HOW TO TRAVEL SAFELY WITH A SENSITIVE GUT
The idea of traveling can be particularly daunting for people who suffer from IBS, IBD, or some other “undiagnosed” gut sensitivity. Gabrielle (one of my readers) contacted me, because although she had mostly healed her Crohn’s Disease, she had a family vacation coming up. And she was really nervous about how to go on a holiday without triggering a flare. Amazingly enough, this had not even occurred to me before – since I travel so often, I’ve got my “safe travel routines” down pat. Well, now I’m going to share them with you.
I find there are basically two areas that account for 90% of the stress whilst travelling: Food and sleep. These are the two crucial areas for someone with IBD or IBS that must be maintained in order to avoid a flare.
Let’s talk about food first. When travelling in North America, unless you’re eating in an upscale restaurant with an actual chef, you can be pretty sure that everything you order will have been processed in some way – this is why I say it’s actually easier to travel to somewhere like Thailand and eat off a street vendor – at least you get fresh, unprocessed food! In many of the chain or “family” restaurants in America, you can be pretty much guaranteed that everything comes out of a box, a bag, or was treated with tenderizers, preservatives, MSG, artificial flavor enhancers, etc. You may be able to handle one or two meals like this, but not only are you risking triggering a flare, who wants to eat poor quality food like that anyway?
So, the easiest way around this, is to always book accommodation with a kitchen. Locate the organic grocery stores in the area before you leave home and go do your shopping the day (or second day) you arrive. Items you should bring from home: spices, salt, pepper, tea.
Your next safeguard is to take Absorb Plus with you. For those of you who don’t know what this is: Absorb Plus in an elemental (pre-digested) shake product that I formulated specifically for people with IBD. All you have to add is cold-pressed flax oil, or Udo’s oil (my favorite), water, and 4 scoops of Absorb Plus. Whip it up in a blender, pour it over ice, and you have a completely nutritious meal that will actually soothe your gut and help you maintain your health whilst away. If you need to, you can even make it without the Udo’s oil or a blender. Just add water and stir. However, it’s not as nutritious without the oil and it doesn’t taste as good either.
Many business travelers use a hand held blender or a blender bottle to whip the shake as it’s so much smaller/lighter then packing a regular blender and easy to use if you’re on the go. Check with your accommodation though, as many rentals now provide blenders. One of my readers is a film producer, and he never goes on location without Absorb Plus – he says he’s been able to shoot everywhere in the world without flaring, since he always has his shakes when the food’s bad, or his system needs a break. Make sure you take a large glass or container to whip the shakes in if using a hand held blender (you have to be able to put the blender all the way down to the bottom of the glass to be able to whip it properly). A blender bottle is truly the easiest way to mix and drink shakes while travelling though – with the least amount of clean up.
For myself, even if I don’t need to make that many shakes, I find the psychological relief has a huge impact on my stress and feelings of safety. Especially if you’re in the U.S., there are going to be times where you simply cannot find a restaurant that serves non-processed, chemical-free food (without reserving ahead at a five-star). Also, if you have kids, things can get stressful trying to provide food for them (especially if they’re picky eaters), so not having to worry about yourself, knowing you can have a shake, is often a huge stress reliever. It’s wonderful to know that whatever happens, you’re okay, you can just make a shake. So you won’t have to suffer any ill effects of toxic food, and you feel relieved because you know you’re getting great nutrients.
Of course, take everything with you that you need to make the shake – a tablespoon, large size travel mug with lid, straws, your supplements, Udo’s Oil etc. Ice, you can find pretty much everywhere. Remember that your Udo’s oil, or flax oil needs to stay cold at all times – see the section below on “Probiotics” for instructions on how to pack your Udo’s oil for travelling.
If you’ve never tried Absorb Plus, then make sure you try it well in advance to ensure you like it and can tolerate it. You can read all about Absorb Plus and also purchase a sample pack to test it.
