It is estimated that around 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), with more woman than men being affected. Having lived with the condition myself for many years, I know just how debilitating it can be.
If you are one of the millions who suffer from IBS, the idea of a holiday abroad could be enough to set off another painful episode! Of course, everyone’s symptoms and triggers differ and unfortunately, there are no miracle cures.
Here are a few useful tips that could help reduce your anxiety and make going on holiday a stress-free experience.
Lose the stress
Holidays are meant to be relaxing but for many of us, planning a holiday can be quite stressful. And for anyone suffering from IBS – it can be almost traumatic! When we’re stressed, our bodies go into fight or flight mode – shutting down our digestive system and sending blood to our muscles in order to run away from danger. Great news if we’re running away from a hungry lion – not so good if there isn’t anything to run from! Stress makes our bodies produce adrenaline, which can play havoc with our digestive system. Stress is known to increase the severity and frequency of IBS episodes – so reducing our stress levels are essential.
Do your research
If you have opted to stay in a hotel, contact the hotel in advance and check that they can cater for your dietary needs. If hotels know in advance that you are gluten or dairy-free, for example, they can ensure that they have something you can eat when you get there. Take a look at their online menu if they have one – it may ease your mind if you know that there is at least something you can eat. Check that there is a fridge in your room – this way, you can store your own food if necessary.
Learn a few phrases
We all know how lazy us Brits can be when it comes to learning another language! It’s not surprising when so many other nationalities speak such good English. However, if you are one of the millions of IBS sufferers, it would make your life a little easier (and less stressful) if you learned a few essential phrases. For example, it’s always handy to know where the nearest toilets are or if the restaurant caters for your dietary requirements. Click here for some useful phrases in German.
We all want to make the most of our holiday and fill it with interesting things to do and sights to see. However, I believe there is such a thing as over-planning. You don’t need to fill up your itinerary completely and for IBS sufferers, it’s probably better if you don’t. Plan in some downtime. If you know that you haven’t got a tight schedule to stick to and you know that you have plenty of time to relax too – your stress levels will reduce and you are less likely have an IBS attack. And most importantly, don’t feel guilty if you feel unwell and don’t want to go on an outing. It is a medical condition and your travel companions will understand.
Whether you are flying or driving, planning your journey in advance will help ease any worries and reduce stress.
If you are travelling by plane, it’s useful to pay a little extra so that you can have an aisle seat (close to the toilet) if necessary. You’ll then avoid the embarrassment of having to ask someone to move every time you want to get up. Get to the airport early so that you have time to relax before getting on the plane. After all, there’s nothing more stressful than arriving at the last minute and worrying whether or not you’ll actually make the plane!
If you are driving, plan in some regular breaks even if you end up not always using them. Taking a detour off the motorway will also give you the opportunity to discover the local area and stretch your legs.
Food and drink
The prospect of eating out while holidaying abroad can be quite daunting for those of us who suffer from IBS. We all have our own triggers and wading through a menu in a foreign language isn’t always the easiest of tasks. Don’t be shy about asking for an English menu or speaking to a member of staff to discuss the ingredients of their dishes. It’s also probably not the right time to experiment with new foods – so stick to what you know is safe for you.
But do remember that alcohol and caffeine can sometimes irritate the gut – so take care and don’t over-indulge (too often!) However, it is important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and try to avoid fizzy drinks as they can cause bloating.
I know just how stressful days out can be when you suffer from IBS. The idea of an outing in unfamiliar territory is often enough to trigger any symptoms before you’ve even left the hotel room! Again, planning ahead is key. Plan in some regular places to stop – have a wander and use the toilet if you need to. If you already have an idea of where you can have a break, it will ease some of the stress. It’s also worth popping some loo roll into a bag – public toilets do tend to run out of the stuff at the most inconvenient moment! Remember to keep some spare change in your purse as there is often a small charge to use public toilets. And most importantly, try and relax and enjoy your day.
Enjoy some mindfulness
Mindfulness seems to be all the rage right now. It can be anything from meditation to Yoga or Tai-chi. What’s important is that we take a moment in our day for ourselves and to focus on the here and now. Mindfulness practice is known to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing. Simply taking the time to sit quietly for 10 minutes a day and focus on our breathing and the little sounds around us that so often go unnoticed is enough to calm the body and mind.
I’ve certainly found that my IBS symptoms haven’t always been so severe since I’ve included mindfulness into my day. Why not try out it out for yourself? It might just help ease away any stress and keep your IBS at bay. There are plenty of free mindfulness apps that can be downloaded – this way you can enjoy some peace wherever you are.
Useful phrases in German
To find out more about IBS you could check this website: https://www.theibsnetwork.org/