Traveling on an Airplane with IBS

Traveling on an Airplane with IBS

Last updated: June 2017

Traveling on an airplane is a pain in the butt when struggling with IBS (pun intended). First of all, anxiety triggers my IBS, and I get anxiety whenever I’m on a plane. So needless to say there’s no relaxing when I travel. It doesn’t help when my IBS decides to bring it’s luggage along with mine also: Anxiety [check]. Gas [check]. Stomach pain [check]. Well, the good thing is at least I only have to pay for one check-in luggage - the rest are all carry-on.

Let me start with Point A and work my way to Point Z: As usual my body wakes me up before the alarm clock that I set on my cell phone, and then I run to the bathroom to do my business. Before any flight, I make sure to push as much as I can out of me so that there’s less pain to deal with during my travels. I have to give myself at least an hour and a half to do this because I tend to have to go multiple times after I wake up in the morning, so I need a good stretch of time to do that and then shower.

Once I’m done with my bathroom duties, I start to think strategically about what I should eat because I’m afraid of how intense the pain can become during my travels. I make sure I drink enough water and small snacks or sandwiches; and I stay away from greasy, gas-causing food. People with IBS, or similar chronic conditions, know that almost everything we eat can trigger our symptoms, but there are those specific foods that can really flare us up. For example, due to my IBS, I’ve become lactose-intolerant, so anything I eat with dairy is like putting a grenade in my stomach just-waiting to explode. With that being said, it’s important that I make sure when I eat my portion sizes are minimal and less-harming while I travel.

Once I get through airport security, which is another stressful rollercoaster on its own, I make it a point to study and be aware of every restroom location near my gate. I prefer privacy when I have to go, so if I can build up the courage, I will definitely rush my way to the family restroom and handle my business. I normally don’t like using public restrooms because, honestly, I just trust my own bathroom more. Also, I like to get comfortable and be able take my time without feeling any pressure to rush. For these reasons, I try to do whatever it takes not to upset my IBS, like eating the right food, but, as I mentioned before, traveling gives me anxiety, and anxiety triggers my IBS too.

How do I try to manage my anxiety-you ask? Well, I love music, so I make sure to bring my headphones to distract myself from the pain. Also, It’s easier for me to fall asleep when I have headphones on, and when I sleep I don’t feel the pain or the anxiety as much. Don’t get me wrong, my body still wakes me up to use the restroom on the plane, but that’s because, by that point, all the water I’ve been drinking is screaming to come out. However, when all is said and done, next thing you know, I finally make it to my destination.

My point with all of this, is that IBS is a complicated disorder. I truly had to study and get to know my body and habits, and only then was I able to make my life easier while traveling. I can fuss all day about how much harder life is while dealing with a chronic illness, but I choose to suck it up and keep it pushing (no pun intended). If anything, I look at IBS as just an extra companion for the trip because it has taught me a lot about myself that I wasn’t aware of before, so in a sense, I kind of appreciate it. It may be a very annoying companion, but a companion nonetheless.

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