Holiday Heaven or Holiday Hell?

If the prospect of going on holiday leaves you feeling cold due to digestive problems, read on and don’t let it hold you prisoner.

Don't let digestive problems hold you prisoner - Photo Istock

The holiday season is here, although the inclement weather in the UK has certainly raised the issue that summer may well be a myth! With the powers to be turning the rain on and off as if a tap with a very dramatic bent, fleeing abroad to find some sunshine has become a priority in our minds.

Whether holidaying in sunnier climes or at home in the UK, a week or two of indulgence and happy memories can be expected by most. However, those of us who are prone to gastrointestinal disorders such as uncomfortable indigestion, or who are unlucky enough to be one of the 12 million people in the UK that suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) 1, the much needed change in scenery can be a double edged sword as travel stress, and the inevitable change in diet, can have a debilitating effect on the gastrointestinal tract.

Whilst mild digestion disorders can be managed with relative ease, some symptoms may be severe and discourage sufferers from travelling. It’s all too easy to stay at home but we’ve pulled together some items which you might want to pack in your holiday luggage this year that might help you avoid any digestion dilemmas that would otherwise spoil your fun.

Natural relief may be the answer

Herbs that have traditionally been hailed to have digestive properties include, artichoke, dandelion, milk thistle, and peppermint. Dr Dick Middleton, chair of the British Herbal Medicine Association ( said: “In particular, the health benefits of artichoke were first documented by pupils of Aristotle in around the 4th century BC. The Egyptians valued it as a health and diet food, and Plinius described it as the ‘food for the rich’. Because of the health problems associated with an indulgent lifestyle such as liver problems, it was often served up as an antidote to rich fatty foods and too much wine. Recent research suggests that artichokes could help to reduce the symptoms of indigestion (dyspepsia) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as nausea, bloating, constipation and trapped wind. Today, registered herbal medicines containing artichoke are used for the relief of digestive complaints such as indigestion, upset stomach, nausea, feelings of fullness and flatulence (wind), particularly caused by over indulgence of food and drink, based on traditional use only.”

Try A.Vogel Digestisan containing fresh herb extracts of artichoke, dandelion and boldo (£4.15, 15ml from a traditional herbal medicinal product used for indigestion and feelings of fullness and flatulence associated with over indulgence in food or drink, or both, exclusively based on long-standing use.

Silicon is the second most abundant element on earth after oxygen. It is found in nature as silicon dioxide and in the hydrated or aqueous form as silicic acid. As early as the 1940s, research has shown that silicic acid can be beneficial in relieving a wide range of conditions, and for more than 50 years colloidal silicic acid such as has been shown to effective in improving the symptoms of indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome. Try silicolgel (£8.29, 200mls, Boots, which contains silicic acid, a compound of the mineral substance silicon and oxygen in a colloidal and hydrated form. Just a small amount of this highly dispersible gel creates a protective lining in the stomach and intestine. The gel acts as a magnet physically binding with toxins, irritants and pathogens which reduces their ability to cause inflammation, and renders them harmless to pass through the digestive tract.

It’s so good to be back in control – Case Study

Based in Teeside, Carol Williams, has suffered digestive problems since she was a teenager. Now aged 71, and after decades of misery living with IBS and diverticulitis, she has started to enjoy life again. “I started taking silicolgel in April 2015 and I haven’t had any problems since,” she said. “Months of relief from the daily miserable symptoms I used to experience is absolutely incredible. I am now pain free, bloating free and flatulence free! It’s so nice now to be in control of my symptoms. Things I couldn’t do, I now can such as shopping with my husband or enjoying a meal out with friends or on holiday.

Go ‘Techno’ with an IBS Shopping App

If you have been advised to follow a low FODMAP diet, FoodMaestro is a new app that quickly and easily helps you find suitable foods to eat from over 30,000 ingredients and 100,000 products in leading UK supermarkets. Developed in collaboration with King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, the app helps support patients and health professionals in finding suitable foods to eat, and guides them through the three stages of a Low FODMAP diet. Dietary triggers are difficult to identify but clinical research has shown that some carbohydrates (FODMAPs) may contribute to bowel symptoms in IBS. FODMAPs are Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, Disaccharides, Mono-saccharides and Polyols and are contained in a wide range of foods including wheat products, onion, garlic products and some fruits and vegetables.

“Clinical trials have shown that avoiding foods that contain FODMAPs is one of the best dietary approaches to alleviate IBS symptoms. Many different foods contain FODMAPs and so the app will help people with IBS to identify suitable foods when in the supermarket.” comments Professor of Dietetics, Kevin Whelan of King’s College London.

The FoodMaestro FODMAP app is free to download on IOS and android for 14 days, with a £3.99 annual subscription thereafter.

Your Healthy Holiday Read

As well as a relaxing novel, take time to learn how to gain control of your IBS in the long term. A ground breaking new book, ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Navigating Your Way to Recovery’ by leading health psychologist, Dr Megan Arroll, and Professor Christine Dancey, co-founder of the IBS Network. The authors have over 25 years of experience in researching chronic ‘hidden’ illness as well as being former IBS sufferers themselves, their book is written with insider’s insight backed up by the latest research. The practical self-help book provides enough information and advice for each reader to find the right strategies to deal with their IBS according to their individual needs.

It shows how this is a complex and ‘multi-factorial’ condition – that is, it has many interrelated causes and sustaining factors, all of which need to be addressed. The book then guides readers, chapter by chapter, through how to successfully manage the condition by a combination of nutritional, medical and psychological approaches. At the core of the book is the complex relationship between the brain and the gut; the authors introduce the work that shows how the resident bacteria in the gut (the gut ‘microbiota’) play a truly significant part in the development of the disease and what the implications are for treatment, bearing in mind the ongoing interaction between biological and social factors.

Written sensitively to help people find relief from their IBS symptoms, Irritable Bowel Syndrome: navigating your way to recover concludes with a chapter written specifically for relatives and friends; readers with IBS can give this to their contacts who do not understand the condition or take it seriously so that its full implications can at last be comprehended and taken into account. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: navigating your way to recovery is published by Hammersmith Books R.R.P £14.99 or eBook £4.99