Traveling with IBS: How to avoid upset stomach on a vacation?


“I wonder what I should do about my IBS when traveling? No matter where I travel (Europe or outside of Europe), more often than not I vomit within 24 hours of the trip. I eat ProbiMage, drink only water from a water bottle, only cooked vegetables, and avoid everything I usually don’t eat at home but I still get sick and vomit for 4-7 hours, several times. I love to travel but IBS makes it difficult and it’s not so nice for my travel buddies either. Thanks for the answers and tips!”

It sounds as if you are extra sensitive to a new bacterial culture that you are always exposed to when you travel abroad. The traveler, and the gut microbiome which he or she unknowingly carries along, represent a unique setting in which diet, stress, antibiotics, and new ecologies collide. With traveling, the risk of an unbalanced microbiome increases, and this often leads to gastrointestinal problems. The safest countries to avoid tourist diarrhea and stomach problems are Japan, Spain, Bulgaria, and Scandinavia. The trickiest countries are Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Mexico, Egypt, and India.

Tips to avoid IBS when traveling

IBS patients tend to be even more sensitive to the foreign bacteria that they might be exposed to. That is why traveling often worsens their symptoms. There are however things that you can do to try to diminish the risk of an upset stomach:

You are what you eat

It is important to be careful with what you choose to eat. Even one food ingredient can affect your bowel functions. So make sure to follow these:

  • avoid food that triggers your symptoms
  • have meals at regular mealtimes and opt for smaller portions
  • avoid food that has been in the sun (especially products such as dressing or meat)
  • do not eat chicken or other meat that is not cooked through
  • avoid cheap “tourist traps” – eat at popular restaurants (if there are no people in the restaurant, it’s usually for a reason)
  • try probiotic or prebiotic supplements to support your gut microbiome

Lower the risk of exposure to pathogens

  • wash your hands often (with soap and water) and finish with hand sanitizer, especially prior to eating
  • ice cubes and tap water are often tricky in many countries – make sure the water/ice is from bottled water
  • keep in mind that banknotes are often very dirty – wash hands with soap and water after handling money


Tips for traveling with IBS


Although traveling with IBS can get very tricky, keep in mind that the worry of getting an upset stomach can make you feel even worse. So following these tips, make sure you also allow yourself to enjoy the vacation and look for ways to release stress and smile every day!

Hope your next trip will be without any stomach problems!!!


Riddle, M. S., & Connor, B. A. (2016). The Traveling Microbiome. Current infectious disease reports18(9), 29.