IBS: 5 Tips to Control Symptoms When You Travel
Traveling with irritable bowel syndrome is a challenge, but if you plan ahead, you can manage your symptoms. Try these five tips.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), travel can present some not-so-fun challenges. Go by plane, and you may not be able to easily leave your seat. Go by car, and you may be at the mercy of the next rest stop. Travel stress and eating unfamiliar foods also can conspire to worsen IBS symptoms.
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But these aren’t reasons to keep from living your life, whether you are vacationing, visiting friends or traveling for work. Being prepared can cut your risk of sickness, says gastroenterologist Brian Kirsh, MD. He offers the following tips to help minimize your symptoms:
Symptoms of IBS vary from person to person. Though the unifying feature is abdominal pain, you may also experience:
It’s important to understand your condition and know how and when IBS affects you, Dr. Kirsh says. It’s also a good idea to get a handle on your condition before you travel. No one wants to leave town in the middle of a flare-up.
In a perfect world, you will be symptom-free, but, of course, that’s not always how things go. Keep these tips in mind:
When you’re prepared, that helps alleviate some of your worry. And, as you likely know, stress, in and of itself, can often exacerbate symptoms.
“Any stress can throw off your gastrointestinal tract. There is definitely a brain-gut connection,” Dr. Kirsh says. “The gastrointestinal tract is more connected to the brain than any other organ system.”
Learning and using some simple stress reduction techniques can help. Try one or more of these:
For some people with IBS, food doesn’t cause problems. But if you are sensitive to certain foods, keep in mind that you’ll have less control of your food intake when you travel. Plan ahead and prepare to speak up when you need to.
Here are some other tips:
Finally, if you are able to choose where you go, be mindful of your destination and its potential pitfalls.
For example, you may want to avoid Mexico or a third-world country where food and water are problematic. Getting a stomach infection can cause IBS flare-ups, Dr. Kirsh says. Try not to set yourself up for trouble by planning trips where you’ll have to walk for long periods of time or travel frequently by train.
You don’t have to stay home to manage your IBS. Think and plan ahead, and you can confidently open yourself up to a world of travel opportunities.