Traveling with SIBO: What You Need To Know (and Pack) for a Gut-Healthy Trip

I love traveling! I’m a big fan of going to different amazing places and pretending like I’m an entirely different person. But of course, SIBO took all the fun out of it. When I confirmed I had SIBO, I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to leave home again. Getting on a 2-hour domestic flight terrified me. I felt like I had no control over my trip and I was anxious that I’d just end up being sick or in the bathroom the whole time. But after years of listening to my body and working diligently on what it needs, I finally learned how to not let SIBO sabotage what I enjoy so much. And because I love sharing what I have learned about my condition, I put together this short guide to help you have a smoother journey that isn’t ruined by your tummy trouble! These products are ones I’ve used firsthand and ones our community absolutely loves.

The First Thing You Need: A Plan

Managing SIBO at home is challenging enough and traveling introduces a lot of variables that can complicate symptom management more. Travel often disrupts routines, diets, and stress levels, all of which can make your SIBO symptoms worse. During your trip, you want to focus more on supporting your body instead of reacting to the symptoms. So the key to enjoying your travel with SIBO is to plan ahead. As soon as you have your confirmed travel dates, start thinking about how this trip impacts your condition. Recognizing potential challenges, like access to SIBO-friendly foods or the need for frequent rest stops, allows you to better prepare and adjust travel plans if you need to. There are mobile apps that can help you stay organized as you plan or you can use a checklist that has everything you could ever need on a trip!

Practical Tips for Managing SIBO Symptoms on the Road (or in the Air!)

1. Medication Management

Starting a trip armed with all the medications you need is a must! If you’re like me, you’re already using a pill container to keep your morning, afternoon, and evening meds and supplements straight. I know I always felt anxiety that I would miss a dose or not pack something I needed, so here are some of my favorites in this category!
Shivan’s Pro Tip: Adjust medication schedules according to time zone changes. Believe me, I cannot count how many times this tip has helped me have fun while keeping myself in check! There are several tools that you can use to keep track of your pills so you’ll be able to adjust accordingly.
Monitoring your intake helps you make sure you are covered for your entire trip.
I always recommend adding 2-3 days extra in case of delays. We all know how travel can be, especially with how many flight delays can happen on vacation.
Another pro-tip: I always put my medications in my carry-on or purse so I don’t need to worry about it if my main luggage is delayed or lost!
Fortunately, there are many options to organize your medications. You can store your pills in convenient pill bags. Personally, I love storing my pills in a reusable bottle that acts as my tracker too! If I don’t have my favorite pill bottle, I use an normal one and put a sticker reminder that’s very easy to use. But if you want to take it up a notch, there are electronic pill reminders available if you need an alarm set to remind you to take your medication.

2. Stress Management

We all know how difficult it is to move from one place to another and SIBO makes this even more unbearable, which can cause an unnecessary amount of stress. This not only makes the symptoms of SIBO worse, but can also make them more challenging to manage while away from the comfort of home.
I know I’ve experienced flareups when I haven’t been prepared for a trip… probably due in part to all the stress.
You can practice some short and simple breathing exercises or a few minutes of mindfulness meditation to lower your stress levels. Apps like Headspace and Calm have guided meditations that can be really useful for beginners or those trying to stick to a routine while traveling. If you have the chance to meditate at your destination and you are being extra prepared, you can pack a comfortable floor pillow!
Another way to reduce stress while traveling is focusing on distraction: entertainment. Most international flights offer in-flight entertainment, but if they don’t, you can always download Netflix movies and TV shows on your device before your travel. You can also download ebooks and audiobooks so you have plenty of options. To maximize your experience, you can always bring a phone mount with you for convenience (I always do!)

3. Routine Maintenance

Maintaining something that resembles your normal routine, especially when it comes to sleep and physical activity, is important in managing SIBO symptoms while traveling. It’s also comforting! When your daily habits completely change, it can lead to stress and symptom flare-ups. With some planning and flexibility, you can uphold your wellness routines even on the go.
You will want to prioritize sleep – and trust me, I know! It’s easier said than done. Travel can often mean sleeping in less-than-ideal conditions (I’ve even had to try it in airports plenty of times due to delays), but you need as much rest as you can get to minimize symptom flare-ups.
Bring along items that help you sleep, like a travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs. You can use an inflatable travel pillow to support your neck and head if you’re traveling by plane. You can also use a neck support pillow if you want something lightweight and easy to carry. But if you feel that you need support for your entire body while you sleep, you can also get a car air mattresses to take along with you, if you have the space in your luggage.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times you do at home. Consistency reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm, which can help manage SIBO symptoms.

