Following a special diet can be challenging any time of the year, but during the activity- and party-packed holiday season, it can be doubly stressful. For clients and patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the stress of the holidays can worsen gastrointestinal symptoms, making it more important to carefully follow their dietary plan. As a gut health dietitian who works with clients on the low-FODMAP diet, I’ve gathered several tips and tricks for travel that can help make the holiday season less stressful and easier on the gut.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Warn clients to not be caught off guard and faced with nothing but foods that aren’t FODMAP safe.
1. Suggest clients call restaurants and airlines in advance to discuss menu items that will meet dietary needs. Many restaurants will accommodate customers who follow special diets, while others may not.
2. Recommend patients pack low-FODMAP snacks for plane, train, and car travel. Some of my clients’ favorites are FODY Foods snack bars or trail mix packets, small packages of peanuts, Rachel Pauls snack bars, rice crackers and low-lactose cheese, plain tuna pouches, and FODMAP-safe fruit, such as grapes, clementines, or pineapple slices.
3. Encourage clients to bring their own bottles or packets of FODMAP-safe condiments. Low-FODMAP-ers generally need to avoid wheat, onion, and garlic, so this can be a challenge when eating away from home, as many foods and sauces contain these common ingredients. FODY Foods makes a great low-FODMAP ketchup and several different sauces and salad dressings; Casa de Santé offers a wide variety of spice mixes and blends; and Bay’s Kitchen in the United Kingdom has many different sauce and spice mixes.
Communicate With the Host
The low-FODMAP diet is complex, and there’s much to manage. Clients can help out their host by letting him or her know which foods they can and cannot eat and offer to bring a low-FODMAP dish to share for the group dinner.
Here are a couple tools that can be useful:
1. Make sure clients have the Monash University FODMAP Diet app. This app serves as a “bible” of foods that have been tested and deemed safe (or not) in relation to portion size. Sharing this information with the host of a family gathering or restaurant server can help ease stress on all sides.
2. Suggest patients bring along low-FODMAP travel cards. Kate Scarlata, RD, makes these available on her website. They’re also available at Casa de Santé in a variety of languages, and clients can customize them for their specific food requirements.
Take Care of Yourself
Stressful situations can lead to an IBS flare, so encourage clients to practice daily self-care.
1. Studies have shown that yoga, diaphragmatic deep breathing, and meditation all can serve to reduce IBS symptoms when practiced regularly.
2. Moderate physical activity can help manage IBS symptoms and give clients a more relaxed outlook on life. Suggest patients take a walk with their families or go for a relaxed jog or bike ride.
3. Recommend they bring along an IBS “care kit” when traveling that includes comforting items such as peppermint or ginger tea, peppermint oil capsules, and a small hot water bottle for abdominal distress. Also, make sure they bring sufficient supplies of medications they take regularly and keep them in their carry-on bags to avoid being without them if their luggage temporarily goes missing.
A little bit of advance planning can make a world of difference between painful and distressing holiday travel and a relaxing and joyous holiday season. Sending your clients and patients wishes for a wonderful holiday and a happy gut!
— Diana Reid, MPH, RD, is also known as The Global Dietitian. She provides nutrition counseling and consulting services both in the United States and Luxembourg and spends part of the year in each country. Diana specializes in gastrointestinal health and has been trained by Monash University and King’s College London in implementing the low-FODMAP diet. She blogs on her website and writes regularly for FODMAP Everyday. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.