Traveling Stress-Free with IBS
December 12, 2017
By Bill Conn

You look around in a panic for the nearest bathroom. You need to get there NOW, but the plane is just about to take off and the fasten seatbelt sign is already on. Dealing with the symptoms of your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for the next 15 minutes can feel like a lifetime. Sadly, many people suffer in silence and feel alone with their condition, but in reality, more than 45 million Americans have IBS. That means there’s a good possibility someone else on that airplane is eyeing up the bathroom for the very same reason.

The other sad fact is that IBS stops many sufferers from ever getting on that plane or traveling anywhere due to the pain, discomfort, anxiety and fear of embarrassment that it causes. But it doesn’t have to. Get a checkup with your doctor first, and then follow these tips from IBS sufferers like you. They’ll help you feel more confident about traveling with IBS.

Tip 1: Pick an Aisle Seat

Knowing you can excuse yourself whenever you want can help relieve your anxiety around IBS. Make sure you pick an aisle seat on the airplane when checking in and don’t get stuck on the inside of the booth at the restaurant.

Tip 2: Bring Your Medication

This may seem like a no-brainer, but bring your prescribed medication when you travel. You should also check with your doctor about what over-the-counter medications you can use as well to relieve your symptoms—and stock up, especially if you’re traveling overseas. Local pharmacies in other countries may not have exactly what you need or the brand you trust, so bring it with you.

Tip 3: BYOF

Speaking of bringing it with you, it’s also a good idea to BYOF, or bring your own food. Eating in new restaurants and trying foreign cuisine is a challenge for even the most iron-stomached among us. You should bring a few comfort foods from home that you know work well with your system, just in case you’re not comfortable with the culinary challenges you’ll be presented with.

Tip 4: Breathe Deeply

Anxiety is the enemy of all IBS sufferers since it can trigger your symptoms or make them worse. Breathing exercises can help relax your nervous system and help you avoid a flare-up. Breathe in deeply for a count of five, purse your lips, and blow out slowly for a count of ten. This will trick your body into feeling more relaxed, which makes it easy for your to calm your brain and your anxious thoughts.

Tip 5: Prepare for Stealth Mode

If you do have a flare-up, you can’t always choose when or where you’ll use the bathroom. This can increase your anxiety if you feel like you may suffer embarrassment. Prepare for stealth mode in case you need it. First, a well-timed flush of the toilet can help to mask embarrassing noises if you don’t have the privacy you need and want. Second, bring an odor eliminator with you, which are drops you put in the toilet water before you go to keep everything smelling fresh as a daisy. A quick search of your favorite online mega-retailer will provide plenty of options.

Tip 6: Come Clean

One of the worst things about IBS is the embarrassment many people feel about their symptoms. If you’re traveling with friends or family, it’s time to come clean about your condition. You’ll feel more relaxed, you won’t feel the need to hide the things you do to handle your symptoms, and you may even learn that someone else has the same issue (hey, there are 45 million of us!).

With a little preparation and a whole lot of bravery, you too can be a world traveler—even with your IBS. Each hurdle you overcome and success you experience will make your next trip that much easier.

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About the Author

Bill Conn
Bill Conn is a travel enthusiast and writer at Scribewise. His favorite travel destinations include Shanghai, Vancouver, Munich – and of course, his home town of Philadelphia. Visit