The pain. The uncomfortable bloating. The belching. Weird sounds your stomach makes. The distended belly. The brain fog. Fatigue. Anxiety. Feeling like a ticking time bomb that could explode at any minute.
SIBO just sucks.
But it shouldn’t have to take over your life. At least, I was determined that it would not take over mine. I refused to stay at home all the time for fear of leaving the house. Or eat less and less foods out of fear of reacting to anything. Not making any sort of plans because I didn’t know how I’d feel that day. No sir. That is not the life for me.
I’m not saying I hopped straight onto a plane overseas and traveled to the Maldives (kudos to you if you’re brave enough to try). That’s just not practical. It’s a debilitating disease/illness. I get that. But once I got a diagnosis, I knew I would have to pick and choose what I would be able to do.
I hadn’t gone through any sort of treatment yet (antibiotics, herbals, elemental diet). If you’re in that boat (just sorting through your SIBO/still in the beginning phases), I would try to take it easy, keep the stress down, and keep traveling to a minimal. However, when I got asked to be in the wedding of one of my close girl friends… I knew there was no way I could miss the day. Despite the severe anxiety and fear, I knew I had to figure it out. And after a couple of traveling experiences… I did.
Here are a couple of the tips/tricks I have found to traveling when you’re struggling with SIBO.
1. Don’t care about what other people are thinking.
I’m pretty sure this should be the cardinal rule of life, but definitely if you have SIBO/Candida/a digestive disorder.
This is much, much easier said than done. I still struggle with this. You don’t realize how social of an activity eating/drinking can be until you can’t do it. When you can’t eat what or when everyone else is eating, you start to notice quizzical eyebrows being raised. People whisper. People don’t understand. They’re not sure if they should ask you about it or not. They’re not sure what to do with the answer they get when they ask you.
You feel like everyone is talking about you and how difficult you’re being. It’s extremely isolating.
But that’s just the nature of SIBO. It’s still new and people just don’t know about it. Cut them some slack. People don’t think twice if a diabetic has to take their insulin. The best thing you can do to raise awareness and get people to understand better is to just do what you need to do. Stick to your routine, eat when and what you need to eat, go to bed early, get your own bed/hotel. If people think you’re high maintenance, difficult, a pain… does it really matter? And most times, people actually really don’t even care/notice as much as we think they are 🙂
2. Cook ahead of time.
It is nearly impossible for me to travel at this stage of my illness by just winging it. It’s too risky. Especially in some areas of the country where all you’re going to find are McDonald’s and Huddle Houses.
I wish I could give you an exact science, but everyone is so different in what they can tolerate. Here’s a list of snacks/dinners that I brought for my wedding weekend (and when I say snacks I mean sides to my meals because my meals are small and I’m fasting intermittently).
- Friday Dinner: Almond Crusted Chicken with Turmeric Zucchini Slices
- Saturday Breakfast: Banana Pancakes w/ Manuka Honey
- Saturday Lunch: Tuna Salad w/ Guac
- Saturday Dinner: Turmeric Chicken w/ Broccoli and Pineapple
- Stewed Prunes
- Lara Bars (I can tolerate Banana Bread, Cashew Cookie, and Peanut Butter Cookie)
- Homemade Gelatin
- SCD approved Cheddar Cheese
- Garlic Herb Crackers
- Guac in-a-bag
- Get a GIANT cooler with those ice packs from Walmart for like $2. Those things are life savers. Make sure to wipe the cooler after each use or it smells funky.
- Get a tiny cooler/lunchbox so you can take it with you if you just go out to a meal. That way you won’t have to take the giant one.
- Label everything. The first couple times I traveled all my food was just shoved in there and I was flustered trying to find everything during meal times. Now I keep my meals in the main pocket, snacks on top, and non-perishables in zipper. Keeps it way more organized and I write down what is dinner and a snack for each night.
- Bring a pill organizer for all of your supplements/enzymes/etc.
3. Make sure you have some sort of a designated “safe space” and an escape route.
One of the worst feelings ever is when you have a SIBO/IBS attack and you feel trapped. Your anxiety makes things about 10 times worse. This is the main reason I get anxiety about traveling. Because what if I don’t feel good and I’m trapped feeling terrible far from the comfort of my home?
Whether it’s paying extra money to have your own hotel room, checking with whoever you’re staying that you can have a room/bathroom to yourself (or with someone you’re comfortable with), or just making sure wherever you’re staying can accommodate you – you need to do it.
Yeah, maybe that makes you high maintenance, but guess what… low maintenance people don’t have to deal with the god awful flare ups that you do 😉 So back to tip #1… do what YOU need to do. Make sure you’re driving (or with someone who is extremely understanding of your situation) so you can leave a situation if you need to and that you have a place to go where you can calm down, drink tea, do your exercises, use essential oils, stretch, or do what you need to do to cope with whatever your symptoms are.
This proved to be super handy for me when I was feeling particularly ill during the rehearsal dinner of the wedding I was in. Getting to go home, be alone, diffuse some lavender, shower, and read was exactly what I needed.
You’ll thank yourself later for this one.
4. Do some “practice rounds”.
A lot of this stuff is easier said than done. It’s easy to think you’ll know what you’ll do in a situation until you’re in it. To get more used to the idea of traveling, and having less trip anxiety, start with something as small as traveling outside your home.
Go to a restaurant with a friend and don’t eat (or bring all of your food and supplements; that’ll get you used to people looking at you like you have thumbs sticking out of your face like those characters in Spy Kids). Experiment with snacks that would be easy to eat on the go. Get used to people asking/not asking about your weird habits.
Practice really does make perfect. We’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
5. Slow down.
It’s easy (especially if you’re going to an event like a wedding) to get caught up in everyone else’s busyness. There can be a schedule. You can stick to it. Punctuality is important.
You can still be still without being a sloth.
One of the reasons I wake up early (besides being a morning person) is that I’m not rushed. I am up before everyone else, I can make my food, read my Bible, read a book, get ready at a leisurely time, and be ready to go while everyone else is running around like crazy people.
Whether it’s waking up earlier, scheduling time to slow down, or choosing not to participate in some things so you can participate in the important things… it’s hard for us SIBOers to go all day. Know your limits. You’re only human. You’ll find that most people are understanding, kind, and want you to take care of yourself too.
I hope these helped! Traveling always seemed so daunting to me, but this system really has helped me out. I still make it a point to not travel while I am trying to heal/go through herbals, but sometimes life throws stuff at you and you just need to. Let me know if you have any other tips that I didn’t mention here! I’d love to learn what y’all do.
P.S. The wedding was SO fun.