Travelling to New York City

Travelling to New York City!

The Husband and I are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this year, and decided to treat ourselves to our first trip to NYC.  As always, I’m nervous about travelling with IBS, but I’m determined to not let it hold me hostage (see Manifesto #3; I will be free ).  Travelling to New York City was The Husbands idea, but I was pretty confident that I could make it work, now that I have a few travel strategies in place.

Packing and preparing for our trip was a bit of an ordeal….  What clothes should I bring?  What will we want to see and do?  Our friends and family jumped in with many helpful suggestions – unfortunately MOST of these suggestions centered around restaurants.  At first I didn’t mind, but after being told of the millionth pastry shop that we simply ‘must try’, I had a little snit and mild panic attack.  My wonderful, supportive, patient husband sat me down – and helped me see that we were going to NYC to:

A) celebrate our anniversary, and

B) SEE (not eat) New York City.

So with my priorities straightened out, I packed my negligee and supplies for ‘camping’ in a hotel.  My hotel kitchen kit holds granola bars (FODMAP Free), an empty lunch kit, plastic cutlery, a few Ziploc baggies, napkins, some dish soap, and for my first few hours in a new city, some rice cakes, organic peanut butter, travel sized almond milk and tea bags.  OK here’s the thing:  I know we are staying in a nice hotel in the middle of civilization, but I never assume that I can quickly get my hands on the basics.  And I’m not a good person if I can’t have a cup of tea (with milk) and a small breakfast FIRST THING in the morning.What I need to prep the basics in my hotel room.

WE had a fabulous time!  Our hotel was new and bright, we were located close to Times Square and found the city to be overwhelmingly awesome – so much to see and do and the people we met were very friendly (thanks to the complete stranger that helped us figure out the subway!).

Our first morning we were able to find a well-stocked grocery store – The Food Emporium – where I could load up on peanuts, rice crackers, safe deli meat, fruit and more.  We stocked our little hotel room fridge and I was good to go!

'ours' was located on 810 Eighth Ave.

My breakfasts were peanut butter on rice cakes with a strong cup of tea.  Lunches were mostly granola bars, bananas, nuts – but I did order a lovely salad with grilled chicken (just olive oil for dressing) at Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park one afternoon.  I had planned on being a bit more daring for dinners, but honestly, we were so exhausted from hiking around Manhattan all day that we both enjoyed a coffee-table picnic in the hotel room, catching whatever movie was on in the evening.  Munching on sliced turkey, sharing grapes and sipping a bottle of wine was a surprisingly romantic dinner!

All natural ingredients - safe to eat on a low FODMAP diet.
All natural ingredients – safe to eat on a low FODMAP diet.

 

We did try out an Irish Pub for dinner once (we stopped in  earlier that day, asking if they had baked potatoes available on the menu – only later did I realize the humour of doubting an Irish Pub would serve potatoes).  I brought a (pop-top) tin of tuna, ordered a baked potatoe, green salad and olive oil on the side – no, it’s not fancy, but it keeps my tummy happy!

Thanks to my cautious eating, I felt awesome the entire trip – we did so much sightseeing and covered a lot of territory.  When I asked The Husband if he really was ok with not eating out at fancy New York restaurants he looked at me like I was daft: “Do you know how much money we’re saving?!”.

Just being a regular tourist!
Just being a regular tourist!

So, travelling to New York City can be done if you have IBS!   Here’s what worked for me:

  • Bringing my emergency kit purse with a change of clothes – this is especially comforting on the flight.  I didn’t need it, but feeling in control keeps the tummy calm.
  • Making sure our hotel had a bar fridge
  • Bringing my ‘hotel kitchen’ kit
  • finding a grocery store close to the hotel
  • I did try to google ‘NYC FODMAP friendly restaurants’ but didn’t get much that was helpful
  • Maintaining the perspective that I’m travelling to see and do.  Not eat.
  • Having a plan for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, and not relying on spur of the moment choices.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary and a big treat for us to see this magnificent city.  I couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary gift….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip Preparations AKA: Kitchen on the Road

Road Trip Preparations AKA: Kitchen on the Road

As anyone with IBS knows, the thought of going on a road trip doesn’t fill oneself with carefree thoughts of the open road.  There is fear, anxiety and a general feeling of helplessness.  That’s why I thought that making a lot (a LOT) of road trip preparations would really, really be important.