4. Meal Planning

Most in our SIBO SOS®  community find planning meals and snacks with SIBO  to be one of the most challenging aspects, so it’s no surprise that this is even more amplified with travel. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can enjoy your trip without compromising your digestive health!
SIBO-Friendly Foods
Understanding which foods are less likely to trigger your SIBO symptoms is something you should do anyway, travel or not. Generally, low-FODMAP foods are safer options for those with SIBO. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Lean Proteins: Chicken, turkey, fish, and tofu are excellent sources of protein that are typically well-tolerated. I personally am plant-based, so some of my favorite SIBO-friendly proteins include XXXX. You can store these frozen lean proteins in freezable tote bags for convenience.
  • Protein Powders: If you are also plant-based, you can look for pea, rice, hemp, or pumpkin protein powders, which are also low-FODMAP.
  • Certain Vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables like carrots, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini are safer bets. However, tolerance can vary from person to person. You can steam these vegetables and pack them as snacks. Avoiding cabbage, cauliflower, and alliums like onion and garlic can help as well.
  • Grains: Rice, oats, and quinoa are examples of grains that might be easier on your digestive system compared to wheat, barley, or rye.
  • Fruits: While many fruits are high in FODMAPs, bananas, oranges, grapes, and berries might be more digestible in small quantities. Add a bit of yogurt and store them in glass jars with lids and you have a variety of options! Higher FODMAP fruits to avoid include apples, cherries, peaches, prunes, and anything dried.

Shivan’s Pro-Tip: Avoiding high-FODMAP foods is key, as they can ferment in the gut and make your symptoms worse.

Eating Out
Dining out doesn’t have to be off-limits. With a bit of planning, you can still enjoy meals at restaurants. Here are some tips:

  • Research in Advance: Look for restaurants that cater to dietary restrictions or have a diverse menu that includes options you can eat. I have often called ahead to ask specific questions of the restaurant before showing up – that also makes me feel more confident. 
  • Communicate Clearly: When you’re at the restaurant, don’t hesitate to explain your dietary needs to the staff. Many restaurants are accommodating and can modify dishes to meet your requirements. Often, people are embarrassed to call attention to themselves, especially when eating out with friends or family, but don’t shy away from making your needs clear! 
  • Choose Wisely: Opt for simple dishes with minimal ingredients, as they’re easier to assess for potential triggers. Grilled proteins and steamed vegetables are often safe choices.

Meal Prepping and Snacks
Preparing your own meals and having snacks on hand can make managing SIBO much easier while traveling:
Pack non-perishable, SIBO-friendly snacks like rice cakes, nut butter (if tolerated), low-FODMAP fruits, and homemade granola bars in travel safe containers. If your travel plans allow, you can even pack an entire meal that can come in reusable bento boxes! These can be lifesavers during long flights or when suitable food options aren’t available. 
Consider booking an accommodation with a kitchen, whether it’s a rental home or a longer-term stay hotel. Having access to a kitchen allows you to prepare meals, giving you full control over what you eat. Even simple kitchenettes in hotel rooms or vacation rentals can make a significant difference in managing your diet. And it’s a HUGE relief when you have a full-sized fridge.
Shivan’s Pro Tip: Hotels are obligated to provide at least a mini-fridge if you disclose it’s for a medical need. This have saved me time and time again on trips and vacation, because then I can stock it up with safe foods from a local grocery store.
If you know you’ll have access to cooking facilities, plan your meals in advance. Think about simple, quick meals that require minimal ingredients but are nutritious and safe for your digestive system. Head into the local store with a list and you’ll feel more confident than ever to get out of the house and see the world.

Shivan’s Additional Tips

  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is always essential for digestive health, especially when traveling. Our body functions best when we have enough water and electrolytes. I personally recommend getting your personal water filtration kit on the go or a countertop water distiller so you don’t have to worry about your drinking water. I also prefer glass water bottles that are heat-resistant or drinking glasses.
  • Portable Cooking Gadgets: Consider bringing small, travel-friendly cooking gadgets, like a portable blender or a mini rice cooker, which can expand your meal options. I also recommend bringing a small travel kettle or even a portable tea kettle.  
  • Local Supermarkets: Explore local supermarkets for fresh produce and safe ingredients. This can also be a fun way to discover new, SIBO-friendly foods that are local to the area you’re visiting.

5. Waste Management: Optimizing Your Bowel Movements

When you have SIBO, nothing makes you more anxious than having to go to the toilet several times. That’s why when flying or on a train, I make sure to choose a seat closer to the aisle so I don’t have to bother anybody else when I need to go! And when I do visit the restroom, I always carry my toilet spray with me. It provides me comfort and privacy, alleviating one of the major stresses when traveling with a digestive issue. When traveling to areas with limited restroom access, portable toilet kits and buckets become essential. They provide a clean, private solution, making sure you’re prepared for any scenario, whether camping or on a long road trip. Portable urinal bags also come handy! Designed for convenience, they’re leak-proof and reduce odors, allowing a discreet way to manage any urgent bathrooms needs on the go. Packing these items can streamline your travel preparations. Of course, regular cleaning of reusable items is important to maintain hygiene and readiness for use, making your travels as stress-free as possible.

Traveling with SIBO does require extra planning and consideration, but it’s entirely possible to have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience. By understanding your condition, preparing for your needs, and knowing how to manage symptoms on the go, you can explore the world with less worry and more fun.
Don’t let SIBO keep you stuck at home. I did that for years and as soon as I felt confident enough to come back into the world, it helped my mental and emotional health immensely (and my stress levels, especially when I was well-prepared). 
With each trip, you’ll gain more insights into managing your SIBO, making each time smoother and more enjoyable than the last. So pack your bags with some of my favorite items above and get on your next adventure with confidence!

Tag #SIBOSOSTRAVEL on Instagram so our team can celebrate your travel wins with you!

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