The mornings with irritable bowel syndrome are the most challenging for Jeffrey Roberts. His stomach cramps up. He feels like he needs to be near a bathroom at all times. So he gives himself at least 2 hours to get ready for work. When he goes out, he often takes routes he knows will have public restrooms along the way.
This is reality for Roberts and up to 58 million other Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at some point in their lives. Their exact symptoms, and the severity,...
Plus, your digestive system may be so finicky that any changes
in routine may aggravate symptoms.
Such worries prevent many people from taking out-of-town trips.
In a survey of 1,000 Americans, 28% of respondents with IBS-like symptoms
avoided travel at least once in the past year, reports the International
Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).
Nonetheless, IBS patients need not be deprived of
"If it's something that you're really looking forward to
doing, by all means, do it," says Nancy Norton, the IFFGD's president and
founder. "We talk to people (with IBS) all the time who have been
apprehensive about traveling, but they go and let us know they've had a
With courage, preparation, and determination, it is possible to
explore new places with IBS. Perhaps the trip, if relaxing, could even have a
Of course the hassles of travel, such as lost luggage, unhappy
kids, or a bout of traveler's diarrhea, could work against that. But even then,
you may be able to use the same stress management strategies used for daily
pressures at home.
Stress busters include eating a well-balanced diet appropriate
for your IBS, getting enough sleep and exercise, meditation, and doing
Reducing stress may, indeed, be one of the crucial elements to
a good retreat.
"There's definitely a benefit to taking a vacation, but
people need to plan it so that it's not too stressful," says Sheila Crowe,
MD, a gastroenterologist and spokeswoman for the American Gastroenterological
Association (AGA). "Don't feel like you have to see all the sights in the
city. Maybe just enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and then only see two sights
instead of four."
It's important to do things you want to do rather than things
you feel you ought to do, such as visiting everything and everyone, says Crowe.
Resist over-planning and leave room for spontaneity. Yet plan enough so that
you know there are safe places to go to the bathroom.
Here are a few more tips from the experts on how to ease travel
Before Your Trip
Choose a destination that you will enjoy. "Anyplace calm and
relaxing is probably good," says Edward Blanchard, PhD, professor of
psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. He says a frenetic,
multicity tour of Europe might be more difficult for IBS patients.
Check travel advisories for different parts of the world. This is a
smart thing to do even if you don't have IBS. The CDC web site (www.cdc.gov)
has a traveler's health section. It contains information about disease risks
(such as travelers' diarrhea), vaccinations, and other prophylactics. Make sure
to visit the site well before your trip as some immunizations take weeks to
Ask a lot of questions. Knowing the who, what, when, where, and how
of your journey can help avert stress and anxiety. Allow enough time to get to
places to avoid rushing and to have time to assess a situation. "The less
surprised one is, the better," says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, author of the
American Dietetic Association Guide to Better Digestion. "The only
surprises should be delightful surprises because you're in a beautiful place,
or you discover a fantastic buy on silver."