For the 15 million Americans living with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), summer travel can be fraught. Traveling and interrupting your routine is stressful, but the expert team at GI Physicians Inc., led by Ven Kottapalli, MD, CNSP, is here to help. They share the following 5 tips for managing your IBS when traveling.
It’s difficult enough to navigate daily life with the cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort that commonly characterizes IBS. Traveling on trains and planes and visiting other cities and countries adds another element to manage when IBS.
The good news is, having IBS doesn’t have to mean staying home this summer. With some preparation, planning, and a little know-how, you can look forward to worry-free travel.
#1 Map your route
Whether you plan to travel close to home or further away, it’s wise to think about the route to your destination. IBS is often unpredictable and can strike at the most inconvenient of times. The very thought of having an IBS emergency when you’re traveling and unprepared can send your stress levels soaring.
For each day of your trip, take a look at your itinerary and map out the locations of bathrooms for the areas you plan to visit. There are helpful bathroom locator mobile applications to help you locate restrooms nearby. This takes the hassle out of mapping out your route and is also beneficial if you haven’t planned and need to find a restroom quickly.
#2 Stick close to your typical routine
Any change in routine can aggravate IBS symptoms. From waking up later than you usually would to eating at a different time of day than you’re used to, minor changes can cause big problems. Maintaining a daily routine similar to your typical habits can help minimize any aggravation to your symptoms.
It’s helpful to plan a schedule, 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 simultaneously, if possible, and eating meals at the same time. Even relaxing at the same time as you would at home can make a difference.
#3 Pack a safety kit
Several problems can arise when you’re away from home, and it’s best to stay prepared. Packing a kit with IBS-management necessities enables you to handle IBS issues that may strike at any time during your travel schedule.
Take note of the medication, supplements, and other items you use for managing your day-to-day symptoms at home and create a travel-size kit to take with you when you travel. Having anti-diarrhea medication at the ready, for example, acts as a lifesaver when you sense that all-too-familiar rumbling in your gut while away from home.
Depending on the type of IBS you have, here are some ideas on helpful items to put in your safety kit.
- Fiber supplements
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Antispasmodic medication
- Wet wipes
- Extra undergarments
#4 Combat travel-related stress
Psychological stress is a major IBS trigger, and many aspects of travel are stressful, from being away from home to navigating through a busy, crowded airport. Anticipate potential stressors related to your trip and take steps to minimize those stressors. This could mean planning to arrive at your travel destination early to reduce the stress of rushing or being late.
Planning some stress-busting activities can also go a long way in reducing travel-related stress, whether it's listening to soothing music or reading a book. Having a plan to combat travel-related stress can help keep IBS flares at bay.
#5 Create a meal plan ahead of time
If possible, it’s best to avoid new foods when traveling. Instead, stick to IBS-friendly meals that you know are safe for you to eat without triggering problems. Traveling isn’t the time to get adventurous with your eating habits.
It’s wise to create a meal plan for each day of your trip and aim to stick to that. Research your destination and plan your meals. If you plan to stay with family or friends, discuss meals and ask about the local grocers. If you’re staying in a hotel, request a room with a kitchenette or mini-fridge to store some IBS-friendly foods and snacks.
Irritable bowel syndrome doesn’t have to mean missing out on travel. If you need assistance managing your IBS, call GI Physicians at 419-228-2600 to book a consultation today.