Keri

Keri

Co-Editor at Ladies What Travel
A freelance copywriter and journalist by trade, Keri is also a complete travel fanatic. She adores warm climates, luxury experiences, animals and cake – hence the creation of her Global Afternoon Tea Challenge!
Keri

For those of us who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the low fodmap diet can be a godsend, but it can be very tough to stick to food that’s low fodmap while travelling.

Having travelled extensively since I’ve been on the low fodmap diet, I wanted to share the handy tips I’ve used to stay low fodmap while travelling.

What is the low fodmap diet?

As an introduction for those who may not have come across the term before, the low fodmap diet helps people discover what foods are their IBS triggers. This is done by first eliminating the main culprits, which are a number of different carbohydrates/sugars known as fodmaps found in everything from garlic and onion through to apples, wheat and dairy. You then test each type of ‘fodmap’ one by one through a reintroduction process, allowing you to learn which foods cause you problems and which are safe to eat. More information is available from the NHS’ website and the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet blog.

The low fodmap diet is quite restrictive, and therefore tough to stick to when you’re not able to cook for yourself at home. It can be hard enough trying to stay fodmap-friendly when at a local restaurant, but even more so when you’re travelling overseas and have different foods and a possibly language barrier to deal with too.

 

On a low fodmap diet when travelling | Ladies What Travel

1/ Travelling on the low fodmap diet – airline food

You might be wondering how the hell you’re gonna survive a long haul flight when its likely the only thing you’ll be offered that’s safe to eat are some peanuts, but there’s no need to panic.

As well as offering passengers gluten-free and lactose-free options, many airlines also offer a ‘bland diet’ dining option. Yep, sounds dull as hell, but it’s the best one to pick for low fodmappers as it’s likely to be plain and free from those pesky ‘hidden fodmaps’ like onion and garlic that happen to be the most common IBS irritants.

If that’s not an option with your airline then pick the simplest option on offer, which is likely to have fewer sauces, helping you to avoid a flare up.

On a low fodmap diet when travelling | Ladies What Travel

 2/ Pack some low fodmap travel snacks

One of the most useful things you can do when going away is to pack yourself some low fodmap travel snacks that are easy to carry around. These will tide you over on the plane, as many people on this diet like to eat little and often, but will also be exceptionally handy for when you’re out and about and really need to something to eat. Yes, fodmappers can get ‘hangry’ too.

Good options include low fodmap snack or chocolate bars, biscuits, rice cakes and crisps. Some of my faves to take along include mini babybels (for day trips), Tyrells lightly sea salted crisps, popcorn and gluten free pretzels.

I also often pack Quaker Oats porridge packs, so that if I’m struggling at the breakfast buffet and crying over the pastries, worst case scenario I can make up something more filling than a couple of slices of pineapple. (I’m a hearty breakfaster you see).

3/ Do your research

Travelling on the low fodmap diet can be made easier through preparation. Where possible try to find restaurants that offer fresh, made to order dishes. This way you know it’ll be easier to request certain ingredients aren’t used as meals are freshly made as you wait.

Also research the most popular local dishes before you go. This way you can find out which may be safest to order, easiest to alter to become low fodmap, or need to be avoided at all costs.

On a low fodmap diet when travelling | Ladies What Travel

Low-fodmap in South East Asia

Many of my travels are to Southeast Asia, so I’ve come to learn which are the safest dishes to pick. For example, rice is a staple, which makes life easier, but if you get a craving for noodles you can usually find somewhere that serves rice noodles rather than wheat ones.

The main thing to keep an eye on in Asia is onion and garlic as they’re base ingredients in many dishes. Curries and soups often need to be avoided, although pho can be a great option as you can ask for it without onion.

Asian pancakes and spring rolls are often be made using rice flour and rice paper, so are fodmap-friendly, and lots of freshly grilled or steamed meats and fish will be available, so there’ll always be something you can have.

There’s one site I’ve regularly turned to for info and inspiration, which is R&M Dietetics. These two dieticians have undertaken a round-the-world trip and written several articles about what to eat in countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. Worth checking out if you’re heading to that part of the world.

 

4/ Carry with you a card of your triggers – in the local language

Before you go a great idea is to make a little laminated card, the size of a credit card, so it can be carried in your purse or wallet that lists off the main items you’re trying to avoid.

If you’re going somewhere where the language is different from your own, get these foods translated, so it will be easier to show and explain to your server what you can and can’t eat. This could save you a whole world of communication problems – and an icky belly!

There are too many high fodmap foods to fit on a card like this, so the key is to focus on the hidden ‘ingredients’ like onion and garlic that may be used in sauces and pastes etc. Those vegetables and fruit that are high fodmap will be easy to spot on your plate and can just be removed or avoided.

If you’re with a guide on your travels also bring a copy of your laminated card to give to them and explain the situation. They may well be able to ring ahead and let restaurants know of your dietary requirements or help you explain the situation to servers when you arrive.

