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“People with IBS can suffer a lot, and being dismissed by others doesn’t help”

25 Apr 2023

This IBS Awareness Month, we spoke to Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Annalisa Crudeli about how digestion issues can be avoided while travelling.

A person holds their hat in the air

Although a trip abroad can be exciting, it can be challenging for those who suffer from common digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

The unfamiliar food, water, and activities can cause stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation, even for people who do not have IBS. 

According to Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Annalisa Crudeli, IBS is a result of a complex interaction between the body and mind.

“We call it the gut–microbiota–brain axis, which refers to the network of connections throughout our body that can influence bodily functions,” says Dr Crudeli.

Symptoms for IBS can vary for each individual, with Dr Crudeli advising that there are three core IBS subcategories.

IBS-C indicates a prevalence of constipation, while IBS-D is a diagnosis given to people who mostly experience diarrhoea. If someone experiences a mixture of both symptoms, plus bloating, they may be diagnosed with IBS-M.

Although the exact causes of IBS are unknown, a flare-up in symptoms can be caused by any kind of disruption to someone’s daily routine. 

“That might be an increase in stress or anxiety, dehydration, a reduction in sleep, new medication, new foods or a bacterial tummy bug such as gastroenteritis,” says Dr Crudeli. 

With an escape from the routine of daily life being one of the key benefits of a holiday, it’s no surprise that IBS flare-ups can therefore occur while travelling. 

“My recommendation is to try and keep a usual routine in place where possible. For example, staying well-hydrated, sticking to your usual diet as much as possible – with caffeine and alcohol consumption in mind – and ensuring you schedule in some time for exercise and enough sleep,” says Dr Crudeli.

Planning ahead before a trip can also help those who are keen to avoid any digestion issues caused by stress on the body or mind.

“I’d encourage pre-planning a rest day into a travel itinerary after a busy day of sightseeing. If you know you’re having a long day out, the Flush Toilet Finder app can help identify public toilets if needed. Also, if there’s a restaurant you want to visit, check their menu online in advance to see if they have plenty of options you know work for your diet.

“It might also be handy to learn a few helpful phrases in the local language, such as ‘Where is the bathroom?’ and ‘Where is the pharmacy?’” says Dr Crudeli.

Finally, packing diarrhoea relief tablets, anti-reflux medication and paracetamol for any pain can be helpful, along with fibre supplements and lactase enzymes if required.

For those who are concerned about their symptoms, Dr Crudeli emphasises the importance of diagnostic tests to rule out any other underlying conditions that may mimic IBS symptoms.

“Unfortunately, there’s a stigma around IBS, and many people who have it might feel like they’re not listened to or can’t approach someone for help. People with IBS can suffer a lot, and being dismissed by others doesn’t help. The key message is to listen to your body and get any new or changed symptoms checked out by a professional,” says Dr Crudeli.

If you’re experiencing gut health issues, or have noticed new or changed symptoms, book a consultation with Dr Annalisa Crudeli.

Find out more about our diagnostic tests and treatment options for a wide range of digestive health issues.


Any views expressed in this article are those of the featured specialist(s) and should not be considered to be the views or official policy of The London Clinic.