Everyone loves holidays. For me though, as I’m sure for many of you out there, it always meant days of tummy pain, bloating, unpredictable bowel habits and a few days of frustratedly trying to get things back to normal once home.
But this time – for possibly the first holiday since I can remember- I had no problems with my tummy. Was it being super relaxed? I’m doubtful; I’ve been relaxed before and still had problems, though it likely did play a part. I’m still trying to put my finger on what was different about what I did and I’ve come up with a few things, trying to suss out the secrets to success, in a sort of game of ‘spot the difference’. So, here’s my week in pictures on my holiday to Tenerife with notes along the way about how I tried to keep things…ticking over in my tummy!
Day 1. Early starts are never great for anyone, but especially not those with IBS! It can really interrupt your toilet “schedule” and set you back before you even begin. Don’t stress about that, however, just be smart.
Flights are notoriously dehydrating and that’s one of the main causes of constipation. My advice? Make sure you drink at least one bottle of water on the flight. On my four hour flight, I drank a 500ml bottle of water, one cup of tea and half a can of Sprite; if it’s longer you’ll need more. #1 Drink more water than you think you want or need and both your skin and your digestive system will thank you for it.
#2 Wear bottoms that don’t hurt your tummy- something like loose jeans or leggings- when travelling
Breakfast @ Gatwick airport – #3 stick to something similar to what you might normally have. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I eat a lot of porridge! So, I chose this coconut milk quinoa and buckwheat porridge from EAT. when I got to the airport. Topped with seeds, this provided me with a great source of fibre, as well as being low in dairy and gluten.
#4 Eat seeds! Seeds are great to help keep your digestive system moving! If you get hungry on the flight, choose wisely: avoid the unhealthy and constipation muffins, cookies and cakes and opt for something like this super-seeds 9 bar. I generally try to limit my intake of fizzy drinks because whether diet or full sugar, neither is good for you; I shared this one with my mum!
On arrival, take some time to revive yourself: brush your teeth, wash your face, moisturise your skin to help you rehydrate, drink lots of water and #5 listen to your body: are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? When we got to our hotel (the amazing Roco Nivaria Adrien Hoteles in Tenerife), I finished off a butternut squash, butter bean and quinoa salad that I’d bought from EAT. earlier. My tummy didn’t feel quite right yet, but I didn’t expect it to really after the early start, so it was okay.
Enjoying pre-dinner Canarian red wine on the balcony overlooking the sea
Dinner @ hotel: now’s the time to make sensible choices, without limiting yourself or your enjoyment whilst on holiday! Here are my tips for keeping to low-FODMAP, healthy dinners abroad to keep your IBS under control:
#6 Pick a hotel that offers a buffet. This grants you a lot of flexibility with choosing what you know agrees with you. Sometimes I would choose the ratatouille, for example, and just leave out the onions. You probably will end up inadvertently eating onions or garlic, but it’s about minimising these high-FODMAPS, so you’ll likely be fine with just a small amount.
#7 Eat lots of low-FODMAP fruit and veg. As well as being good for you (10-a-day, remember!) this helps to keep your digestive system moving along. Plus, it’s normally deliciously fresh in hot countries!
#8 Enjoy your puddings by choosing wisely. Knowing your low-FODMAP choices is key here. For me, I know lactose aggravates my gut more than gluten, so I would often choose something like a small bowl of grapes and a small petit-fours sized chocolate cake (see below). Avoiding things like panna cotta and cheesecake were my priorities. A small amount of gluten – unless you are Coeliac, of course – is not a bad thing, especially if it lets you enjoy a small bit of cakey goodness on holiday!
Breakfast @ the hotel: My advice here is to bring a few things with you. Essentials I would advise packing in your luggage include:
A small packet of seeds – sprinkle and go!
Little sachets of Pip and Nut peanut butter (it’s not such a big deal abroad!)
Your own bread – in the end, I actually chose to eat one slice of rye bread in the mornings (always available abroad!), because it’s naturally low in wheat although does contain some gluten, hence I limited it to one slice. If you don’t like rye bread, however, bringing your own bread can be a good shout.
I was lucky that my hotel had lactose-free and soya milk available at breakfast! I would expect that most places will offer soya milk at most (I think I struck gold with a hotel tthat has lactose-free milk!). Alternatively, take the time to cut down on caffeine and hot drinks in the heat, choosing instead herbal teas like green or peppermint.
#10 Always drink bottled water when abroad. Even if other people are drinking the tap water, changes in water can be responsible for unhappy tummies, even if you don’t get overtly ill. Stick to bottled water – it’s worth the expense, I promise.
Rye bread, a FODMAP-friendly sized glass of OJ and my fruity, seedy, nutty muesli choice. What a view!
Almonds, strawberry jam, muesli, walnuts, melon, a few raisins, orange, pineapple… and a banana for snacking by the pool
A yummy close-up!
It’s a hard life
During the day: #9 EXERCISE EVERY DAY! (I know, I don’t really look like I’m exerting myself in the above picture.) Exercise is literally one of the best things you can do for your digestion. I alternated between pre-breakfast runs along the coastline with HIIT work-outs in the hotel gym. It’s a great way to feel like you’ve earned all that lazing and napping by the pool! Plus, you get the “pump” i.e. where your muscles always look bigger after exercise = great bikini abs.
At the end of a hilly run!
Pre-breakfast gym session – lovely and empty at 8am! Finished off with some gentle morning yoga, hence no shoes
Flying home: I found a cafe at the airport which offered a few alternatives to sandwiches. This admittedly wasn’t the best quinoa salad ever (it really could have used a dressing), but it was low-FODMAP, packed with veg and staved off the hunger in the air.
Catching up on the Graham Norton show on the flight home, accompanied by a cup of tea and quinoa salad
So, that was an overview of what I ate whilst abroad. Other things I always like to pack with me when I travel are:
Buscopan. These tablets are like crack for those with IBS. They do a great job of getting rid of any pain and bloating – I’ve seen them used post-op in the hospital to great effect too! I take one if I’ve got a bit of pain, or two if it’s really bad.
Fybogel. It’s a good idea to have some of these on you if you find you do get a bit blocked up. Get them from your doc or OTC (over the counter).
Date bars. Dates aren’t FODMAP-friendly, but I find they help to get things moving if your bowels are feeling a bit sluggish! Sort of the food equivalent of Fybogel.
Hot water bottle. Great to soothe sore tummies before sleep.
Do you have any tips for keeping your tummy happy on holiday? Any essentials you pack before travelling? I’d love to hear them. Post a comment below, tweet me @the_fodmapmedic or comment on my Instagram @the_fodmap_medic. Hope you enjoyed the post!