The other thing that can provide you with that “safety net” in the food department is to make some really nutritious muffins and cookies (try to get almond flour in there for protein – see the Recipe Section on this blog) to take along. These travel really well and then you can always eat these with a nice hot cup of tea if you can’t find decent food (or enough of it). Pack them in an airtight tin in your suitcase and they’ll stay fresh and uncrushed.
The other thing is to make sure you pack your own food for the journey (plane or car), because that way you can start out well and there’s also very little chance you’ll be able to buy good food on the go.
What to Eat When You HAVE To Eat Fast Food:
– Sushi would be the best thing if you can find it. Many airports now have sushi to go.
– Next best, try to find a sandwich place and order a Tuna sandwich rather than anything containing processed meats. Next best choice would be Chicken Salad (don’t order thinly sliced chicken as it’s most likely processed, containing nitrates), or if you can tolerate dairy, then Cheese & Tomato.
– Another possibility is a vegetable noodle soup (ramen or udon), but ask them if they can do it without MSG. If they can’t, then just eat the noodles and vegetables and don’t drink the broth.
I’ve traveled extensively with Natren brand probiotics (my favorite), both throughout the US, Hawaii, and also to the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe and Asia.
I used to take them as carry-on luggage, but then I got to thinking that they probably receive a lot more radiation that way then if they go through checked baggage – especially with the increased airport security since 9/11. Even flying to a hot country, your ice packs (as described below) should hold out for at least 24 hours.
So here’s what I do: I take a thermal insulated (soft-sided) carrier bag and line it with the ice packs that come with the Natren shipment – the more ice packs, the better. If you have to buy some, look for frozen gel packs – they stay cold longer than water. I take the large size bottles since I normally go for 2 weeks or more. I pack it in my suitcase. If you’re bringing Udo’s Oil, or flax oil for your Absorb Plus shakes, pack the oil in with the probiotics as it too has to stay cold, and store it the same way in your hotel.
When I arrive at my hotel, I do indeed try to make sure I have a fridge or bar fridge (just take out the hotel snacks/drinks and put them on the dresser to make space) and then I keep them in there. For the trip home, get the hotel staff to re-freeze your ice packs 2 days prior to leaving.
If you can’t get a fridge in your hotel, then it does work fine to keep them in the ice bucket, surrounded by ice, but then you need to replace the ice once or twice per day, so it’s a bit of a hassle.
I know they stay potent, because we once had a big family trip to a resort in Mexico (only 3 star – never again!), there were 12 of us there and every single person got ill (diarrhea, some vomiting) at one point – except my family – who were all taking Natren probiotics prophylactically. You can order them from our LTYG Shoppe.
Getting a good night’s sleep is also crucial to maintaining your health. The amount of stuff you need to take to ensure a good sleep will depend on your current state of health and whether you’re a light or deep sleeper.
If your health is fairly poor, then you’ll be more affected by toxins. In this case, you should bring all your own bedding – mattress pad, sheets, pillow, quilt, etc. Hotel laundering uses lots of chemicals, so you’ll want to avoid inhaling these while you sleep. You should also bring your own towel or two, for the same reason. If you’re going for 2 weeks or more, than also bring an extra set of sheets and pillowcases so you can freshen your bed, or in case something spills on it.
If you’re a light sleeper and you’re travelling with your family, then seriously consider booking your own room. Remember, if you get sick, no one’s going to enjoy the holiday.
For myself, I always bring my own pillow and then I get to sleep much easier. The more familiarity, the less stress – plus hotel pillows are disgusting anyway and I don’t want toxins right in my face as I sleep! I bring pillows for the kids too. And I bring my own 100% cotton sheets. There’s nothing worse than sleeping on polyester, especially in a hot country (I mostly travel to hot places).
Jini’s Personal List of Easiest Countries to Travel To:
Italy, France, Japan, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland, Caribbean
Why? Because it’s very easy to find cheap, local restaurants that cook fresh, homemade food from scratch in these countries. Therefore, they can cook it to your requirements and your gut will not be irritated by hidden chemicals, preservatives, MSG, artificial flavors and colors, etc.