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Travel with IBS

Last updated: December 2022

I feel incredibly blessed because I had and have the chance to travel a lot, and it's honestly one of the favorite parts of my life.

It is incredible how the world, people, cultures, experiences, and tastes are so unique and different in every corner of the world. My eyes are in a continuous state of astonishment when I visit new places and countries; I crave this kind of experience all year round.

IBS made travel difficult

Unfortunately, when I started experiencing IBS, it became less and less of a pleasure, and more of a burden, especially when I travel for work and I'm often quite stressed. I don't get to freely enjoy every meal, buffet, and flight as I was used to doing.

I'm often in Dubai, where during business lunches, we often go to Lebanese restaurants as they are very common and have one of my favorite cuisines. Still, unfortunately, they use an endless amount of lentils, chickpeas, and garlic.

When I'm in the Netherlands, there's garlic everywhere, and they use a lot of cabbage. When in Italy, it gets hard with onion and still garlic.

It is so unfair! I love food, every kind, especially veggies and legumes. This condition deprives me of the freedom of mind to try anything I desire, while there are a lot of people who are just not interested and might eat everything.

Trigger foods are everywhere

I find that the safer option in international environments is always Japanese, where most of the time it has just rice and fish. They tend to use way less onion, garlic, and leek than the others I tried. It is even easier to spot "dangerous" high FODMAP ingredients as they usually add them singularly and not in a mix of some sort; hence, I can easily move them aside.

When I fly is when it gets the most uncomfortable. You don't really get to choose what to eat; the food's taste feels very chemical to me, and I cannot stand the smell of the oven they use to heat up the food.

It got worse after a return flight back and forth from Italy to New Zealand within a week (I flew 77 hours in total in 7 days); I get nauseous at the idea of any food they serve.
At that time, I happily started to have 1 or 2 bananas or an apple during my flight. It was enough.

What I have learned about travel with IBS

But now I have to carry my own food with me on every flight, and it gets quite annoying, but honestly, I could not find another viable option.

I'm in the acceptance phase of this discomfort, but it hit me really hard at the beginning of my IBS. It is particularly annoying because the body naturally becomes "gassier" while on a plane, as the cabin pressure falls inside the aircraft, causing an expansion of any gas.

I found that it is very important to walk and move during the flight. It can help your body release excess gas by releasing muscle tension and improving circulation. Drink a lot, and take your own low-FODMAP food. It gets easier this way.

It's important to make peace with our bodies and limits, and being mindful helps release our daily stress. Perfection does not exist, and I will continue my life of traveling, despite IBS!

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