This is a time of year where many of us are thinking about travel, all that we would like to do, where we would love to go – if only we didn’t have IBS. There are no magic wand solutions for travelling with IBS, but there are a few things you can try to travel better.
Why we get flare-ups when travelling
There are three main reasons why many IBS sufferers have flare-ups while travelling: the change of routine, the fear of flare-ups and the change of food.
1) IBS and travel: The change of routine
Travel and IBS do not go particularly well together. When you travel you are changing your routine. Travel takes you out of your relative comfort zone into the unknown.
There are new experiences, plus general worry about “Where have I put the tickets” and being on time, as well as coping during the journey and finding toilets that are on hand..
Needless to say your nervous system takes all these as signs that it should be on alert and responsive to all these changes. If the stress button gets pushed, the chances are that your IBS will be too.
What you can do:
The calmer you can be through all this change, the better experience you will have travelling with IBS. There are 2 quick methods you can use that may help you reduce that stress:
Focus on the why
Get excited about it all. Think of the sensations and experiences you are looking forward to.
Keep your eye on how you expect to feel once your there. the sun on your face, being out in the fresh air, enjoying yourself.
Life is for living. So brave the journey and head for the sun!
A second technique that readers of this blog have heard over and over is deep breathing techniques. High-level athletes use this technique before they have to perform to counter fear and stay focused.
We all tend to go into shallow breathing when stress rears its ugly head. The advantage is that you can do this anywhere or anytime you feel a little uptight.
If you can, close your eyes for a couple of seconds and take a deep breaths in. Hold it for the count of 3, then release it. And do this 3 times consecutively. This action brings added oxygen to your body and begins to close down the stress reaction. It won’t solve everything, but you should feel a little relief.
The most difficult part of this technique is remembering to do it. So if you are travelling with someone, tell them about it and get them to prompt you (you don’t have to tell them why!)
2) IBS and travel: The fear of having a flare-up
Hands up who doesn’t worry about having a flare-up? The actual fear of having a flare-up “at the wrong time” can be a huge trigger in itself.
What you can do:
As a quick technique, this is what you can do if you are travelling this weekend:Assume it will happen
It sounds counter-intuitive, but allow yourself to have a flare-up while travelling.
Assume it will happen – and plan for it.
Take what you need with you to deal with it in your bag, ready, with you at all times. Make it OK, allowable, acceptable.
The more you push against this possibility, the more stressed you will feel about it.
Allowing for it will enable you to lower your stress levels around a potential flare-up.
And you may find that as a result it doesn’t happen as badly – or even at all. Try this out for yourself and see what happens.
3) Travelling with IBS: The change of food
As we are all worried about digesting food, then the best way around this one is to take something you digest with you for the journey. This may not solve everything, but it will be one less thing to worry about.
Once you are way from home you can only try to make good choices, and even so you may find that something sets you off. So have anything that does you good in these circumstances with you. Just knowing you can cope with this will ease your mind.