There is mounting evidence showing that Inflammatory Bowel Diseases may result from gut dysbiosis, an unhealthy balance of microbial species within the gut microbiome. (1)
Many factors can contribute to creating gut dysbiosis, one being the use of antibiotics. Another is the stress we feel constantly in our high pressure modern society. Scientists from the Ohio State University found that stress can also negatively alter the health of our gut microbiome. (2)
This explains why patients with IBD often have a worsening of symptoms in times of stress. I have experienced this many times. With the holidays approaching, in fact Thanksgiving is next week (yikes!) this means that stress from the holidays and travel will undoubtedly be problematic for people with IBD.
Fortunately, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America has some Holiday Survival Tips for us.
When flying, remember:
- Pack medications in a separate, clear, sealable bag.
- Pack your own toilet paper, soothing wipes, ointments, changes of underwear and extra clothes. Keep hand sanitizer in small bottles that can go through airport security.
- Make sure you bring more medications and if applicable, ostomy supplies than you think you need.
- Arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight.
- Contact CCFA several weeks in advance to become a member and receive the CCFA I Can’t Wait card to help you explain Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis to TSA workers. Call 646-943-7521 to speak to the CCFA Membership Department.
- Download the free CCFA Air Travel Talking Points Card at www.ccfa.org to keep in your wallet for you to refer to as you travel.
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA) cannot ask you to show your ostomy bag, nor can they ask you to remove it any time. You can ask for a disposable drape at any time during a body pat down.
When eating during the holidays, remember:
- Eat a light, nutritious meal of foods you know you can tolerate before going out to a party. This will help prevent you from overindulging or being tempted by foods that you don’t tolerate well or are uncertain about.
- Eat smaller portions. Appetizer and half-size portions are a good option.
- Plan your diet around foods that you know nourish your body well.
- Try to stay away from “super-size” portions that may make you flare.
- Don’t be afraid to make special request-whether dining out or going to your next holiday party. Most restaurants are willing to make changes to their menu to accommodate special diet needs. If you are at a party, call the host ahead of time to see if you can bring your own dish.
I have some additional tips to the CCFA ones above:
- Bring a water bottle with you and drink 32 to 64oz of water throughout your travel day. You might want to mix 1 to 2 tsp of glutamine powder in it. It won’t taste super, but glutamine is fuel for the small intestinal cells and can help reduce diarrhea. Remember to fill your bottle AFTER you go through TSA security points.
- Pack your medicine and other important health remedies in your carry-on bag and bring it with you on the plane, train, bus, car, rocket ship, etc. You never know when someone, like an airline, might lose your baggage. Keeping your must-have items on you will ensure access to them.
- If you fear having to use the bathroom at a moment’s notice, get a seat on the plane or bus in the isle so you can have a quick exit. Seating in the back of the plane tends to be closer to the bathroom too.
- Cook and bring your meals for the travel day. I never have to worry about finding a place to eat during my travels, because it’s all in my bag. I typically cook myself two cups of vegetables (zucchini, mushroom, onion) with chicken or beef in coconut oil. I will have homemade almond flour muffins too.
Good luck traveling this holiday season. I’ll be taking a short trip back to Massachusetts to visit family and friends for Christmas this year. With all of the tips above, I’m confident I will enjoy myself instead of worrying about myself.