this is normal for anyone traveling overseas. There was one day that was fortunately a car travel day, where I was able to just rest and take care of myself. After that, I was ready, willing and able to get out and see Europe!
Travel with IBS Tip #6 - Get Your Exercise
If you are on a vacation touring the sights, then it is easy to get exercise. All of the walking, I think, is what saved me from having IBS problems on my recent trip to Europe.
If you are visiting family, sometimes that involves a lot of sitting around and eating. You gotta love that, but you must get out and go for a walk at least once a day. Your IBS will behave very badly if you do not. There are a few little tricks to help you achieve this goal. If you are staying at a hotel, reserve a room on an upper floor and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stay at a place with a pool, it doesn't have to be fancy, and enjoy a swim for 30 minutes in the morning or evening.
If you are staying with friends or family, offer to take their dog out for a walk. If there is no dog, offer to take their kids to the park. And of course, just invite them to take a walk with you. Bring your ipod so, if you have to, you can just jog in place in your room for 30 minutes in the morning, or in 10 minute bursts throughout the day. Do anything to keep moving!
Travel with IBS Tip #7 - Don't Stuff Yourself
When you travel, there is always a tendency to stuff yourself, especially if you are going to see friends and family. Please, when people keep shoving food in front of you, do not worry about offending them by saying “No thank you. I really am full.” It will offend them more if you are off in the bathroom, miserable with gas, bloating and maybe diarrhea because you ate more than your sensitive gut could handle. With drinks, you can always take one and just sip it over several hours. But just remember who will be paying the price if you stuff yourself. Not your pushy relative, that's for sure.
Travel with IBS Tip #8 - Do Your Relaxation
The relaxation or hypnotherapy exercises you use at home can be extra important to use when you travel with IBS. While traveling can be so incredibly enjoyable, it can have times of stress, too. To keep yourself calm and your trip as enjoyable as possible, bring your relaxation program to listen to at down times, or at night before bed.
Remember, if you neglect yourself, your body will fight back with an IBS attack. Take care of yourself, and you will have a wonderful and enjoyable time with memories to last forever!
Travel with IBS can be done and it can be FUN!
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