On a low fodmap diet when travelling | Ladies What Travel

5/ Say you’re allergic, not intolerant

Yes, it’s a bit cheeky, but don’t try and explain that you’re intolerant, or have IBS. Just tell your server that you have an allergy to these foods so they must not be in your meal.

Restaurants are much more likely to take this on board and be very careful about what they serve you in this scenario.

6/ Check and check again

Don’t feel uncomfortable to double check when your food arrives. To play it safe, when the server brings you food just politely asked them to confirm that the dish is ‘without onion and garlic’ or something of that ilk. Mistakes do happen and one quick question could save you days of a bloated, painful stomach.

7/ Make your own meals

Avoid the stresses of always eating out when you travel by choosing self-catering accommodation and cooking as much as you can at home. This way you’ll know for certain that your food is entirely free of high fodmap ingredients. Also, for when you’re out and about you can make up a suitable picnic lunch to take out with you and enjoy worry free.

As we’ve already ascertained, the low fodmap diet can be decidedly dull, so another useful tip is to make up some of your own seasoning to bring with you – either before you come or when you’re at your destination but are going out for a meal. Bored of plain, grilled fish? Why not spice it up with a low fodmap seasoning of your own making?

On a low fodmap diet when travelling | Ladies What Travel

8/ Keep drinking

Keeping hydrated is a top tip for anyone, but for someone with IBS-C it’s even more important, as hydration helps keep your symptoms at bay.

So, pack a reusable water bottle and keep it topped up at all times.

9/ Be prepared for the worst

Yes, you don’t want it to happen, but sometimes an IBS flare up can’t be avoided as simple changes to your routine, diet, drinking habits or stress from travelling can cause your symptoms to raise their ugly head.

So, for this case, be sure to pack some stoppers and starters (binding agents and laxatives), toilet roll and baby wipes just in case. Better safe than sorry.

travelling on low fodmap diet | Ladies What Travel

10/ Don’t let IBS overshadow your travels!

IBS can be a royal pain in the ass (literally!) but don’t let it ruin your trip or stop you from going out and enjoying yourself.

Taking on board some of the above steps should help you lower the risk of your IBS symptoms flaring up, but in the worst case scenario, you’ll have everything with you to get through a bout pretty unscathed.

Eat well, have fun, and make the most of every day of your travels!

 

Low fodmap travels | Ladies What Travel

 

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12 thoughts on “Ten tips for travelling on the low fodmap diet

  1. No 4 made me laugh! Note your allergies on a credit card size card. Mine are lucky to fit on an A4 sheet!! Not only FODMAP but also many others which make me quite ill if eaten accidentally. Been ok on cruises so far and go self catering in UK where possible.

    1. I know what you mean Catherine! The key with the ‘credit card’ list is to focus on those ‘hidden’ allergens like the onion and garlic that can be in sauces etc. With the bigger foods we can usually spot those on a menu and know to avoid them, but it’s useful to highlight the smaller ingredients that can set us off.

      Good to hear cruises have been OK for you – not been on one since the diet, so nice to hear. And yes, self-catering really helps, doesn’t it!

  2. I have IBS too, grrr! I have IBS with C, so for me it’s all about eating as much fibre as possible, which proves to be really tricky when travelling. This is a really useful post for those of us who suffer, thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi from another member of that club lol! I was actually told that too much fibre can aggravate the problem (one of the two types but can’t remember which, sorry). Have you tried this low fodmap diet, it can seriously make a difference!

  3. I can’t imagine how much preparation goes into planning your food when suffering from a condition like that. I used to be vegetarian and am really picky with food in general, some things I just plainly don’t like and with others my stomach rebels, so I already have a hard time finding something I like and can eat when travelling.

    1. it is really frustrating if I’m honest Van, but when I slip up I can see how much of a difference the food makes and it makes it worth sticking too.

  4. I wrote a similar post about travelling with food allergies – there’s a lot of overlap! Travelling with dietary issues or requirements can be so stressful, but there’s so much to explore and see in the world that I refuse to let my dietary limitations limit my travel opportunities! I relied so heavily on translations when I was travelling in Japan, but there’s such a feeling of anxiety there, too, because you’re relying on a stranger, and hoping that they understand and take your allergies seriously.

    I love how you finish off the article – it’s so important not to let your condition rule your life, and prevent you from living out your dreams. It’s not easy, but it can be done!!

    1. I’m sure there is Jane! And yes, I think those comments are really important. It’s easy to ‘play it safe’ but you can’t let things like this stop you from exploring. I have a small disability as well, and I’ve made sure that I’ve never let that get the better of me travelling either!

  5. This was really interesting to read! I don’t eat low fodmap but I do have to eat gluten free, so I would agree with a lot of your tips!! I recently took a flight where I forgot to request a gf option, though, and 10 hours later on a different continent I was very, very hungry!!

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