Traveling with digestive issues

Yes it is possible to enjoy traveling with digestive issues! First, let’s break down what some digestive issues are.

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a complex set of diseases. Your digestive tract is under attack by something. As a result, it develops inflammation and scarring. This can lead to symptoms of:

  • Abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and constipation
  • Fevers/Extreme tiredness⁣
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite ⁣
  • Rectal bleeding and/or bloody stools ⁣

This can lead to problems with absorption and digestion. That can then lead to a cascade of problems for the rest of your body, which can be scary if you are thinking about traveling. This is an oversimplification, but it is the general idea behind the disease process. Three diseases fall under the category of IBD:

  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Indeterminate Colitis

IBD is an autoimmune process and, like many autoimmune diseases, has seen a rise in the last 50 or so years. Western diets are high in animal protein, fats, and processed foods. This type of diet is related to developing inflammatory bowel disease. There are many other theories behind the rise, including:

  • More diagnoses
  • Heavier use of chemicals
  • Pollutants in our air and food
  • Drastic changes in the diet in developing and developed countries due to industrialization

For step-by-step instructions on how to improve your gut health, get this guide.

Inflammatory bowel disease symptoms vary

They vary depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. Symptoms may range from mild to severe. Most people with IBD have periods of active illness (flare-ups). Then there will be periods of remission.⁣ If you can, traveling with digestive issues when you are in remission is a good idea.

So, how can you enjoy traveling with digestive issues?

If you plan in advance and you have IBD, you can have a fulfilling and enjoyable traveling experience. You’ll need to to stay informed about your condition. Be prepared for unexpected flare-ups. You’ll also want to plan for medications, food choices, and other necessities.

Before you travel, talk to your healthcare provider about your plans. You’ll want to gather any necessary prescriptions or treatments for your condition. Plan for enough medication to last the entire trip. If your location has different regulations on medications, research those in advance.

You’ll want to plan your food choices. Many countries have different regulations on foods. You may only find a few food options that fit with IBD. Find out what foods are safe to bring, and make sure you pack them for your trip. Worried? Research restaurants or stores in the area that offer options that fit within your diet.

Top 7 tips to make traveling more accessible when you have IBD

  1. ⁣Speak to your doctor. Doctors can guide what medications to pack.
  2. Be mindful of germs on flights, buses, and trains⁣. For example, wipe down the tray seats and armrests in front of you with antibacterial wipes.
  3. Look up restaurants.
  4. Familiarize yourself with bathroom locations. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation has an app in the US called “We can’t wait.”
  5. Research IBD centers close to your destination⁣. It’s crucial to know nearby hospitals that understand and can treat IBD.
  6. Buy travel insurance⁣. Read all sections in your insurance policy application, especially pre-existing conditions.
  7. Use a packing list (like mine below!).

What to put in an IBD travel kit

  • Physician contacts
  • Extra underwear
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • A pair of pants
  • Travel Insurance
  • Insect repellent
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Extra medications
  • Pillbox organized daily and as-needed medications for travel

Four ways to prepare

⁣Plan for a potential medical emergency⁣

Buy travel insurance! Ask your doctor for a written action plan if your condition worsens. Take the time to map out restrooms on your trip. Always keep your doctor’s phone number and your insurance card in your wallet. Research and have on hand a list of doctors or specialists local to the area you will be visiting.

Pack medication⁣

Carry your medication on the plane. Plan to stay supplied—request statements from your doctor if needed. Make copies of your prescriptions, including foreign brand names. Bring enough medication to last throughout your trip.

Plan for meals

Give the airline advanced notice of your dietary needs, and bring your snacks. ⁣You can also look up restaurants and their menus ahead of time. ⁣Avoid foods that you know can aggravate your symptoms.

Fight germs for infection prevention

Bring disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. Make sure to wash your hands often. ⁣Pack items to protect yourself (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, insect repellent). Speak to your doctor about other precautions you may need.



All the information on this website, including, but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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