Doctor's Tips for Managing Acid Reflux on the Road (Without a Pharmacy Stop)
Article

Doctor's Tips for Managing Acid Reflux on the Road (Without a Pharmacy Stop)

Published on Thursday, June 27, 2024
by
Piedad Cardona

Acid Reflux
GERD

Managing Acid Reflux on the Go: A Traveler's Guide

We all travel for various reasons. But no matter what the reason, traveling when you have acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) has limitations.

It is essential to understand that you are traveling but that the acid reflux does not stay at home; it goes with you.

I am a doctor and a tireless traveler, and for many years, I have also been a patient. One of my problems is GERD, and I know that traveling while you have limitations in your diet can lead to bad times if you don't know how to drive them.

You should remember that if you have been treating reflux, especially GERD, for a while, and the mucosa becomes irritated again for even a short period, the healing process you are undergoing will be delayed.

You can decide between having heartburn, a stormy night, a sore throat, coughing, feeling like you can't breathe, speaking hoarsely, or spending a few days free of symptoms enjoying your trip, whether for pleasure or business.

In this article, I will describe what measures you can take to ensure a 100% pleasant trip.

Prepare Your Trip:

Just as you schedule your transportation, lodging, and activities, you should schedule where and what you will eat. Ah! And you can remember something important: your luggage has special considerations. You need to take some food and medicines with you.

Packing Medications and Essentials

If you're currently undergoing acute treatment, carrying the medications your doctor prescribes is important. On the other hand, if you're not being treated, you can strategically visit a pharmacy to get over-the-counter remedies that could help prevent or manage your symptoms.

If your doctor typically approves using H2 blockers such as Pepcid or Zantac, you may take them to prevent your symptoms. It's recommended that you take these medications regularly for several days, preferably on an empty stomach.

For heartburn relief, Tums or Rolaids are effective once symptoms begin. Ginger chews, aloe vera juice, or licorice (DGL) are good options for milder symptoms.

Probiotics and digestive enzymes are also helpful to promote a healthy balance of the gut and improve digestion while traveling.

Beyond how you manage your symptoms, prevention is wiser and more critical, and what you eat is the key.

Smart Packing: Considering Your Scenario

Beyond how you manage your symptoms, prevention is wiser and more critical, and proper nutrition is the key. 

While traveling, we frequently find ourselves in places where finding suitable food takes work. The most difficult situations to find the food you need are airports, rural areas, hotel stays, and business travel. Coming prepared is the best option.

Before packing, consider your scenario: 

Means of transportation: Do you travel by land, sea, or air? 

The place you go: Are you traveling to a rural area or a city? 

Where you stay: Are you going to a hotel and eating in a restaurant or somewhere you can shop and cook?

Your travel motives: Are you traveling on vacation or for business?

All these considerations are essential to preparing what you should take from home and buy once you arrive.

You may pack shelf-stable food and snacks that require minimal preparation, such as nuts, granola bars, dried fruit, whole grain crackers, or gluten-free options. Oatmeal packets, rice cereal, nut butter packets, plain rice cakes, and pouches of tuna or salmon are good choices for the trip and wherever you go. Consider your additional health conditions, if any, sensitivities, and preferences.

Enjoy Your Stay, Eat Savvy:

During the trip, you will encounter multiple situations that will interfere with your well-being, and it is your decision if you want to have a pleasant time or let acid reflux be the show's star.

Here you will find several suggestions to have a pleasant one.

Enjoying Local Cuisine with Precaution

Something attractive about every place you travel to is its cuisine. Trying new flavors and textures is part of the traveling experience. However, you must be very attentive and stick with known food to prevent that acid reflux from ruining your stay.

Eating Small Portions

When you have ordered a large portion of food and are talking with friends or family, you lose track of the amount of food you consume. Little by little, you eat until you least think about it, and you finish everything on your plate.

Ordering small portions will help you consume the right amount. Eating slowly and chewing until the food is completely dissolved in your mouth will help you achieve satiety while consuming small portions.

Staying Hydrated and Snacking Smart

It is advisable to consume small snacks between meals. This will help you resist the urge to eat when it is time, allowing you to control your portions properly.

Multiple activities during traveling cause dehydration; drinking water is the best way to prevent it. Beyond the good effects of hydration, like smart snacks, drinking enough water helps control your portions properly. 

Avoiding Trigger Foods

While traveling, the temptation to eat what is not the best option is everywhere. Remember that the foods that can cause reflux the most are those prepared with excess fat, such as fried food, fast food, potato chips, and other processed snacks, sauces, tomatoes, onions, garlic, condiments, spicy foods, acidic fruits, and carbonated drinks.

Instead, select fruits such as bananas, apples, vegetables, and lean meats such as fish, turkey, or chicken, and always check the ingredients of the meals before ordering.

Planning Where to Eat

When you know you will eat in restaurants, be prepared and plan in advance. Select several restaurants where you know you can get a dish you can consume. 

If you are traveling for business, suggest places you know you have good options. If it is impossible, talk to the waiter and explain your restrictions once you arrive at the restaurant. They will gladly help you select the best option from their menu.

Limiting Alcohol Consumption

It would help if you remembered that alcohol is a trigger for reflux, so limit its consumption. However, when you are traveling, it is more common that you are encouraged to drink alcoholic beverages both for your taste and because it is offered to you.

One of the things I do if I don't want to drink and I want to prevent others from offering alcohol to me is to talk to the bartender and ask him to prepare a glass of water or tonic decorated as if it were a cocktail, so my companions think that I am accompanying them with liquor. If you prefer, select a drink you can consume over a long period, and remember that it is also wise to say No, thank you, I am ok.

Being Aware of Mealtime

It is challenging to coordinate meal times when traveling due to multiple distractions. Scheduling your meals around your activities will help. One way to achieve this is by using alarms.

It is recommended that the last meal be at least 4 hours before going to bed. This is one of the hardest things to accomplish while traveling, so pay attention to that.

Ensuring Quality Sleep

Sleep changes when you are traveling. The change in schedule and nighttime activities hinder the quality of sleep. If we add the discomfort of acid reflux to this, your nights will not be as good as you would like, and therefore, your days will not be as good either.

Using several pillows, sleeping slightly sitting up, and doing relaxation exercises will help you sleep without feeling the discomfort of acid reflux.

Conclusion:

GERD can become a chronic problem that alters one's life in general. While traveling, you should remember that what you eat can hinder your current treatment and that the symptoms you present during the trip can make it not as pleasant as you had thought, and it is not worth it.

Preparing for the trip by scheduling your meals and taking some food and over-the-counter medications with you can help you manage symptoms effectively.

Happy journey!


  1. Antunes, C., Aleem, A., & Curtis, S. A. (2023, July 3). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. In StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved January 25, 2024, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441938/ 
  2. Gupta, E. (2022, March 28). Gerd diet: Foods that help with acid reflux (heartburn). Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/gerd-diet-foods-that-help-with-acid-reflux-heartburn 

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