Am I just nervous or am I going to get diarrhoea ? The question I asked myself as I felt a wave of nausea rush over me and that familiar feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I prepared for a date with the hunkiest Israeli man you ever did see. I’m sure it sounds somewhat amusing (in a slightly disgusting way) but wondering whether or not I’m about to get sick is a constant worry as a result of travelling with IBS.
I didn’t get diagnosed with IBS until last year, and I felt as though it was one of the worst ailments that I could have been told I have since I am a huge foodie – one of the highlights of my travels is always experimenting with local cuisine (as you will probably know if you have read any number of my posts about street food and local food markets!) but since the onset of this, I have to be more careful what I eat and, heartbreakingly, I have had to omit certain food groups from my diet entirely (I will always miss you, cheese!)
If you have severe IBS like I do, travelling with IBS can seem like a nightmare. This illness affects our schedule enough as it is during our normal home life so why would you want to add foreign food, stressful situations and uncertainty about toilet facilities into the mix? The important thing to remember about IBS is that although it is a pain in the arse (literally!) it shouldn’t be something that stops us from doing the things that we enjoy or want to do, and that includes travelling. If you’re nervous about travelling with IBS or you want some tips to help you manage your condition on the road, I’ve prepared some advice below based on my experiences as a constant traveller.
Tell People About Your Condition
IBS is an illness and although bowel movements aren’t exactly a hot topic of conversation, they are nothing to be ashamed about. Several years ago I used to cringe at the thought of having to do a number two in a public place, or at the prospect of a boyfriend knowing why I was taking so long in the bathroom but it’s a natural thing and it’s actually made me feel somewhat better to have my condition out in the open. If I am travelling with people, I will let them know that I need to be careful about what I eat, I will tell them if I start to feel unwell, and I will let them know that there may be occasions where I need to excuse myself because I don’t feel great. People have been very supportive. Contrary to what you might first think, nobody has winced in repulsion.
Mentally Prepare For Your Trip
Stressful situations and encountering problems on the road can be as much of a trigger for IBS as eating questionable foods. Before your departure, take the time to organise and plan your trip as much as you are able to. Travel throws all sorts of curve balls your way so imagine the “worst case scenarios” that you may encounter and think calmly about how you will deal with them.
It is smart to take additional precautions when packing for your trip. If you are especially nervous, you can consult with your Doctor before departure for any additional advice or prescriptive medication. It is better to over-prepare for any potential scenario than to find yourself in a bad situation overseas. Pack any medications that you may require (ibuprofen, laxatives, rehydration sachets), IBS friendly snacks (gluten free bars, nuts and trail mix), and additional extras such as baby wipes, a change of clothes in your carry on, etc.
Know it’s Okay to Take Time Out
I refuse to let my IBS stop me from travelling or enjoying life but equally, I know when it’s time to call time out and give myself a rest because I’m not feeling great. When I was travelling in Romania recently, I was up all night with an upset stomach, and despite medicating and drinking plenty of water, I felt completely wiped out and exhausted the next day so I altered my itinerary, took it easy and just relaxed. To do so isn’t to admit defeat or let the condition win, but to take care of your body and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
Be Mindful About What You Eat
Perhaps by now you will know your triggers for IBS and what food groups you will have to omit. By all means be cautious when experimenting with new local food but don’t terrify yourself into assuming that all that is different is going to make you sick. For example, I always eat at street food markets – from markets in South East Asia, to the Middle East, to the Far East and touch wood, so far I haven’t gotten sick from this. Exert basic common sense (don’t eat meats or fruits which have been left out and of course, don’t eat anything with flies buzzing around it) but don’t restrict yourself too much. Consider renting an airbnb or staying self catered so that you also have the option to prepare your own meals on occasion.
Always drink plenty of water and where possible avoid carbonated drinks and caffeine. Water flushes out the toxins within your body and helps it to function as it’s supposed to. Not to mention, plenty of water aids you in avoiding constipation and allows you to rehydrate if you suffer from loose movements.
Travelling with IBS can cause a few headaches, but everyone deserves a break and what life would we have if we were just nervously loitering around at home indoors all of the time incase we got sick? Remember that travel is supposed to be a great experience so don’t spend too much time worrying about your IBS. Go out there and enjoy it!
Do you have IBS or any further tips for travelling with IBS? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