Traveling while following a special diet can elicit anxiety and stress but it doesn’t have to. If you are in the midst of your FODMAP elimination phase, which lasts anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks, try to postpone traveling. If you can’t there are still ways to stay compliant and free of gut issues, it just takes a bit of advanced planning. Here are my suggestions:
- One week before traveling research gluten-free restaurants near your hotel. If a restaurant is willing to make accommodations for a gluten free diet they likely will be open to other requests, such as dairy free, garlic and onion free. After finding 2-5 restaurants check their online menu to get an idea of what items may work. Look for steamed vegetables, grilled meat or tofu, rice, basic salads (ask for olive oil and vinegar or lemon) and build-your-own omelets.
- At the same time you are researching restaurants find grocery stores nearby. When you arrive immediately stock up on fresh low FODMAP fruits and vegetables. Bananas, oranges, precut baby carrots and red pepper sticks are all great options. I also suggest lemons to make a hot morning water and lemon tea.
- Four to five days before you leave prepare or buy several snacks to take with you. Suggestions are Mary’s Gone Crackers (original), a homemade trail mix with walnuts, banana chips and a few dried cranberries, packets of peanut or sunflower seed butter, bake a batch of low FODMAP muffins, granola bars or cookies like these delicious ones with seed and oats. Pack 1-2 cups of gluten free oats for a quick breakfast. The night before stir in hot water, cover and in the morning add your trail mix or fresh fruit. Bring a low-FODMAP seasoning spice blend (I make my own with salt, chives and parsley flakes), as well as low-FODMAP tea (green, peppermint). I also bring my own reusable glass bowl and bamboo silverware for eating in my hotel room and an insulated drinking flask for carrying hot tea or water.
- One to two days before you leave call the hotel and ensure they deliver a refrigerator and possibly a microwave to your room. A hotel usually charges a small fee but worth it and may be a money saver if it allows you to eat a few meals in your room and not in a restaurant.
- While you are traveling a few tips daily lifestyle tips that can keep a gut calm are:
- Drink water, and then drink just a little more, especially if flying.
- Take a low FODMAP fiber supplement such as pure ground psyllium husks, cellulose or acacia fiber. I recommend consuming fiber from food but in specific scenarios it is fine to take a supplement. If you haven’t taken one before, start slowly and try it at home beforehand to ensure your tolerance.
- Before eating take 5 very long belly breathes to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system which helps with digestion.
- Allow 12 hours between eating your first and last meal. This could mean finishing dinner at 8pm and eating breakfast at 8am. Of course drink water or tea, if you wish. Doing this promotes the migrating motor complex (MMC) to sweep undigested food, bacteria and waste through your digestive tract. This only happens when we are in a fasting state and a takes about 90-120 minutes for one cycle. A decrease in MMC is likely related to IBS and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), therefore helping to normalize the MMC through a 12 hour fast can be beneficial.
- If you have trouble sleeping while traveling bring a sleep mask and ear plugs. Look for a contoured mask for the best fit. Getting optimal sleep is essential since a lack of sleep is associated with lowered immunity and increased gastrointestinal (gut) distress.
- Finally, if you do eat something that is not on the allowed list and have a reaction, don’t fret. When you return home resume a very strict low-FODMAP elimination diet, focusing on whole foods (instead of packaged items or desserts) and then add an extra week to your elimination phase.
Bonus tip for those in the maintenance phase. When eating at restaurants there can be hidden sources of FODMAP’s during food prep (garlic powder, apple juice etc.) therefore, I recommend one week before traveling follow a strict elimination phase protocol. This can help decrease the overall FODMAP load and it may deter a strong reaction if you accidentally eat something high in FODMAP’s. This is no guarantee, but it has helped me. If you still have symptoms while traveling follow the recommendation in tip #6 to “reset” your gut when you return.
I wish you safe and happy travels.