With summer drawing to a close, people across the country are looking ahead and planning their next vacation. However, for those who are living with gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, planning for a vacation may bring back some anxious memories from summer about feeling uncomfortable in a bathing suit or other warm-weather clothing. A recent survey revealed that more than half of Americans who have experienced GI symptoms agree that wardrobe changes or adjustments may be needed to accommodate discomfort or pain associated with these symptoms.
(BPT) - GI symptoms can include diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, unexplained weight loss or general stomach discomfort. Although these symptoms are fairly common, they can be very disruptive to peoples’ lives. According to the survey, 73 percent of U.S. adults suffering from these GI symptoms struggle with feelings of frustration. So if you are dealing with frustration due to your GI symptoms, you are not alone. In fact, the person next to you right now may be feeling the very same way.
“Unfortunately, my GI symptoms sometimes keep me from enjoying my time at the pool or deter me from traveling longer distances to see family and friends,” says Julie DeBois, a 28-year-old who suffers from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), a condition where the pancreas doesn’t make or secrete enough digestive enzymes for digestion to take place.
Here are a few ideas from Dr. Roshini Rajapaska, gastroenterologist at NYU Medical Center/Tisch Hospital in New York City, author, and television personality, to help you feel more relaxed about your GI symptoms so that you can better enjoy your vacation.
Dr. Raj recommends:
- Nourishing your body.It’s important for everyone to maintain a healthy diet, but it is especially vital for those who suffer from GI symptoms to pay extra attention to the foods and drinks they are consuming to prevent their symptoms from getting worse. The majority of the population agrees – 89 percent of U.S. adults think that an improper diet may impact GI symptoms. To avoid bloating and other GI symptoms that can contribute to discomfort and low self-esteem:
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. If plain water doesn’t satisfy you, flavor it with fresh fruit such as strawberries or mangoes. After you finish the water, you have a light, healthy snack to nibble on.
- Try to stick to a low-fat diet, which may help make your stools normal and can also help prevent abdominal pain. However, you will still need to include some healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts, in your diet to help your body absorb vitamins.
- Avoid a diet too high in fiber, which can lead to more gas in people with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency caused by chronic pancreatitis, and can contribute to fattier stools.
- When traveling to new places, plan ahead for digestive emergencies. You should pack a “backup plan” bag that includes the following: fast-acting medication (for gas, bloating, or diarrhea), pre-moistened travel wipes, a travel pack of toilet paper, an extra pair of underwear/bathing suit, your physician’s phone number and/or email address, research on the closest bathroom to the area you will be occupying, healthy snacks and water, and anything that will help keep your mind off of your GI symptoms, such as magazines, books, or music.
- Relieving stress and exercising. Eighty-three percent of U.S. adults agree that GI symptoms may become more pronounced when a person is under stress, and a healthy, productive way to relieve stress is to exercise. Exercise not only relieves stress, but it also encourages normal contractions of your intestines and can help you feel better.
- Most importantly… talk to your doctor. More than half of U.S. adults have not spoken to their primary care doctor about their GI discomfort, as they do not realize that there are treatments and lifestyle modifications that could help control symptoms. It is important to work together with your physician to implement a treatment plan to feel your best at home and while traveling.
For more information on EPI, please visit www.IdentifyEPI.com.