Lifestyle | Health & Wellness

Traveling with IBS: The Comprehensive Guide

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About one in six people worldwide have IBS and because there is no cure, those of us suffering with it focus on symptom management, of which the low FODMAP diet can be key.

While it is easier to manage symptoms when you are in a tightly controlled environment, such as when you are home and following your regular routine, there are tried and true tips and techniques that can help you travel, whether it is for work or pleasure. This article, Traveling & IBS: The Comprehensive Guide, is the main hub for our Traveling & IBS Series.

Traveling with IBS Comprehensive Guide Feature Image
Traveling & IBS: The Comprehensive Guide, is the main hub for our Traveling & IBS Series.

Take A Multi-Pronged Approach To Managing IBS On The Road

Just as everyone’s gut is different, and we each need different kinds of help (the IBS-D person will not have the same needs as those with IBS -C) we leave it to you to pick and choose the tips and techniques that will help you travel with as much support for your IBS symptoms as possible. But we do have one, over-arching suggestion: take a multi-pronged approach!

Build Your Toolbox

Build a toolbox of strategies for yourself. Learn what works for YOU. Here are some common tips and suggestions:

Managing IBS In Specific Situations While Traveling

Use the guides below for specific situations, such as traveling through airports, traveling with friends, van travel, camping, and more.

Eating In A Plane, Train Or Automobile

We have an article for you, Great Tips for Eating Low FODMAP On Airplanes, and many of those suggestions can be applied in other types of vehicles – except you won’t have to deal with the TSA! Here are additional tips:

  • Bring wet wipes. We like the individually wrapped sanitizing wipes. They are easy to stow and each one stays fresher, longer.
  • Have bottled water at hand, always.
  • Self-contained food: These days there are so many well-designed plastic and reusable containers, from bento boxes to bowls, and simple disposable containers, too.
  • Assess for drips and crumbles. Leaving a trail of granola crumbs in the seams of car seats will not be appreciated. Ditto sticky peanut butter fingers. We are not saying you cannot eat these things; just clean up afterwards – maybe use some of those wipes for seats as well as hands.
  • Low FODMAP beef jerky is a great high protein, neat and easy snack.
  • Nothing smelly. It needs to be said. No sticky cheese or fish. I personally draw the line on hardboiled eggs. I think they are a fantastic portable high-quality protein. Some folks are sensitive to sulfur smells; use your judgment.
  • There are many low FODMAP energy bars on the market; check out our list of over 100!

Navigating The Airport

Airports vary hugely in their offerings. In general, the smaller the airport, the fewer the choices. While we always suggest toting along what you can, here are some ideas to consider, in the airport.

  • Find a restaurant map that lists the cafes and all the locations where food is sold in the airport. Assess your choices.
  • Review current TSA rules about what you can take through security and what you cannot. Typically, liquids, including water, are not allowed, unless in amounts of 3.4-ounces (100 ml) or less. Here is a short list of what is usually okay, but your local TSA has the final say:
  • Anything gel-like, such as hummus, peanut butter, or jelly must be in amounts of 3.4-ounces (100 ml) or less.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables vary in allowability, depending on where you are traveling to and from.

Some of our favorite protein and energy bars and shakes – perfect for travel!

Enlist Your Travel Buddy

If you are traveling alone, then you have yourself to rely upon. But if you have a spouse, family member or friend, with whom you are close, consider alerting them to your needs. Have a frank conversation before you leave for your trip together; explain in as much detail as you are willing. We find this is actually better than doling out tidbits as you go along.

You might consider mentioning the following sorts of needs:

  • Need to source bathrooms.
  • Frequency of bathroom breaks.
  • Length of time you might need in the bathroom.
  • Your best approach to restaurant menus – that you will be asking questions!
  • The need for routine.
  • Time out for meditation, exercise, hypnotherapy or other stress-reducing activity.

And of course, read our article, Traveling with IBS: Being A Good Travel Buddy, which is written from the point of view of a young adult who intrepidly travels the world with her IBS, but can apply to all of us.

Get Adventurous!

We are blessed to have some bold travelers on our team, particularly European based Angi Ruoss (The Intolerant Wanderer) and dietitian Vanessa Vargas, both of whom have written several articles, helping all of us span the globe. Both live with IBS and their diagnoses have not held them back.

Let Angi take you by the hand through Sicily, London, airports far and wide, how to successfully van travel, and how to order low FODMAP room service.

Vanessa has written a super-popular article of ours on Camping, which she does regularly with her family. She also took us on a low FODMAP tour of Hawaii. 

A young woman sitting on her hotel bed drinking from a large cup.
You May Want To Read: Low FODMAP Room Service

Listen To The Pros

Our dietitians have seen it all – and are here to help you. Diana Reid is a U.S. expat living in Luxembourg and has written a fantastic article for us, The Global Dietitian’s Travel Tips While Following the Low FODMAP Diet. 

Listen To Our RDs:
Don’t Stay Home. Be Bold, But Be Prepared!”

We love her approach: “Don’t Stay Home. Be Bold, But Be Prepared!”, and her suggestion to pack a Tummy Rescue Kit. The full list is in the article, but have you considered:

Travel graphic 3

FODMAP Everyday® Traveling With IBS Series

Here is an at-a-glance list of our travel-related articles:

The Takeaway

You can travel, even if you have IBS. Being prepared is key and our articles are here to help, whether you are taking a short car trip, a camping trip, flying far afield or taking a business trip with colleagues. Let our Success Team help you get out in the world and show you how you can manage your IBS symptoms.

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