Surviving long-haul flights and strange foods in East Asia

You may (or may not) have noticed I’ve been somewhat AWOL with the blog and with Instagram and Twitter in recent weeks (unless you follow my personal account, in which case you will have been inundated with shots of Shanghai and sushi). This is because I’ve been to Japan and China in the last month. This is highly unusual for me: I’d never been out of Europe before, and then suddenly I’m flying to both countries within two weeks of each other! Before this, I had been incredibly anxious about long-haul travel and eating in foreign countries. This anxiety took some time (and wise words from close friends and family) to unravel, but what it came down to primarily was feeling unwell on the flight and being stuck 40,000ft in the air or 400,000 miles abroad. And when do I feel unwell? When my tummy is playing up and – if you suffer with IBS – you may know this can make you feel sick too. And you may know I have a lot of anxiety about being sick! So you can see how these things might stop me going abroad, or travelling; in fact, there was a time when I thought I might never be able to fly or enjoy holidays abroad ever again. (Dramatic, but anxiety can really blind you). So, how better to combat this anxiety, but to make sure my tummy would be okay? And that’s where FODMAP comes in.

By having something I knew I could rely on to keep my symptoms under control, I was able to control my anxiety about flying and being abroad. By making sensible food decisions when you’re in an unfamiliar environment can be really empowering. For example:

  • On the flight, I said no to the bread rolls and crackers, as well as the creamy desserts, because I knew it would be best to limit dairy and gluten
  • I limited the amount of alcohol and caffeine I drank (interestingly, this has stayed with me, and I’ve managed to replace most of my teas and coffees with green tea!)
  • If your rice dish comes with a sauce with onions, just leave them out!
  • Be organised and take food with you: I packed gluten-free bread, gluten-free biscuits, Nakd bars and bananas into my suitcase and hand luggage, as well as sachets of peanut butter (often breakfasts are the hardest!)
  • Cornflakes are generally easy to come by and normally gluten-free
  • Generally, anything in small enough quantities will be low in FODMAPs, so – and I would never advocate going hungry! – just eat little bits of what you have if you have nothing else.

Once I felt more comfortable in the new environment, I generally relaxed a bit with what I ate – the odd bread roll, the odd ice cream – and although maybe my tummy wasn’t 100%, I was still able to relax and enjoy my holiday. Drinking lots of bottled water is so important – especially to avoid constipation-inducing dehydration after a flight. Another thing I did to ease my anxiety about my tummy was to make sure I was well-prepared for every eventuality. I packed:

  • Buscopan (and lots of it- I used it most days in China)
  • Fybogel sachets
  • Diarrhoea relief tablets
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Gaviscon
  • Nakd bars (dates are high FODMAP but a great natural solution to constipation)
  • Gluten-free biscuits from Nairns
  • Peanut butter sachets from Pip&Nut
  • Bananas
  • Gluten-free bread – perfect with the PB when I didn’t want another rice bowl!

Now, I really only touched the Buscopan, but it helped to know all these things were there should I need them. (Remember, it’s best to only take diarrhoea-relief tablets if you really need them, e.g. if you’re travelling and can’t make it to the loo, because if you’ve got a bug, you really need to just get it out of your system!)

If anyone suffers with flight anxiety, my top tips would be:

  • Visualise yourself on the plane each day in the weeks leading up to the flight: imagine yourself being absolutely fine, happy, relaxed, sitting back enjoying a film and glass of wine
  • Take some good toiletries: 100ml mouthwash, face cream, eye cream, lip balm, deodorant, perfume/body spritz
  • Take a change of clothes: snuggling down into fresh, clean-smelling clothes always makes me feel worlds better! I also saved my new Calvin Klein purchases (see below) as a treat for the plane and a new pair of deliciously fluffy bed socks.
  • Have a good travel pillow – this one from Purefly was an absolute dream buy and the material is so soft it was really nice to rest on
  • You’ll need a good eyemask, +/- ear plugs (squishy are best) and some good earphones for films and music
  • Download some good tunes to your phone – I found a good chill one to doze to was the Peaceful Piano album on Spotify.
  • Try to enjoy the in-flight service and the films and just think of your destination!

Remember, anxiety is worrying about the future: be in the moment and don’t think too far ahead. It’s easier said than done, but if you practise being in the moment you’ll only get better at it.

If you want any more FODMAP tips or other flying/anxiety tips, feel free to get in touch via commenting below, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Hope you’ve found this helpful! X

Check out the gallery below…

Kamakochi, Japan – can’t take the credit for this incredible photo (thanks, Joe)
Delicious tuna sashimi
Matcha crisps?!
Enjoying the incredible scenery
Blue tea in Tokyo
Sun struck
Love these!
Yes! Starbucks in China! Much needed green tea
Rice dishes are always a good bet for us Fodmappers. Just omit the onions!
Touristing in Dotonburi market, Osaka
Turns out udon noodles are NOT gluten-free! Oops. Not a problem, though, because they’re so slippery, they’re extremely difficult to eat
This is definitely not FODMAP-friendly
mm, sushi! Fish + rice = low-FODMAP!
Teppanyaki in Tokyo
More Hawaiian herbal blue tea
Would not recommend
To prove that China does do “Western” options! Amazing quinoa, pumpkin, kale, carrot and tuna salad with roasted nuts.


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