As I have talked about a few (million) times before, I suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS as us in the know call it.
It is a regular pain in my arse (lol), it massively restricts my diet; I can’t eat gluten, dairy or whole nuts and seeds, it often causes me some significant discomfort but most frustratingly, for me at least, is what it does to the appearance of my body.
When my stomach is bad, honey you will KNOW about it.
It swells up to the size of a beach ball and causes a little pouch to form at the bottom of my tummy that makes me incredibly self-conscious.
Quite frankly the idea of getting into a bikini when this is going down genuinely makes me want to cry, all I want to do is hide it – when I am having a flare up at home, I obsess over my baggy jumpers.
Baggy jumpers that are absolutely not invited on my summer holidays.
For the last two weeks I have been in Sri Lanka which is, in IBS language, a fucking disaster.
Hot and spicy food, a fundamental lack of understanding surrounding food allergies (because not every country in the world has processed food to within an inch of its life like we in the West have) and of course the need to be in swimwear pretty much every day for two weeks.
Going on holiday when you have IBS can be a total fucker. But what are you going to do? Stay at home, eating gluten free pasta for the rest of your life?
No, no, that’s not an option, we’re going to have to make something work.
And for the most part, I’ve got the hang of it, of travelling with IBS… so let’s get into it shall we?
Before I start I’ve gotta say, everyone who suffers with IBS suffers differently; no two people react to the same things and have the same symptoms, so please take the following advice with a pinch of salt.
Equally, I have no medical training or nutritional know how, beyond what I have learned through my own illness, so don’t necessarily take this as gospel, I only know what I know and what has worked for me.
Do your research.
Before you go, make sure to have a big ol’ google about local cuisine. I learned before I went that most local curries in Sri Lanka are made with coconut milk and that the popadoms, for example, do have gluten in them. Of course I still have to ask before I order any food, but knowledge is power and so you’re best to go with as much as you can find.
Also really good idea to learn the word for ‘gluten’ or ‘dairy’ or ‘nuts’ or whatever it is in the language of wherever you are going. Even if you just write it down to show your server it will make things much easier.
That sounds mad obvious but there is nothing more dehydrating than having an upset stomach, couple that with the heat and you will just feel terrible. My tummy will always feel so much better when I am really, extra hydrated and I do my best to drink as much as double the amount of water I have at home when I am away.
Take your own snacks.
I don’t remember the last time I went away without a secret stash of Nairns Gluten Free Oatcakes; sure they are boring (a bit like eating ceiling insulation), but they are plain, and therefore great if you feel sick, they don’t go off, they’re small and they’re filling as hell. You also can’t go wrong with a carton of Almond milk if you ask me, since dairy-free milk can be hard to find sometimes.
I don’t like being one of these ‘bring your own food, don’t eat locally’ types, but an emergency stash can be forgiven in this instance.
Stock up on your floaty fabrics.
The baggy jumpers of the beach basically.
Instagram lead me to believe that holiday outfits had to be all about little denim shorts and adorable dresses. Nuh, uh. Not about that life thanks.
Beach cover ups can be really pretty and really practical. Sure you can’t swim in them, but I felt so much happier at meal times and during the three flare-ups that I had whilst I was away knowing that I can, once more, hide the enormous bloat with the magic of loose fabric.
I don’t mean to be vulgar, so I won’t dwell on this one, but taking a couple of rolls of Andrex with ya might not be a bad idea.
At home I am loathed to take medication for an upset tummy too often, I don’t know why but it makes me feel a bit funny to be taking them allll the time, but to be honest I can’t afford to be weird about it when I’m abroad.
Stock up on Imodium (or whatever equivalent you can find) and for the love of god take the dam stuff. I’d also really recommend taking a multivitamin every morning since your diet will be really different whilst you’re away and you’re body might not take that well.
Find a great swimming costume
I always thought swimming costumes were a bit boring and frumpy and before this year never owned one that I actually wanted to wear. This was always a bit of a nightmare because being in a bikini when I have my bloat on is something that I am loathed to do (not least of all because people look at you funny when you appear to be 5 months pregnant whilst knocking back the wine).
This was my first time in a swimming costume that was actually sexy and great and it did wonders for my confidence. This particular little number is tummy-controlled and that makes it an IBS-sufferers’ best friend. You can buy it HERE.
Tell your pals
I know it is not the British way to necessarily discuss bowel habits with our mates, but I assure you, your holiday will be about four thousand times easier if you can talk to the people that you are with about what’s going on.
To be able to stop the car on long journeys, be picky in restaurants and use the bathroom a million times more than everyone else won’t be the excruciating experience you think it’s going to be if everyone knows that you’ve got a little sommin’ sommin’ going on.
Accept your illness and try to have fun anyway.
I am all too capable of allowing my IBS to really get me down, especially when I am hungry and bloated on holiday, a few thousand miles from the free-from aisles that make me feel so safe.
If there is one thing that I have learned over the last four years, it is that sometimes you have to be just roll with it and not let something completely out of your control ruin your holiday. Sure you feel like everyone is looking at your ‘massive’ tummy and judging you, but they are not. They are never, ever doing that.
So there ya go.
If you have any more suggestions please leave them in the comment section for anyone else struggling with fucking irritable bowels.
(This swimsuit was gifted by the babes at UK Swimwear – they got in touch after they heard my cry for a swimming costume that’s ACTUALLY supportive for gals with bigger boobies and smaller waists – can 100% confirm their website is the dog’s bollocks – have a look here).