Traveling Tips with GERD

It’s summer—a time for sun, sand, and travel. 

In fact travel surveys estimate that over ninety million Americans will travel at least once this summer which means navigating food and beverages on the fly. If you are one of the millions of people with GERD this could exacerbate normally well controlled symptoms. 

Understanding your triggers and having a plan can minimize flare-ups, allowing you to rest, relax and enjoy! 

Step 1- Understand Your Triggers

In the weeks leading up to your trip use a journal to track symptoms, the time you eat, what you eat, how hungry you were before eating, how full you were after eating, how much sleep you got the night before, physical activity, and stress levels. Whew, that is a lot, but it is short term and the pay off can be significant. 

Not just one thing triggers GERD symptoms, in fact everyone is different, and what causes reflux in one may not cause reflux for another. Look for trends between symptoms. Maybe you get symptomatic if you go too long between meals, or when you’re getting too hungry, or maybe alcohol only triggers you when you drink on an overfull stomach. 

Patterns can help you predict and plan! 

Step 2- Be Mindful and Know your Limits

Size matters! Do not look at foods from a black and white lens, instead mindfully eat and learn to listen to subtle symptoms that your body has reached its’ personal threshold. For example, some people can eat a huge slice of chocolate cake and be fine, while for others that would trigger symptoms. The good news is even if a larger amount causes symptoms, a smaller amount may not mean you can’t still enjoy ½ of that same slice of cake. 

Step 3- Keep an Arsenal of Safe Foods-Just in Case

We all have those old trusty foods that never fail us. These may not be the most exciting foods but we know they provide substance and won’t trigger or worsen symptoms. Pack a TSA approved snack bag for flying or keep an emergency stash in your car. If your safe foods do not travel well, place an online order for delivery at your vacation destination so that you don’t waste any precious time grocery shopping. 

Step 4– Keep Happy Hour Happy 

Some people like to enjoy a cocktail or two on vacation. However, alcohol is a trigger for reflux for many people. If it is for you, planning will come in handy. Alcohol + trigger foods = double disaster.

Try to pair alcohol with non trigger foods. Studies are mixed if one type of alcohol is less triggering than others, so know your body and do not overindulge. Be cognizant of mixers, some such as orange juice or tomato juice may worsen symptoms. 

Finally, talk to your physician to see if any of your medications would interact with alcohol- that way if you have a few drinks and symptoms hit- you know exactly what you can take! 

Step 5– Pack for Success

Tight clothing, including undergarments like bras, are an often overlooked reflux trigger due to their pressure on the stomach. Let loose, comfortable clothing occupy your prime suitcase real estate!

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