Have No Fear: Traveling Abroad with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

fruits-and-vegetablesWhen you travel you want to feel great so you can enjoy your trip. For those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an intestinal disorder that can cause stomach pains, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation, it can sometimes make traveling more nerve wrecking than appealing. Although approximately 1 in 5 Americans has signs and symptoms of IBS, less than 1 in 5 seek medical help. As a chronic condition, management of IBS can be long term. However, in many people, symptoms may not be that bothersome or can even disappear completely. For those of you that have IBS, by implementing certain planning into your travel plans, you can enjoy your travels worry free! So read on for travel tips that will help you have a fabulous trip.

11 Travel Tips for Traveling with IBS

1. If you don’t know how to manage your symptoms via diet, meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) before your trip, so you are aware of the best food choices for you to eat. Just an FYI: meeting with an RDN will be helpful, whether or not you are traveling. Visit here to find a RDN in your locale who specializes in GI health.

2. Keep in easy reach: fiber supplements, medications, bottled water and snacks (i.e. nuts, high-fiber energy bars (such as KIND), fresh fruit).

3. Stay well hydrated as you travel. Keep a bottle of water with you to sip on and have a couple glasses of fluid every time you sit down for a meal. Being dehydrated can exacerbate GI symptoms, causing constipation and gas.

4. To keep your fiber intake up, order salads and/or vegetables with your meals. Have fresh fruit for dessert.

5. Stop at farmer’s markets to pick up fresh fruit for snacks.

6. When traveling abroad, if you have poorly controlled GI symptoms, investigate what measures you have to easily access bathrooms. Find out if you will need special coins and if you will have to have your own toilet paper.

7. When booking flights, opt for the aisle seat for easier access to on flight bathroom.

8.  If traveling in a foreign country learn phrases, such as “Where’s the bathroom”, “I can’t eat….” or “Can you make…[dish]…without?” The Google translate app can help with language translations.

9. Traveling doesn’t always have the same schedule as one’s daily schedule at home, but try to consume the same number of meals you’re used to with similar portion sizes.

10. If you’re up to trying new foods, experiment in small amounts with foods you’re unsure of.

11. If you are feeling anxious while traveling, make sure you get your daily hour of exercise in. The meditation app Insight Timer (free for iPhone) may also help you calm down and feel relaxed.

Asking lots of questions while you travel regarding food preparation and bathroom logistics may be a pain, but in the long run it will provide a more stress free trip.  Having a few of the above-mentioned essentials can ease travel plans, but resist the temptation of over planning! By leaving room for spontaneity, you can truly enjoy your journey. Bon voyage!

Lisa Stollman, MA, RDN, CDE, CDN is an award-winning Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the author of The Trim Traveler: How to Eat Healthy and Stay Fit While Traveling Abroad and The Teen Eating Manifesto: The Ten Essential Steps to Losing Weight, Looking Great and Getting Healthy. She is a writer and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in private practice, based on Huntington, Long Island and NYC. Lisa was recently honored as the 2015 Distinguished Dietitian of The Year by the New York Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Lisa specializes in travel nutrition, weight management, and diabetes for teens and adults. To find out more about Lisa, visit http://www.lisastollmanrd.com. Special thanks to Nikki Nies, nutrition writer and RDN-to-be for contributing to this blogpost.

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