15 Tips for Traveling with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

In any trip you always have to take precautions; and much more if you have any condition. Read on and we will tell you what to do when traveling with inflammatory bowel disease.
15 Tips for Traveling with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Last update: 02 June, 2022

When suffering from a chronic condition, vacations should always be well planned. This is even more true if you’re traveling with inflammatory bowel disease. After all, every detail counts.

This condition presents various symptoms such as pain, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. These symptoms cause discomfort for the person, who may suffer from stress or anxiety when taking a plane or traveling by land transport.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should refrain from taking a vacation. You just have to take certain measures. Therefore, these tips for traveling with inflammatory bowel disease will be helpful.

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease, known as IBD or IBS ( inflammatory bowel disease), is a chronic condition. It affects the large intestine and can present itself in two types:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

In terms of causes, it’s believed to appear due to a conjunction of various factors. These include physical factors (bowel motility problems), neurological factors (dysfunction in the gut-brain interaction), and psychological factors (stressful situations).

According to a 2017 review, its prevalence is estimated at 0.3% worldwide. However, these values vary by region.

Moreover, IBD symptoms vary from person to person. They may include:

  • Flatulence
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • altered intestinal transit
  • Abdominal distension or bloating
  • Variable stools (watery or small and hard)

Treatment of inflammatory bowel disease usually includes lifestyle changes, particularly to the diet, and physical exercise. Also, it usually includes supportive therapy to combat stress and the use of spasmolytic drugs and prokinetics. Currently, probiotics are also recommended, as well as biological therapy.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: Irritable Bowel Syndrome: IBS Symptoms in Women

Follow these tips for traveling with inflammatory bowel disease

When traveling with IBD, changes in routines, stress, and other factors can make symptoms worse. To avoid this and enjoy your trip, the following tips should be taken into account.

1. Talk to your doctor

IBD does not manifest itself in the same way in all cases. It’s important to know the specific condition of each patient. To do this, it’s necessary to go to the doctor for the respective control.

Also, the doctor should be informed about the destination, duration, and estimated date of the trip, so that he/she can make recommendations regarding additional treatment.

Consulta antes de viajar con enfermedad inflamatoria intestinal.
It’s best to schedule a consultation before the trip to get the prescriptions that ensure an adequate supply of medications during the vacation.

2. Choose a friendly destination

When deciding to embark on a trip, choosing the location is critical. When traveling with inflammatory bowel disease, a friendly destination means a place where there are good sanitary conditions and the food or water won’t cause any problems.

3. Locate nearby hospitals

Once the destination has been chosen, inquire about health care facilities. Learn how far away they are, how to access them, and what the treatment options are (medical specialties).

4. Take out an insurance policy

To be more protected, one option is to take out a health insurance policy with international coverage, covering possible medical expenses for hospitalization, medicines, tests, and transfers.

5. Plan everything well

Every trip should be well planned when suffering from a chronic disease. It’s necessary to start with the preparations as soon as possible, anticipating everything as much as possible. If we don’t resolve certain details at the beginning, this can hinder the development of the vacation.

For example, imagine a distraction that makes us forget the medicines. Make a list and check what’s missing and what’s ready when planning.

6. Include medical report

 YOu should always carry a medical report in your luggage, and preferably in your carry-on bag. It should include information about the patient, the disease, the medication, and how to contact the treating professional.

This is also useful in case you need to explain why you’re traveling with certain drugs.

7. Always keep medications in your carry-on bag

Similarly, medications, especially those that may be required with some urgency in case of some exacerbation, should be in the carry-on bag and never in the suitcase.

8. Carry sufficient doses when traveling with inflammatory bowel disease

When it comes to the medicines we take, we have to include the necessary amount, proportional to the number of days we’re going to travel and a little more, just in case.

9. Research the alternate names of the drugs

It’s also necessary to find out which are the names given to the drugs we take at our destination. Although it’s advisable to travel with our medications, this is good to know this in case there is a situation of lost luggage.

10. Foresee bathroom stops along the way

When traveling by land, we must think about the possibility of having to use a restroom at some point. So, it’s good to define the route by signaling where there are service stations, roadside stops, or rest areas for motorists.

11. Pay special attention to nutrition

Nutrition in cases of inflammatory bowel disease is something to pay close attention to. While for some patients this isn’t a problem, others are more sensitive.

When traveling, it’s not always possible to carry and prepare our own food. So, when eating somewhere, ask what the ingredients of the dishes are. This is also good to find out beforehand – in other words, how the typical foods of the places we will visit are prepared.

On the other hand, we should limit our consumption of caffeine while traveling, as well as dairy products, since they can worsen some symptoms. Instead, it’s recommended to consume fiber in moderation.

12. Avoid street food

Although there’s a great temptation to eat street food, one should refrain from eating street food for various reasons. Some exotic foods are raw; there’s also no guarantee of hygiene.

Research indicates that foodborne infectious diseases are among the most widespread public health problems in the world, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). And people with IBD can be quite vulnerable in this regard.

Traveling with inflammatory bowel
The person with IBD should not eat from street vendors. It’s difficult to ensure the quality of ingredients at a destination that we don’t know beforehand.

13. Consume bottled water

It’s important to stay hydrated, but you should preferably drink bottled water. This is to be more sure that it’s fit for human consumption. We must not forget that there are many diseases caused by contaminated water.

14. Keep calm

When planning a vacation, anyone can get stressed with so many details: passport, tickets, suitcases, children, pets. And if you are traveling with inflammatory bowel disease, you can also add the medications.

However, you have to stay calm, because anxiety and stress can trigger IBD flare-ups. It’s necessary to take care without worrying so that a setback does not mean a delay or something worse: having to cancel the trip.

15. Traveling with inflammatory bowel: Visit your doctor on your return

On your return, it’s important to see your doctor. The aim here is to make sure that the condition has not worsened. This way, you can check that everything is fine.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: Everything You Need to Know about Hodophobia, or Fear of Travel

You shouldn’t stop traveling

Our last recommendation is this: even if you have inflammatory bowel disease, you should not stop traveling. This is a chronic condition and we have to learn to live with it.

As long as there’s no fever or any other symptom that advises against it, taking a vacation and disconnecting from your routine can be very beneficial and even help to improve your quality of life.

Of course, you must be aware of any outbreak during the trip. However, by taking the necessary precautions, you can minimize the possibility of its appearance or its impact.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Córdoba M, Del Coco V, Basualdo J. Agua y salud humana. Química Viva. 2010; 9(3): 105-119.
  • Oliva-Martínez M. Enfermedades infecciosas transmitidas por alimentos.Medimay. 2008; 14 (3): http://medimay.sld.cu/index.php/rcmh/article/view/327.
  • Ng S, Shi H, Hamidi N, et al. Worldwide incidence and prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease in the 21st century: a systematic review of population-based studies. The Lancet. 2017; 390(10114): 2769-2778.
  • Yamamoto-Furusho J. Tratamiento de la enfermedad inflamatoria intestinal. Revista de Gastroenterología de México. 2012; 77(S1): 39-41.
  • Zúñiga Carrasco I, Caro Lozano J. Enfermedades transmitidas por los alimentos: una mirada puntual para el personal de salud. Enf Inf Microbiol. 2017; 37(3): 95-104.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.