Our road trip this summer is to take us through the American mid-west with a goal of visiting family and doing some touristy things.  The Son and The Husband are eager for new sights and are really looking forward to the journey.  We will be on the road for 10 days, staying in 4 different hotels.  The Husband has been so very supportive, and has booked us hotels with fridges and microwave ovens in the room.

road trip

I am preparing on two fronts:  for Day-to Day meals and for Emergencies.  Here’s my plan for day to day meals…

Road Trip Preparation AKA Kitchen on the Road

My road trip preparations for regular meals means that I am going to be travelling with a small kitchen in a cooler (good thing we have a big car!)  Here are my plans for each meal:

Breakfast

To start my day I need two things to function:  a hot cup of tea with milk (dairy free) and sugar, and something with protein to keep me full.  The tea should be easy, I’ve found small tetra-packs of almond milk that I can bring.  Best of all, they don’t need to be refrigerated if they are unopened!  On the downside, once the container is opened, it can’t be sealed shut again.  Ill either drink a lot of tea each day (to use up the container), bring tape to try and seal it shut, or throw the remaining contents out.  I hate wasting food, so well see how this goes.  For the protein, I’ve decided to bring plain rice cakes and organic peanut butter.  I can eat this in the room with a minimal of fuss – maybe add a banana for flair.  The organic peanut butter needs to be refrigerated, and I figure I can manage this with the in room fridges and our cooler.  I’ll need to bring cutlery, and some sort of container that I can fill with hotel ice each night, as I doubt the hotel fridge will be able to refreeze a freezer pack.

Lunch

This will often be eaten at small road-side diners and I don’t want the hassle of checking with the waitress about ingredients, cross-contamination, and that sort of thing. My plan is to bring along a FODMAP friendly granola bar (heavy on the nuts for protein), or a small Tupperware container of nuts, a small baggie of carrots or an orange.  I’ll need a lunch kit that I can fill up each morning and then have accessible for when we stop.

Dinner

Dining out is usually one of the joys of travel, but I’d rather be safe and healthy than adventurous and sick.  So, my plan is to try and find a restaurant where I can get plain rice, baked potato, or fries that are uncoated and cooked in a dedicated fryer (no cross-contamination).  Also, I think it’s pretty easy to ask for steamed carrots or broccoli, so that will take care of my dietary need for veggies.  For protein, I hope I can get a plain grilled chicken breast, but ‘Ive got a back up plan.  I’ve discovered pull-tab single serving sized tins of tuna – easy to pop into my purse and have in an emergency!

Snacks

For snacks, I’ve discovered that salt and vinegar chips are fairly safe (still read the label as some brands list dairy on the ingredient list – what’s up with that?)  I know this won’t wash with the health food advocates out there, but I’m on vacation and have enough food denial in my life.

Everything but the kitchen sink!
Everything but the kitchen sink!

So, Ill take some stuff, buy some stuff on the road.  Hopefully my road trip preparations will take some of the adventure out of travelling with IBS!

I’m still working on what Ièll bring for emergencies… stay tuned for my next blog….

My 3 Meds

My 3 Meds

Well, I’ve made yet another adjustment to my diet!!  It seems that just following a FODMAP diet isn’t enough for me to have regular bowel functions.  A bit of logic and investigation has led me to discover my new best friends – My 3 Meds.

My 3 Meds

In my posts earlier this month, I wrote that my symptoms seemed to be getting worse.  A lot of loose stools, a lot of gurgly tummys after meals.  I hate living like that so I went looking for yet another ‘tweak’ to my diet.

I sat down and took a look through the IBS Self Help and Support Group Forum (www.ibsgroup.org/forum/).  This is an awesome on-line resource for people suffering from IBS and related diseases – It’s a great place to see what others are trying and what new research is coming out.  Because there are so many causes for intestinal trouble, there are just as many possible solutions to try!  If you haven’t checked out the site yet, take some time to go through it.  If anything, it helps to not feel so alone.

Under one of the discussion forums I discovered something called Linda’s Calcium Info.  This intrigued me even though I am highly sceptical of anyone telling me to take stuff.  However, there were lots of people who seemed to be helped by it, and I already had calcium pills in medicine cabinet so I thought I’d give it a try… here is her suggestion:

With each meal, take a half calcium tablet.  Avoid calcium tablets with magnesium and avoid eating lettuce.

That’s it.  Weird, huh?

I figured that I already needed to take calcium (because dairy is on my ‘no eat’ list), and I had the calcium tablets without magnesium on hand, so…. what the heck – let’s give it a try.

Can you believe it – it worked!  I noticed right away that my stomach was less burbly, and within a couple of days I almost stopped having bowel movements.  This scared me a little, so I only started taking the half-calcium tablet with dinner.  I don’t know what the magic is, but I’m going with it.

Now, just a word of warning – according to the forum, this doesn’t work for everyone.  Some people find that it causes a gas problem.  As I said, everyone is different.  All I know, is that it worked for me.

I didn’t want to pin all my hopes on a miracle cure because of all the summer road trips we have planned – I’m just not keen about being on the road with diarrhea.  So I also began two other ‘treatments’:

  1. I figured that my stool might be soft because my diet is pretty light on fiber.  So I picked up a container of Metamucil and stared taking a spoonful with a glass of water each morning.
  2. My physician, naturopath, and dietitian all recommended that I take a probiotic every day, so I found a good quality one (that doesn’t contain FOS or other non-friendly FODMAP ingredient).

With the combination of the half-calcium tablet, the fiber, and the probiotic I almost feel normal lately.  Regular bowel movements that are of good colour and form, no burbly tummy and no bloating.

