Does summer living make IBS worse?
Summer is a particularly problematic time for people suffering with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so we asked Dr Doireann O'Leary for her tips on preventing and dealing with flair ups during the warmer months
Summer is that time of year when we tend to relax a bit more, routine isn’t as stringent, nights are later and we indulge a bit more.
Unfortunately, this can wreak havoc on our gut health. For someone with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a common disorder that affects the large intestine and results in cramping, pain, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation, this is especially problematic.
Whilst it’s important to relax and enjoy holidays homes and abroad, it’s not fun tacking an IBS flare of pain. So, in short, yes, summer living can make IBS symptoms worse. However, there are plenty of simple and easy things we can do during the summer to maintain our good gut health.
Keep up your exercise routine during summer. Take advantage of the good weather, get out and get moving. It’s worth factoring in your 150 minutes per week of exercise on holidays too. This doesn’t have to be arduous gym workouts - go for walks on the beach, rent bikes, go to a waterpark.
With that said, I do personally like to throw my gym gear in to my suitcase and keep up my gym routine when away. I get it done first thing in the morning and then the day is my own.
Keeping active on holidays is enjoyable and helps maintain a healthy bowel. When we move, it keeps our bowel moving normally and avoids the onset of constipation.
Staying hydrated is particularly important on holidays. Hydration is a key factor in good bowel function.
Stock up on large bottles or containers of water from the local supermarket and be sure to always keep a supply with you. Take small sips little and often. It’s tempting to indulge in fizzy drinks or cocktails at the poolside, but if you do be sure to keep up your water intake also.
If going out for a walk take water. If going for a cycle take water. It can be a nuisance carrying it, but it’s less bothersome than an upset stomach.
If you take a probiotic for gut health be sure to continue your good habits during summer. Take your probiotics on holiday with you. I take Alflorex with me whenever I’m away. There is no need to take the full pack with you, just pack the amount of capsules you’ll need only.
Flying can cause our gut to slow down and result in constipation. Again, like above, be sure to stay hydrated and keep moving on the flight. Get up for a walk if possible. Remember not to buy your water before going through security but fill up or buy it before boarding.
If you’re on medication for IBS be sure to plan ahead and make sure you have an adequate supply of medicines for your trip.
Dining out most nights is one of the nicest parts of being on holiday. However, this can be tricky for IBS sufferers. I often have extra requests for the chef to make my meal IBS-friendly. My advice is not to be embarrassed and just ask politely. I’m most often asking for a spicy sauce to be kept on the side or for a salad to be served without the onions for example. It’s worth asking for things the way you like them.
I’ve had people tell me to just enjoy my meal when eating out but trust me there’s nothing at all enjoyable about eating trigger foods. Always request a jug of water on the table. Hydration, hydration, hydration!
High fibre diet
Maintain roughage in the gastrointestinal tract is extremely important. Keeping fibre intake up can be tricky on holiday. When I first arrive at my destination I factor in a trip to the supermarket to stock up on water, plenty of fruit and popcorn. I don’t ordinarily eat a lot of popcorn but it can be kept in an apartment or hotel room and is a brilliant source of fibre. Of course it’s salted so continue to guzzle the water.
I know a lot of people say holidays are to be enjoyed, indulging and letting go of routine, but I don’t enjoy dealing with IBS.
I keep up my healthy habits so I won’t be held back by IBS and can really enjoy myself to the full! Who says staying active and eating well isn’t fun anyway?
Dr Doireann O'Leary is Cork-based doctor working in general practice. She is also a blogger and influencer in the health and fashion space.
Featured image: Getty Images
Read more: 'The indignity of wetting myself every day was a lot to deal with'
Read more: UTIs explained: 23 burning questions
Read more: It's time to start talking about PMS