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Intestine & digestion

Irritable colon, how to prevent it from ruining the holidays?

July 4, 2018

Irritable Bowel Syndrome knows no seasons. In summer, for two patients out of three, the arrival of the holidays coincides with a period of great renunciation. Specialists, on the other hand, are in no doubt: even if you have to deal with pain, meteorism, diarrhea or constipation, you should not give up on leisure activities and relaxation. It is therefore forbidden to give up restaurants, cinemas or holidays. We talk about this topic with Dr. Federica Furfaro, gastroenterologist at Humanitas.



Patients’ concerns

According to a survey by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, irritable bowel occurs to two out of three patients. For fear of having to deal with abdominal pain, meteorism, diarrhea or constipation while away from home, people with irritable bowel syndrome often say no to friends and relatives. The main victim is the free time, which partially undermines leisure activities or relaxing activities and social engagements. The foundation’s experts interviewed a thousand patients for further information and discovered that 23% had cancelled a holiday and 58% had at least once given up travelling in the last year because of the symptoms caused by irritable bowel syndrome.


For many patients irritable bowel syndrome leads to a poor quality of life. However, the fears of patients are understandable: the uncertainty that comes from not knowing if the symptoms will occur, if there will be a need to run into the bathroom suddenly or the fear of having to endure pain and discomfort on holiday, forces them to stay home. The irritable colon also forces people to be absent from work, but in general the percentage of those who give up doing their duty is lower and the psychological reaction stronger. When you have to decide whether to board a train or an airplane, fear takes over and many prefer to stay at home.



Relaxation improves symptoms

For many patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, holidays are a good time: moving away for a while from the daily sources of stress, which often worsen the symptoms, for many is a real panacea and all precautions are excessive.


To travel safely, however, you can follow a number of useful tips:


Prefer to travel by car to make stops when needed, perhaps organizing the trip so as to know the distances between a place where you can find a bathroom and another.


If you choose the plane, arrive at the airport with due advance and on the flight ask for aisle places and close to the toilets: avoid foods that can worsen the symptoms (such as alcohol, caffeine, fried foods, too spicy or fat-rich).


Always carry prescription drugs with you if you are on treatment, or prescriptions or documents that may be required to purchase the drugs during holiday, as well as having the contact of your doctor. This will make for a peaceful stay.


Always have a small “survival kit” with some spare toilet paper and a change of clothes. In the kit it is advisable to insert painkillers, lactic ferments, an anti-diarrheal or drugs against constipation because constipation often increases during trips and perhaps an antibiotic recommended by your doctor, to intervene in case of very pronounced aggravation or annoyance.

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