It does seem to be important that I take all three, and I will be experimenting to see if it’s critical that I take all three every day.  I’ll also experiment with the lettuce ban.  I have enough banned foods to deal with, I don’t want to add more.

I feel funny calling them  My 3 Meds, as no prescription was needed.  But I feel safe In taking them, and I’m feeling much more confident about the road trips coming up.  Stay tuned to hear how things go…

 

Prepping for Travel with IBS

It’s been a while since I’ve chatted about how my health is… since going on the FODMAP diet a few months ago I’ve had an amazing stretch of good general health and predictable bowel movements (to us with IBS this is VERY important).

Recently, though, it feels like my symptoms are returning.  Not alarmingly, but still enough to cause me concern.  At this point in following the FODMAP diet I should be challenging my gut with various foods to see what my tolerance levels are.  But…. without even doing this, I seem to be having a few more trips to the bathroom that I’d like. I figure that I’m either not following the FODMAP diet closely enough (allowing hidden ingredients to slip in), or my physical system is changing yet again.  Oh joy.

This is particularly troubling because I have a big road trip planned this summer.  A loooong family road trip across the prairies.  The thought of travelling really makes me nervous and if my gut is unpredictable before we start out… I can only imagine the adventures we’ll have!

I suppose this means I need to get busy and do some big prepping for travel with my IBS.  I’ll look into what might be causing my gut it’s current annoyance, and figure out what I need to do for this trip.  What food do I/can I bring?  What can I buy on the road?  How will I handle restaurants?  It’s obvious I need to be incredibly prepared for this trip.

The Husband has already been very supportive and has tried to make sure that all the hotels we will be staying in will have an in-room fridge and microwave.  Now I just need to do a bit of meal planning, making sure I get the nutrition I need while we are on the road.  We’ve already decided to bring a cooler along, and stock it with my groceries.  I’ve done a little shopping for travel-sized safe foods (dairy and egg free, and FODMAP friendly), and found small tetra packs of almond milk.

 almond milk tetra

This should at least get me through breakfast – a cup of tea with almond milk, a rice cake with peanut butter and a banana.  Nutritious and easy!

It’s the other meals that will require some bigger prepping for travel.  Planning and creativity!

The old saying is ‘hope for the best and prepare for the worst’, so I suppose I should prepare for the very real possibility that I will eat something that disagrees with my gut.  If it decides to rebel, I’m sure it will do so on a day we are on the highway, with no restroom in sight.

I definitely need a plan for this!  Stay tuned to hear how I do my prepping for travel with IBS….

 

GUTSY BROAD’S BOOK REVIEW: ALLERGIC GIRL

 

I first picked up this book a couple of years ago when I was at a desperate point with my IBS and figured that if someone could handle life with severe life threatening food allergies, they could help me handle life with multiple food intolerances.  It had such a strong, positive impact on my outlook that it was the first book I wanted to review… and I have to say, I got even more out of the book on my second read through.

 

The author is Sloane Miller, who has multiple severe allergies.  She’s also a blogger, advocate, consultant and authority on food allergies.  According to the inside of the cover, she “shows how a food-allergic person can live a life not constrained by what she or he can’t eat.”. She does this by using real-life examples (personal and from her practice) to show strategies in dealing with dietary restrictions in everyday life.

 

The book is divided into 3 parts:  You, Relationships and In and Of the World.

 

Part one is where we get to meet Sloane and find out more about her allergies.  She introduces the first one of her excellent strategies called “Team You”.  This strategy, about building a personalized medical team focussed on your needs was terribly empowering.  She follows this up with many other tips and tricks, including how to handle personal feelings of anxiety and shame.

 

Part 3 is about Relationships and she does an excellent job in outlining the various reactions that family members and others can have when you disclose your dietary needs, and how to handle these reactions with grace and strength.

 

She covers a lot of territory, from college room-mates, to first dates to family and work events.  All of her suggestions are practical, doable and empowering (even though some require a bit of practice, I find).

 

I very much appreciated her chapter on finding new ways of looking at food.  “Food is not the enemy”, gave me an Ah-Ha! moment and freed me from continuously waging war with dairy, when there was no way I could win.

 

Part 3 is called “In and Of the World” and provides an endless supply of ideas, tips and tricks and suggestions for surviving parties, celebrations, restaurant invitations and travel.

 

This book is a real primer on how to live with dietary restrictions.  Sloane writes with humour, but you know that she’s had some scary experiences.  Though her style is informal, she still shows how she is confidently certain that dietary challenges are totally compatible with living well. 

 

Resources listed in the back are comprehensive, mostly American but with some Canadian resources thrown in for good measure.

 

This book totally enthused me.  It gave me the confidence to try the techniques she recommends for managing her allergies.  This should be required reading for everyone with dietary allergies and intolerances.  Check out her blog and website (allergicgirl.com)  too!

 

Details:

Allergic Girl By Sloane Miller

Published 2011 by John Wiley and Sons Inc.

About 250 pages

ISBN 978-0-470-63000-9