Have you ever been sitting on a plane and had that immediate "oh, crap..." feeling? The one where your stomach starts to twist and you're CERTAIN this is not going to end well for you...or the plane bathroom?
Look. I know it's not glamorous to talk about, but it's something many people suffer from: traveling stomach issues.
If you're an IBS sufferer like myself, you know all too well how trip-ruining these symptoms can be. And if you're truly battling some serious travel anxiety when it comes to your IBS, you have probably either planned your trip around your stomach issues or just canceled it altogether.
Friend, I can relate. Back in 2017, Colin and I went to Mexico for my company's annual leadership retreat. Knowing fair well that this trip was more of a celebration of our business rather than sitting in peaceful circles stating our intentions (or practicing trust falls with people I've just met)...I knew I was going to be up against quite the cocktail (literally...all-inclusive resort, ya feel me?) if IBS woes.
I knew I had to be prepared for not only treating my on-the-spot symptoms once in Mexico, but also for preparing my gut for this trip altogether. But what did that mean?
Knowing I've had stomach issues with not just traveling in general, but in Mexico specifically, it was important for me to pack a legit arsenal of things that would help me find peace and relief during this special trip.
I ended up packing what I now refer to as a "Belly Bag"--a travel bag with all of my holistic supplements to have on hand when the going gets tough (or stressful...or just...on a Tuesday).
There were 4 specific supplements that helped me manage some normalcy for my gut while in a foreign country and out of my routine. Because if you know anything about IBS, you know that stress and inconsistency can trigger the worst of flare ups.
1. Digestive Enzyme
What it does: Digestive Enzymes help break down foods in your gut for better digestion and absorption.
Why you need it: When traveling, we are often exposed to new foods (or at least foods we normally don't partake in), and a sensitive gut can often have a fight-or-flight reaction to them. A digestive enzyme can work as an extra layer of armor for your belly as you dabble in the extra grease, dairy, and alcohol. Keep in mind: a digestive enzyme will not relieve you from an intolerance to foods, so be aware of your plate and try not to stray too far from what you're typically used to eating.
My favorite one: Digest Gold Vegan Digestive Enzyme
What it does: Replaces the good bacteria in your gut to balance against the bad bacteria that often causes gut distress.
Why you need it: Eating and drinking foods from a new place (especially a foreign country) can often expose our guts to bacteria we are not familiar with. In Mexico, for example, the water contains bacterias that we (as Americans) are not used to digesting on a daily basis. This is why many people feel "off" in their digestion and regularity while traveling to some foreign countries. To help support a strong gut that can best fight against this distress, a probiotic is a must.
TIP: try eating prebiotic foods while traveling as well; these are the indigestible fibers from foods that help feed and maintain probiotics (good bacteria) in our gut. Some great examples are onions, asparagus, and bananas (1).
My favorite one: Garden of Life RAW Probiotic (varieties based on your needs)
3. Fennel Seed
What it does: Fennel seed has been claimed to reduce inflammation, relax the intestinal muscles, and help relieve gas and bloating discomfort.
Why you need it: As stated before, traveling + new foods can often create an unwanted party in our guts. Fennel seed is a great supplement for battling bloat and extra digestive gas; it has been stated that fennel seed oil allows digestive gas to dissipate, causing a decrease in abdominal bloating (2).
My favorite one: Zongle Organic Fennel Seed Essential Oil
4. Peppermint Essential Oil
What it does: Given it's natural cooling effect, peppermint oil can offer an immediate "cool down" to an upset stomach. The menthol-like cooling sensation that peppermint oil provides is a great relief during an upset stomach attack.
Why you need it: Greasy foods, sour stomach, and overall gut discomfort can be a common while traveling. Peppermint oil is a quick way to soothe such discomfort quickly. Taking 1 drop of peppermint oil in 4 oz. of cold water allows the oil to "cool" the stomach lining and calm the mind (which in turn, calms the stomach).
My favorite one: Young Living Vitality Peppermint Essential Oil