How My Summer Vacation Helped My IBS & Reflux

You know that essay you used to write on the first day of school?  Well, after my summer vacation to Iceland, I took some time to reflect on what I experienced during my trip that helped me feel so much better than I have in a long time.  As a clinician, it’s always interesting to me which variables affect my IBS and LPR (also known as airway reflux) and it’s not always diet.  So what affected me the most?

SLEEP

We took a red eye to Reykjavik and landed at 6AM (which is 2AM in NYC).  Not only was I exhausted and desperately in need of a nap, I felt bloated all day for 2 days.  My LPR was worse than it had been in months.  UGH!

While I don’t often miss an entire night’s sleep, taking a red-eye underscores how important sleep is in healing, digestion and overall wellness.  Once the jet lagged subsided I felt much better.

EXERCISING OUTDOORS

Being nature-deprived New Yorkers, almost all of our vacations over the last few years are nature trips.  Each day we spent hours walking, hiking, climbing and feeling in awe of our surroundings. 

We saw over 10 waterfalls each day. They are everywhere!

We saw over 10 waterfalls each day. They are everywhere!

 

Not only is exercise (especially low-impact to moderate exercise) great for digestion, but studies show that outdoor exercise reduces stress and is an effective anti-depressant.

SLOWER MEALS

I am a pretty slow eater but European service is notoriously much slower than in the US.  There is plenty of time between courses and no one brings you the check until you ask for it.  We were not multi-tasking, eating on the run, eating in the car, etc.  Rather, we were enjoying the food and conversation.

When we eat at a slower pace, we can better sense when we are full.  Did you know it takes 20 minutes for our brains to register satiety?  Overeating can cause stomach discomfort, bloating and unintended weight gain. 

DITCHED THE HYPERVIGILANCE

Some of us with chronic health issues may be overachievers when it comes to sticking to our therapeutic diets.  We have fear that a particular food will cause symptoms.  While on vacation and eating out for most meals, it was impossible to control every ingredient I was eating.  So, instead of stressing about what to eat, I relinquished control and just enjoyed my food.  I even indulged in small servings of dessert, croissants, and sourdough (surprisingly, Iceland has amazing baked goods).  I savored every bite!

WHAT TO DO NEXT?

While we can’t be in vacation mode all the time, we can take what we learn about how our habits affect how we feel and recommit to making change.  Whether that’s improving the quality of sleep, moving more outside or eating at a slower pace.  

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What did you learn on your summer vacation that you could incorporate into your life on a more regular basis? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.