Guest Post: How to eat well for your IBS whilst jet-setting

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Photo credit: rch50 via Flickr

This is a guest post by Carly from My Wellbeing Journal.

It’s summer time. The sun is out (kind of), the shades are on (nearly) and we’re all doing our annual bikini shopping. It’s a fun time to be alive… but if you’re a creature of habit who appreciates knowing when and where your next meal is coming from, then you may be a little apprehensive about going on your holidays.

Living with IBS, I believe, would make an anxious person out of any of us (it certainly has to me). That’s because those who suffer with this know that their ‘flare-ups’ can happen at any time, sometimes with any foods, and can be largely unexpected, with one week being absolutely fine and then next an utter nightmare.

So how can IBS sufferers deal with eating on their holidays? Take a look here at some of my top tips which I use when I’m jet-setting so that your holiday isn’t ruined by annoying tummy issues. After all, you wouldn’t want to be lying in bed when there’s sunshine to be enjoyed…

Eat before boarding

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Before you jump on the plane, you may be super excited and just want to get there, bypassing the food along the way because you know you have an in-flight meal. However, despite the in-flight meal being free, I’d strongly advise against expecting all your nutrients from this one meal.

Packaged in small portions and generally high in carbs and empty calories, these meals won’t make your stomach stop growling, nor will it be any good for your digestion. Not to mention that you’ll be scoffing it all down whilst scrunched in a tight seated position (which you’ll have been in for several hours), so all this food going in will metabolise very slowly and is likely to cause bloating and cramps.

To avoid this, eat a good nutritious meal before you depart. Go to one of the cafes or restaurants in the airport (not the fast food joints) and have a balanced meal with plenty of veg and dense carbohydrates like wholegrains so that you can feel full and feel no discomfort in your tummy.

Always read the ingredients (even if they are in a foreign language!)

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Whilst on holiday, sometimes the worst part is not knowing exactly what you’re eating. If you’re buying from a supermarket, a lot of the foods are unfamiliar to you and, what’s worse, the ingredients are in a different language.

This is probably one of the hardest parts about buying your foods on holiday. The only way to deal with this is to concentrate on the first 3 ingredients in the line-up. Use a translator if you need to, but a lot of the time you can guess what they mean. By cutting out the rest of the ingredients, you’re specifically labelling these foods as the ones which may or may not be digested well. Once you know what these ingredients are, make a mindful decision about whether your digestive system can handle it.

Eat small

Eating little and often is typically seen as a bad thing, as it breeds over-eating and what has now become the ‘snacking culture’, but when you’re on holiday, I always believe it’s best to trial & error everything that passes your lips.

Rather than pigging out on great big dishes which sound great and don’t sound too worrisome, try smaller dishes and give your body chance to digest the food and react to it. Sharing platters like tapas or deli boards are great and can be found anywhere, wherever you go in the world. If you love sharing platters more than just when you go on holiday, take a look at this blog post here which runs through some of the best sharing platters you’ll find in the UK.

Make water your no.1 beverage

You’re on holiday, you deserve a tipple. But too much alcohol can cause so many digestive problems, especially when paired with foreign foods. And it’s not just alcohol you need to be mindful of drinking, coffee is different when you’re abroad as their brews might be different from what you’re used to. For instance – filtered coffee makes my IBS so terrible, but a double espresso makes no difference. My advice for ordering caffeine is ask how it’s brewed beforehand to avoid any horrible consequences.

Rather than caffeine or alcohol, and really any other beverage like milk (which is sometimes pasteurised differently in other countries) or fruit juice (unless completely ‘freshly squeezed’) try and stay hydrated in the hot weather with a bottle of water. Make water your no.1 beverage and know that you’ll not experience any flare-ups with this handy side-kick.

Focus on fresh, fibrous foods

Holidays are great for the eater who loves a little variation in their diet. To me, holiday resorts are buffets, buffets and more buffets and, although this put the fear of God in me initially (because how do you choose the good stuff when the bad stuff looks so damned tasty?!), the key here is that variety quite literally is the spice of life.

The world is your oyster and, although it’s easy to have an absolute feeding frenzy, give yourself maybe 10-20 seconds to step back and really admire the food display. Take in all the rich colours, the fine fresh produce, the fruit, the veg, the plant-based assortments. Once you’ve taken the time to fully appreciate what’s on offer, you can make a more mindful decision – one which won’t cause tummy upset. Reach for fresh, fibrous foods like salmon with bright avocados and just-cooked vegetable medley. Divine!

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