Traveling with IBS: How to Discuss your Food Intolerances with your Travel Buddy
First of all, travelling with someone who doesn’t have food intolerances isn’t necessarily any different than travelling with someone who does. We all have different symptoms, tolerance levels and diets – communication is necessary either way. When traveling with IBS it’s important to know how to be a good travel buddy.
So how would you communicate with someone who shares a similar story to yourself and is also affected by food intolerances and/or IBS? Well if you ask me, I would be very open and tell them all about what I’ve tried so far, what has helped me and what not, how I react to certain things and probably even how my digestion has been over the past days.
It can be exactly the same if you travel with a non-intolerant. You just have to build that bridge first, to be on the same page. This means telling your story: explaining exactly what it is you have, what you can and can’t eat, how it all started and how it makes you feel.
Here’s My Story
I’ve been travelling the world with my boyfriend Pam for nearly 2 years. Before that, when my gut issues skyrocketed, we already were a couple. So he knows how it all began. He’s been with me along the journey. Also he’s highly allergic to peanuts and has to be careful with his food too.
Hence you may think that our (food) relationship was an open book. But not at first. It was difficult for me to fully express how this all makes me feel. I was down a lot, not feeling well. My digestion didn’t work as it should have and it influenced my mind. But did I really want to talk about poop with my boyfriend? I would have actually preferred to speak to a stranger about it. But often it was just the two of us.
Also I think I owed it to him because he was the one who was mostly affected by me feeling depressed. I had to be completely straight with him. And you know what? Even though it was odd to talk about it at first, it helped a lot!
Pam has always been very understanding and patient when it’s come to my food intolerances (even more so than me). He eats everything I do and lives through any new diet I’m trying. Also he’s not annoyed (or at least he tries not to show it) when we have to move on to the 6th restaurant because all the others didn’t have anything suitable for me.
But still there are times where he can’t fully understand how my gut affects my brain and why I’m feeling a certain way. And I think he never will. It’s something he hasn’t experienced and it’s therefore hard to imagine for him.
In those moments, what we both try to do: just accept it. I have to accept that I’ve gotten much more sensible with my IBS. Most likely it was something I ate or my irregular digestion that is making me feel depressed. Knowing it will pass.
The sooner I’m being positive the faster my gut and mind will recover. Pam does the same. He just accepts it and tries to comfort me with being positive for the two of us. He makes traveling with IBS so much easier.
My Recommendation to You
When you start travelling with someone – no matter if they’re “intolerant” like your or not – it’s important to openly speak about your expectations of the trip. You’re two (or more) individuals and may not have exactly the same interests.
One of you could be more interested in history and museums and the other just wants to lay at the beach. For Pam and me eating & drinking is at the top. We love checking out the local restaurants and cafés and soaking in the vibe. For us it’s natural to have a full list of places to go to. But for you it may be a completely different approach. Here are a few general tips:
Speak clearly about your expectations.
What’s your goal for this holiday/trip? What would you like to see and do? And how important is food going to be? This would be a good time to talk with your travel buddy about your food intolerances. To prepare, read our blog post about Travel Tips While Following the Low FODMAP Diet
Tell the whole story.
From the beginning. If you start spending more time with someone the topic will definitely come up. And even though you may think people are not interested, or it takes too long to explain, they usually are. They want to hear because they want to understand. For some more useful tips, check out our blog post about How To Help Friends & Family Understand Your Low FODMAP Diet
Be open about your feelings and food intolerances.
This doesn’t mean you have to go around and tell everyone how your poop was this morning according to the Bristol Stool Chart, but if you’ve been constipated for a longer period and it makes you feel uncomfortable, it may help to speak that out loud.
When it comes to eating out, do your research and be as prepared as possible.
Many restaurants nowadays post their menu online, so you can check before going there if you’ll find something to eat. This always makes me much more at ease.
Research isn’t always possible though and spontaneous reaction is required, therefore here’s a few more tips on How to Navigate a Restaurant Menu on the Low FODMAP Diet
It’s okay to say “no” to food if you’re not fine with it.
Even if this means waiting 30 minutes longer for your meal. Chances are high that your companion will want you to feel good and therefore is going to be patient. A little tip though: start looking for food before you’re super hungry.
To make it easier to communicate with your waiter at the restaurant, you can download our card to carry with you on which foods you need to avoid.
Always bring a snack.
This is my mantra and I always do because I often get hungry real quick and it’s better for everyone if I’m prepared. For some ideas on what to eat, read our blog post Best Low FODMAP Snacks: For On The Run
Travel Can Be Stressful: Which Can Add to Your Symptoms
Now, let’s be honest: eating out with food intolerances can be nerve wracking and complicated. Travelling adds another level of uncertainty. Plus being with one person (or more) for a long time is always a challenge. It can be stressful for you and your gut.
With this I don’t want to scare you, just prepare you and to get your expectations straight.
Don’t worry, you’ll be fine! Just try to stay relaxed. Speaking your mind can ease your anxiety and levels your relationship with your travel buddy and with food. Enjoy!
What Worked For You?
Have you ever travelled long-term with anyone and if so, how did that go? And what are your strategies for traveling with IBS and communicating with travel buddies, friends and family or colleagues?
Please comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
If you have any questions for me personally, feel free to message me anytime. You can find me on Instagram as @theintolerantwanderer or contact me through the email icon under my Author Bio.