Travel provides a great way to learn about new cultures, take a break from your routine, and, of course, try delicious new foods. But following a low FODMAP diet while navigating a new place and communicating dietary needs in a new language can be a recipe for stress. It can also limit culinary exploration, both for you and your travel companions. But not to fear! We’ve got you covered with a host of low FODMAP travel tips!
Step 1: Prepare Before Your Trip
A little prep work ahead of time can help ensure you’re able to relax when you arrive. If you’ve been on a low FODMAP diet for a long time or tend to eat similar meals each day, review your FODMAP triggers and the portions you tolerate so they’re fresh in your mind. Having an up-to-date list of your FODMAP triggers can help you focus on what you need to watch out for when traveling with IBS.
Also research restaurants and grocery stores near where you’ll be staying to get a sense of the local food options. If possible, request a hotel room with a mini fridge and tea kettle. Or even better, rent a local apartment with a kitchen set-up so you can prep a meal or snack whenever you want.
Before you go, also look up local dishes and the ingredients commonly used in them. Enjoy the process of learning about local fruits, vegetables, and grains as a way to get excited for your trip ahead. For example, rice is a common side dish in many cultures and it is also low FODMAP. Other cereals and grains like polenta, buckwheat, quinoa, and bulgur are all options to enjoy on a low FODMAP diet as well. Finding safe options to consider ahead of your trip means you can experience the most a local cuisine has to offer AND feel confident when it comes to ordering off a menu.
Step 2: Parlez Vouz…
Learn how to say a few of your trigger foods in the local language, too. This can help you identify FODMAP triggers when you’re reading menus and food labels. Knowing how to say triggers in the local language also means you’re able to ask servers if a trigger food is in a dish and to request that it be left out.
For example, fructans are one of the most common FODMAP triggers and are found in these foods:
- Wheat: grano, farina di frumento, frumento (Italian), blé (French), trigo (Spanish)
- Garlic: aglio (Italian), ail (French), ajo (Spanish)
- Onion: cipolla (Italian), oignon (French), cebolla (Spanish)
Include a few low FODMAP swaps you might ask for in your vocab list, too:
- Sourdough: lievito madre (Italian), levain (French), de masa fermentada (Spanish)
- Rice: riso (Italian), riz (French), arroz (Spanish)
Also learn to communicate that “small amounts” of FODMAP containing foods are okay, which helps clarify that you won’t have an allergic reaction.
Step 3: Pack like a Pro
Start packing at least a few weeks before your travel date so you’re prepared for all scenarios. IBS travel toolkit essentials include:
- Enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules
- Ginger, fennel, and/or peppermint tea
- Low FODMAP fiber supplements, like partially hydrolyzed guar gum or acacia fiber
- Digestive enzymes that target FODMAPs (more on this later)
Pack an emergency kit with tools to help in case of an IBS flare-up:
- Anti-diarrheals, like bismuth subsalicylate or loperamide
- Gentle laxatives, like polyethylene glycol
- Soothing toilet wipes and moisturizing ointment
Low FODMAP Snacks to Pack
Prioritize space in your suitcase for the snacks, medicines, and supplements that will help make your travel stress and symptom-free. It’s better to overpack and be prepared than leave an emergency kit essential at home in order to bring an extra outfit or pair of shoes.
Pack FODMAP-friendly snacks like popcorn, gluten-free pretzels, walnuts, macadamias, pecans, peanuts, plain chips and your favorite low FODMAP protein bar. Low FODMAP snacks come in handy when you’re at the airport, on the plane and traveling between local destinations. Unless you’re using a digestive enzyme that targets FODMAPs, avoid chip flavors that include garlic, onion, and other high FODMAP seasonings, which can be listed simply as spice mix or vegetable flavoring. Also, bring a few just-add-water oatmeal packets and your favorite granola so that a quick low FODMAP snack is always on hand.
With low FODMAP-friendly snacking covered, you can focus on enjoying meals out at new restaurants when you arrive.
Low FODMAP Travel Tips
Before diving into local food markets and the delicious local restaurants, set yourself up for digestive success by developing a gut-friendly daily routine. As much as possible, follow a morning schedule similar to one you would at home. While it’s tempting to hit the town right when you wake up, allowing for morning bathroom time can be hugely important to keep your digestive system normal and avoid IBS flare-ups.
If you’re lucky and have a kitchenette in your suite, pick up low FODMAP groceries to make breakfast and sandwiches for on-the-go. Low FODMAP staples for traveling include eggs, sourdough bread, butter or peanut butter, hard cheese, oranges or less ripe bananas, lettuce and a milk of your choice. Starting your day with a low FODMAP breakfast and morning tea or coffee allows for more stacking later on.
On the first few days of your trip, also exercise extra caution around raw fruits and vegetables, especially in countries where drinking bottled water is recommended. Avoid salad bars and street vendors and opt for well-cooked vegetables instead. Seek tea and coffee that’s served piping hot and be wary of any beverages served lukewarm. If you have a sensitive digestive system or dysbiosis, you may be extra vulnerable to a bout of food poisoning (also called bacterial or viral gastroenteritis), which would seriously dampen any travel plans.
Also make sure to stay hydrated as you’re jetting about the sights. Dehydration can worsen symptoms for all IBS sub-types and contribute to nausea, diarrhea and/or constipation.
Remember, the community of bacteria in your gut (the gut microbiota) help digest the fiber you eat. Fiber is actually the food that nourishes them. Any change to your diet can come as a surprise to these bacteria. Your gut bacteria’s ability to break down the fiber you eat can be seriously depleted or challenged when your diet changes significantly, like when you travel.
Use Digestive Enzymes when Traveling
For those with FODMAP sensitivities, it can be hard to fully avoid FODMAP triggers when traveling, so digestive enzymes can help improve FODMAP tolerance. They can be used as extra protection against potential FODMAP intake or as a tool to allow for intentional intake of FODMAP triggers, enabling you to enjoy more of the local cuisine with less restriction. Digestive enzymes work by breaking down FODMAP carbohydrates into smaller and more digestible ones to prevent symptoms like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation.
When sprinkled on or mixed with high FODMAP meals, FODZYME’s digestive enzyme blend breaks down fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), and lactose so you can enjoy delicious meals when traveling without pain or digestive distress. Digestive enzymes offer a safe, effective alternative so you can truly enjoy all the delicious foods a local cuisine offers. From Italian pizza and garlicky pasta to freshly baked French baguette, FODZYME helps make your next meal abroad painless. Bring your FODZYME welcome booklet (or print out pages 6 and 7) so you have a list of foods that FODZYME can and cannot help you digest handy.
Stock up before your next trip!
Last but not least, take time during your vacation to relax and get enough sleep. Download a gut-directed hypnotherapy app, like Nerva, ahead of your trip and allow time to enjoy a leisurely walk each day. Even 15 minutes of stretching or gentle yoga can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which puts your body in “rest and digest” mode and helps reduce IBS symptoms.
Also note if symptoms tend to worsen or improve while traveling. This can help you understand the role stress may be playing in your IBS and be helpful data point to discuss with your provider when you return.
Don’t let stress around avoiding FODMAPs ruin your travel plans. Planning ahead and packing a comprehensive toolkit, including flare-up essentials, low FODMAP snacks, and digestive enzymes, make traveling on the low FODMAP diet the true symptom-free vacation you deserve.