A woman dressed to travel stands with one hand on a suitcase in the truck of a car, the other shading her eyes as she smiles and looks toward the sun.

I'm Packing Up My IBS and Taking It On The Road!

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has been a recurring tune in my disease catalog for years. Other featured hits include multiple sclerosis, degenerative spine disease, and that notorious dental trio so many of us enjoy: temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), teeth-clenching, and teeth-grinding. They have all taken turns in the spotlight, but for the last several years, IBS has stolen the show like no other comorbidity before it. It has taken many bows during countless encores, garnering enough attention to inspire a glowing review in Gastroenterology Magazine. I’m surprised the Queen hasn’t requested a command performance. No doubt a consequence of the lockdown.

Hitting the road with IBS

Not to worry, though. I’m packing it up and taking it on the road! Recently my sister and her husband invited me to vacation with them. For years, I swore never to travel again, especially air travel. What started out as IBS-C during the first year after diagnosis morphed into IBS-D, then IBS-M (mixed), giving me the distinction of suffering both constipation and diarrhea—not at the same time, of course. It was fear of bowel incontinence that convinced me to stick close to home. Why did I green light travel this time? We’ll be driving from Michigan to the Gulf Coast of Alabama, a roughly 2-day trip. There is so much more freedom, control, and privacy in road travel. Much to my sister’s surprise, I felt immediately at ease with the idea.

How my MS will be affected

Now that I’ve committed to the odyssey, I face the daunting task of preparing for it. We will be gone for a month. The average temperatures at Orange Beach, AL during February is 65⁰F/46⁰F, compared to SE Michigan’s temps of 30⁰/15⁰. As with most people who have multiple sclerosis (MS), I’m extremely sensitive to the slightest change in temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity. So I’ll have to layer my clothing just like I do at home, peeling off layers as sudden overheating kicks in, then pulling them back on when a chill sets in, all without warning. On a typical day, I change my clothes 3 times on top of peeling off layers. And that’s just about managing MS. Managing IBS has its own set of challenges.

Managing my IBS on the road

My treatment for IBS diarrhea normally involves taking either Imodium or S. boulardii, a yeast probiotic. Those immediately stop diarrhea and always induce constipation, but usually not for more than 2 days. In the event that constipation does last more than two days, I have on hand a bottle of Miralax. To remove the risk of an accident, I have decided to constipate myself for the 2-day car trip by taking either 2 Imodium pills or 2 S. boulardii capsules.

Our upscale plans for vacation

Once we reach our destination and settle in, I won’t need to constipate myself and can relax. This trip is not about sight-seeing, it’s just a change of venue where we will spend our days much the same way we do at home. Situated in a resort hotel via Airbnb, it faces the Gulf with a sandy beach stretching from the ground floor to the water’s edge. I can spend the whole time inside if I wish. Our upscale lodgings include 2 spacious bedrooms that open onto a wraparound balcony, both with en suite bathrooms. The rest of the place is an open floor plan with a state-of-the-art kitchen and appliances. We all cook, so we’ll take turns making gourmet meals in lieu of fine dining out. And as far as managing my daily bowel habits, I’ve ordered a portable hand-held bidet to help limit the use of toilet paper and baby wipes.

Looking forward to the challenge

My biggest challenge is probably happening right now! I must make lists and constantly recheck, revise, and expand them to make sure I won’t forget anything. Today I’m spinning my wheels trying to decide what clothes to pack and what personal items to bring. Once I stop spazzing about it, I’m pretty much home free.

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