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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Health Center

Tips for Traveling With IBS

Don't let your IBS symptoms keep you from seeing the world or visiting relatives. With planning and perseverance, you can have a wonderful vacation.
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During Your Trip

  • Premedicate. For a long trip, it's a good idea for IBS patients with diarrhea to take antidiarrheal medicines such as Imodium or Lomotil if they know they can tolerate it, says Crowe. Some people become too constipated with the drugs.

Crowe says IBS patients need to pay attention to their symptoms and to bring their usual medications and fiber supplements. "You want to have them in the plane or train, where you can't purchase these things," she says, noting that some destinations may also not have these drugs readily available.

There are travelers, for example, who experience gas with changes in altitude. For these people, Crowe recommends bringing antiflatulents such as Gas-X. Other drugs that might give relief, depending on symptoms, include antacids, prescription antispasmodics (such as Levbid and Bentyl), and laxatives (such as Lactulose and MiraLax).

Visit your doctor to find out the appropriate treatment for you.

  • Keep meals as consistent as possible. Try to keep to the same serving amount and to the same number of meals. Many people end up miserable because they don't eat or drink enough, they gorge, or they eat foods that aren't agreeable to their systems.

"Somebody might say, 'Hey, I didn't snack because I'm in a hotel room and there's nothing available,'" says Bonci. To this, she offers the following solution: Bring healthy snack foods you can tolerate, such as nuts, crackers, trail mix, a sports bar, or yogurt. They are better options than the fare offered in vending machines and transportation hubs.

  • Watch your food and drink choices. To keep hydrated, opt for bottled water or Gatorade instead of carbonated beverages. It's better to buy liquids and other edibles from a hotel restaurant or grocery store instead of small fruit stands. Americanized guts may not be able to tolerate some foods in these places, says Bonci.

If you decide to try a new food, experiment in small amounts, and try only one new thing per day, advises Bonci.

However, Norton says vacation isn't a good time for people to experiment. "Stick with foods you're comfortable with," she says.

  • Don't despair if IBS symptoms flare up. "I would invite people to think of vacation as almost like a scientific experiment," says Mary-Joan Gerson, PhD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in New York. "That gives people a sense of control."

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