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6 Tips For Coping With Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) While Travelling

Updated on March 13, 2013

How To Enjoy Travelling And Backpacking With IBS

Travelling can be a rewarding experience. It broadens the mind, creates confidence and helps us to have a better understanding of the world. It can also be challenging; negotiating borders, communicating without a shared language, dealing with problems in unfamiliar surroundings. For those that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, travelling can have the additional problems of requiring particular foods and needing regular access to toilets. This doesn’t mean that those with IBS cannot experience the enjoyment fully of travelling it just means having to plan and prepare to reflect particular needs.

I have suffered from IBS for as long as I can remember. This didn’t put me off travelling though. I did have concerns and worries but by being determined to explore parts of the world that interested me, I managed to find ways to achieving my travelling goals.

Backpacking | Source
IBS | Source

It can be very hard to stick to a diet that suits you when travelling. Being on the move in foreign countries means you have less chance of cooking for yourself and finding your usual agreeable foods. Also, a common cause of IBS symptoms is stress and how it can play havoc with the digestive system. Being in unfamiliar surroundings and situations is one of the big plus points of travelling but can be one of the toughest aspects for IBS sufferers. Here are some of the tricks and techniques I acquired that helped me back-pack around parts of the world.

1. Travel at times that suit you. If you have control over when you can travel, choose times that suit you. Travel should be about breaking free from conformity and doing what suits you, freedom from conforming to strict times and rules, all too common in our working lives. I find my symptoms are at their worst in the mornings so always choose afternoons to commence being on the move if possible.

2. Always have a roll of toilet paper in your pack. It avoids the scenario of finding a toilet at the last minute only to discover there is no paper. You'll thank yourself a thousand times if you've packed your own.

3. Ask if the coach/train/boat has toilets on board. For example, it may be a case that a slow ferry does, but a smaller, faster boat, going to the same destination doesn't. It can be worth taking the slower mode of transport for the peace of mind of having toilets on board. This is what I did when I travelled on ferries in Thailand, taking slow overnight ferries rather than the faster boats, which had no toilets, during the day.

4. Use meditation and medication. If you, like I did on a boat in Malaysia , find yourself in a situation where you are stuck with no access to a toilet you can manage the situation with meditation and medication. I try not to use them regularly but sometimes anti-spasmodic and anti-diarrhea tablets are essential. Sometimes just carrying some can give enough peace of mind for your body to remain calm and prevent stress related symptoms. In addition, learning to meditate will also help calm the body and reduce the stress that is often the inducer of the symptoms that require a visit to the toilet.

5. Avoid eating before a journey. If I do have to travel early in the morning, I avoid eating and drinking anything and just sip water. I find eating and drinking in the morning, like many people, stimulate the peristalsis that gets the bowels moving. Couple this with the worry of being on the move and not within easy access to toilets can mean a real urgency to go. So, if possible, wait until you have arrived before eating or just eat small amounts of food that your body can tolerate without causing any symptoms.

6. Pack foods and take with you. When on route, it is often even harder to find foods that agree with you. Carrying suitable foods will stop you risking eating problem foods when you get hungry.

Having IBS does not have to mean not travelling to destinations on your wish list. Consider it this way; you plan your trip according to your budget, so why not to your IBS requirements? By recognizing and addressing the requirements, and planning accordingly, You can still enjoy a full travelling experience.


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