Tips For Traveling With IBS
Anyone with irritable bowel syndrome knows that the best way to control symptoms and avoid flare-ups is to eat at home, and cook all of your own meals. And once you realize that, you also promptly realize that traveling will be a challenge. Perhaps a nightmare. I have, like a fool, looked forward to many trips, forgetting about the fact that they would require me to give up total control of my food. On the first day of those trips I’d be elated, and by the third day, I’d be skipping outings and foregoing activities I’d been excited about to stay in the hotel—specifically, in the bathroom. The moment you hit the road, you leave the one place you can reliably find food that’s gentle on your system: your kitchen. Hotels, planes, and trains aren’t as IBS-friendly. Here are tips for traveling with IBS.
Pack food for the plane
Airplane meals may accommodate for kosher, vegetarian, and gluten-free diners, but they don’t adjust for those with irritable bowel syndrome. It’s best to pack your own food for the plane. Don’t rely on airport food, either, because typically, the healthy options are the expensive ones, so you give in and buy fast food.
Bring a loaf of gluten-free bread
Gluten is a major irritant for IBS-sufferers, but sandwiches also seem to be a large part of traveling. So pack a loaf of gluten-free bread—most will stay good for a week to ten days out of the refrigerator—and make your own sandwiches.
Don’t over-schedule your days
You know that you need to get enough sleep, and have proper time around a bathroom to keep your symptoms in check. So don’t over-schedule your days with 6am wakeups and non-stop activities until midnight.
Be selfish about bathrooms
If you’re staying in a house, get the room with its own bathroom. Splurge for your own room rather than split one. You’re the one with irritable bowel syndrome; you’re the one who needs a comfortable bathroom setup. Don’t feel bad about that.
Translate an allergies card
Have a card that explains what foods you cannot eat, in the languages of the places you’ll be visiting. This is the simplest way to ensure your server doesn’t feed you an irritating food.
Book a place with a kitchen
If you can, book a hotel or AirBnb with a kitchen so you can easily eat breakfast of your own making, and prepare meals to take on the road.
Visit open-air markets
You’ll come across a lot of pre-packaged food when you travel, but those can bother your gut. When you see an open-air market, visit it. Here you can buy whole, pure foods like produce and nuts—the best friends of IBS sufferers.
Pack a cooler bag
Pack a cooler bag so you can keep your sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, and other foods in good condition for hours while you’re riding buses and trains.
You’ll need probiotics more than ever when you travel. You can easily ingest things that throw off the balance of flora in your gut. Make sure to get ones that don’t require refrigeration, in case you don’t have access to a fridge, or will relocate hotels often.
You shouldn’t rely on these on a regular basis, but they can alleviate some of the oh-so-common constipation that IBS-sufferers struggle with when they travel. They can provide quick, gentle relief when you really need it.
Buy Peptobismol tablets
You may not be able to travel with a big bottle of the liquid stuff, but pack the powder tablets. Have some in every purse.
Don’t visit street carts
Street carts might have some of the most authentic, local food, but they also tend to involve a lot of spices, cured meats, gluten, and other things that can upset your delicate system. Stick to sit-down restaurants where you can edit your order.
Don’t pretend your problem doesn’t exist
Don’t try to mentally overcome the problem: it doesn’t work that way. IBS is a physical condition and you can’t just ignore it. Doing so only makes symptoms worse.
Travel with people you’re comfortable with
Travel with people you’re comfortable talking to about your issue. It’s important that you travel with someone to whom you can say, “Can you leave the hotel room for 30 minutes? I Just need privacy with this bathroom.”
Never leave your room without snacks
Never, ever leave for the day without snacks. When you have a chance to buy IBS-friendly snacks, stock up—get enough for several days. And make sure you always have enough in your backpack/purse to tide you over, in case you can’t find an IBS-friendly meal.