How Can I Keep My IBS Stable While Traveling or During the Holidays?

As usual with IBS, the best defense is a good offense, and for traveling this just means taking some time to think things through in advance. It will be well worth your while to make careful but flexible plans, take some simple precautions, and prepare to ask questions or make special requests on your trip to get your dietary and stress management needs met. By the way, feeling guilty about somehow being "difficult" in this regard is not allowed. Taking care of your health is a legitimate priority and that's that.

For the travel itself, whether car, plane or train rides, bring your own food and a soluble fiber supplement such as Acacia Tummy Fiber. Do not assume that the meals being provided by travel services, or the tourist restaurants along your route, will offer any safe choices whatsoever. Odds are they won't. It's very important that you are extra careful to follow the IBS dietary guidelines from the first day of your trip to the last, as travel is virtually always upsetting to your body even if you're not immediately aware of the effects. This physical stress can quickly rear its ugly head in the form of an IBS attack if you allow it, so concentrate on prevention at all costs. The power of precautionary measures is what will enable you to enjoy your vacation, not suffer through it.

Plane travel in particular can set off bloating, gas, and spasms as the cabin air pressure changes literally affect the air in your gut. Bring peppermint and/or fennel tea in your carry on bag and brew with hot water on the plane. Drink throughout the flight.

In addition to taking dietary precautions, maintain your stress management program while traveling, or at least a modified version of it, to the best of your ability. You may have to replace morning aerobics with evening walks, find a quiet corner of your bedroom to regularly practice meditation or yoga, or ensure in advance that if you're staying in a hotel room it's in a quiet location so your sleep is uncompromised. Do whatever it takes, and feel free to substitute any alternative that works for you.

If exercise is key to your IBS management as well, make it a priority of your trip. Take your work out clothes and shoes with you and unpack them first so they're staring you in the face. If you don't have the option of exercising as planned once you're actually on holiday, change tactics and adapt - find any variation that works and run with it. Maintenance is the key here and flexibility will get you everywhere.

Disruptions to your sleep cycle are common when traveling, particularly if you change time zones. Make an extra effort to overcome this potential trigger as quickly as possible. If you can, pack your own pillow whenever you travel, and you'll likely sleep much better. As a daily rule, try to go to sleep earlier than you think necessary and get a little extra rest - this will definitely minimize your risk of attacks. Even scheduling a few naps here and there can make a world of difference. After all, family holidays are supposed to leave you happily well-rested!

For special holiday meals, be careful with what you drink, not just what you eat. If you're splurging a little with wine or champagne, make sure you've had a soluble fiber snack or soluble fiber supplement first so your stomach isn't empty. Better still, have the alcohol with your meal or dessert. Don't turn to sparkling cider as an alternative to alcohol. The high fructose content plus the carbonation is a deadly ticket to digestive distress. The safest drink is an herbal tea (such as peppermint or fennel) or just fresh water.

Remember that although it's an annual rite on some holidays to stuff yourself like a Thanksgiving turkey, too much of any food is a bad idea. Keep your digestion stable by keeping your meal size reasonable. You can always have seconds later. To help prevent overeating in the first place, have a good sized breakfast of a soluble fiber staple such as oatmeal or cream of rice. At dinner, take just a little of everything and enjoy every bite!

Bundle up and go for a walk outside after your meal. Keeping gently active will keep your digestive tract functioning properly. Even if the rest of the family settles down for a post-meal nap, take that walk alone and savor the quiet time.

If there's a special treat that you know is a trigger but you just can't resist, try this: limit yourself to a small amount, have the treat after you've eaten some soluble fiber foods, and have a soluble fiber supplement with a glass of water right beforehand. This will help keep your digestion stable even as you splurge.

Take things easy the day after a big feast. Have light meals and lots of herbal tea, get extra sleep, and go for another long walk. Give your body a chance to recover from any indulgences and congratulate yourself on staying healthy for the holidays!

For in-depth travel advice check The First Year: IBS for comprehensive information on staying safe while on the road, in the air, and on vacation with IBS.

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