A purse filled with food in sandwich bags goes through an airport scanner.

Traveling On A Plane With Flaring IBS

A few months ago, I flew from Australia to Europe with a couple of layovers stops in between, the whole trip took almost 40 hours. As usual, before traveling I thought about all the things needed to make my flight as comfortable as possible and how to avoid triggering Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms during my trip.

Tips on how to avoid IBS symptoms when traveling on a plane

Here are some tips that I have adopted when going on long plane trips that may be useful for you too.

Safe food options

Before flying, find out if your airline offers special meals for passengers with dietary restrictions, including low FODMAP options. You can search for this information on the airline website, alternatively try to contact them via a phone call or via their Facebook page, if they have one. Unfortunately, this time my airline was not offering any safe options for me, but it is worth checking, as this medical diet is now widely known.

Alternatively, consider packing some snacks that will not cause you any IBS symptoms. I was able to pack some homemade granola bars, a packet of rice crackers, and a couple of meal-replacement protein powders that I was able to mix with some water on the plane. Other than that, the airline offered meals that had some plain rice and other bits and pieces that I was able to eat to keep me going safely.

Keep these items handy

In my hand luggage, I always pack anti-diarrheal medications, as I suffer from IBS-D, for yourself just think about what medications or treatments that you use to help manage your symptoms, and don’t forget a small pack of baby wipes, a change of clothing, and a couple of underwear, just in case.

Choose your seat carefully

No point in choosing a window seat on a long trip, as soon after departure the aircrew shuts all the windows, even if it's in the middle of the day. When choosing my seat, my favorite is the aisle seat, closer to the back of the plane, near a restroom, which helps me to reduce the stress of having to rush when I feel the urge to use the bathroom.

Relax methods

I generally find long plane trips quite stressful, and stress can also trigger intestine cramps. Do you know those horrible cramps that make loud internal noises? I hate when that happens, it is quite embarrassing. What I have found helpful is practicing some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or listening to calming music.

Move around

Sitting for many hours can also worsen my IBS symptoms, plus it can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis. For this reason, I make sure that every hour I walk around the plane and do some light exercises.

Listen to your body

Remember that everyone's experience with IBS is unique, so these tips may not work for you. If you are worried about your plane trip, you could also talk to your doctor or gastroenterologist to create a personalized plan to manage your symptoms while traveling, and always listen to your body and do what feels best for you.

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