Whether you’re planning a business trip to Boston or a fun family getaway to the beach, travel always involves a little anxiety.
What if my flight’s delayed and I miss the connection?
Will there be any good restaurants within walking distance of my hotel?
But if you have irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBS-D), travel can be so disruptive to your health, you may find yourself nixing the getaway altogether and choosing a staycation instead.
With some careful planning, however, you can still enjoy the getaway of your dreams.
IBS-D is oversensitivity of the nerves and muscles in the intestines that, in addition to diarrhea, can cause cramps, gassiness, bloating, and constipation. For those with it, every aspect of travel can cause trouble.
“My anxiety of traveling stems from all of the ‘what ifs,’ and the feeling of being trapped and not being able to easily get home to my bathroom,” says Zlata Gladunov, a veteran of IBS-D in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. “I never know how my stomach will behave.”
“Travel can be very disruptive for people with IBS for several reasons,” says Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, a gastroenterologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “First of all, the stress associated with catching with your flight and getting to the hotel can make your symptoms worse. But also being away from your usual place of eating and going to the bathroom can disrupt the bowels.
“Bowels don’t like surprises, and not only are you introducing new foods, but you might be eating at unusual times, staying out late, and eating later than usual.”
There are some ways to tame your symptoms when you travel:
- Plan your flight or your driving route wisely. When booking your flight, choose a row close to the restroom -- and make sure you have an aisle seat so you don’t have to disturb a snoozing neighbor every time you get up to use it. Build in extra time to arrive at the airport early enough to use the bathroom before you board. If you’re driving a long distance, use the Internet to map out where all the rest areas are along your route.
- Don’t leave yourself to the mercy of the snack machines: Pick a hotel that offers a mini-fridge in the room. Before you book it, Lebwohl suggests you see if there is a grocery store nearby so you can pick up foods that don’t trigger your symptoms.