If you’re one of the nearly 60 million Americans living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you’re likely all too familiar with the anxiety that sets in at the thought of traveling. It’s bad enough to contend with uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, gas, cramping, and diarrhea in a familiar setting, let alone in another city or country.
Nonetheless, having IBS doesn’t have to mean avoiding trips for work and leisure. We’ve put together our top tips for traveling with IBS.
Know before you go
Whether you plan to visit a museum or must attend a business meeting, it’s wise to know where the bathrooms are located ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than being hit with an IBS emergency and rushing around in a panic trying to find a bathroom.
For each day of your trip, find out the location of the bathrooms for the buildings and areas you plan to visit. Carrying a folder with this information is a great way to stay organized. You can check it for quick reference when necessary. Once you arrive at each destination, find the restrooms immediately so you’re sure of where they are.
Additionally, it’s helpful to download an app for your smartphone to help you zoom in on bathrooms when you find yourself in areas you hadn’t planned ahead for.
Plan a similar routine
Any change in routine can aggravate IBS symptoms. From waking up later than you normally would to eating at a different time of day than you’re used to, minor changes can cause big problems. Maintaining a routine that mimics your typical habits as closely as possible can help minimize any aggravation to your symptoms.
It’s helpful to schedule out your days and map them out so your sleeping and eating habits remain the same or very similar to a typical day in your normal hometown routine. This means waking and sleeping at the same time, if possible, and eating meals at the same times. Even relaxing at the same time as you would at home can make a difference.
Take a rescue kit
Planning ahead, reducing stress, and avoiding triggers can make a significant difference in your symptoms while traveling. Even still, you may find yourself experiencing IBS symptoms, and preparation is key to controlling any problems that may arise. When symptoms strike, it’s important to have a rescue kit ready to spring into action.
IBS patients should take a note of items they use at home, like pain medication to control cramping, and purchase travel-sized versions to create a rescue kit. Here are some of the things a typical IBS travel rescue kit may contain.
- Stress-relieving tea
- Fiber supplements
- Muscle relaxers
- Antidiarrhea medication
- Antispasmodic medication
- Wet wipes
- Extra underwear and pants
Establish travel support
Stress is a common IBS trigger, and being away from your family, friends, and normal support system can make matters worse. If you’re traveling alone, designate a “stress buddy” that you can call, text, or email when things get rough. Sometimes merely having a supportive friend to empathize with you is enough to prevent IBS symptoms from worsening.
Avoid new foods
Tasting local specialties in a different locale is a tempting idea. But if you have IBS, vacation isn’t the time to get adventurous with new foods. If you’re unsure how a certain food will impact your tummy, you could find yourself in a world of trouble from eating a food that you haven’t tried before. Stick to known, safe foods that aren’t likely to trigger symptoms.
Before you go, create a meal plan for the days you’ll be away from home. Research your destination and find out where the nearest grocery stores are. It’s wise to book a room with a kitchenette or mini-fridge so you can store IBS-compatible foods.
Decide which restaurants you’ll try and check the food being served at events you plan to attend. You wouldn’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’re hungry and aren’t able to find IBS-friendly foods. Plan your meals and snacks out as much as possible for your trip. Most patients find that this makes it much easier to stick to a diet similar to the one they adhere to at home.
Irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t have to mean canceling your travel plans. If you need assistance managing your condition, the team at GastroDoxs is here to help. Call the office in Cypress, Texas, and speak with our friendly staff to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bharat Pothuri or book online at your convenience.