Last week, I went away on a 4-day walking trip around Lake Waikaremoana in Te Urerewa, which is an area of mostly forested, sparsely populated, rugged hill country in the North Island of New Zealand. Here you can find some of the only remaining Jurassic forest in New Zealand. If you loved Lord of the Rings, you will find Frodo behind every tree in this wilderness, which is dripping with lichen from massive 1,000-year-old trees.
We slept in a historic lodge on the edge of Lake Whakamarino with shared bathroom facilities, and we walked nearly all day with access only to primitive long-drop toilets, if they were available at all. The menus were set with no choices. So, I was a little nervous when I booked this trip because of my irritable bowel syndrome.
The following will help you if you wish to undertake a similar adventure.
- I got in touch with the organisers of the trip, The Walking Legends in advance and told them I had IBS and needed to avoid onion and garlic, which are my major triggers. I don’t include all my triggers or it would be overwhelming for them so I stick to the major issues which can be hidden in food and avoid the rest when I see them on my plate. They were very accommodating and in fact, I had no issues the whole trip. So, do make sure you have a conversation with the organisers and give them clear information about your needs.
- If the toilet facilities are shared, ask if there is any chance of you having a toilet exclusively for you. I didn’t ask for this so was pleasantly surprised when they took me aside on the first day and showed me a toilet separate from the rest that was just for me. There is no harm in asking.
- Make sure you test whether lactose and wheat are an issue for you before going on such a trip. If they are not triggers for you, it will make life much easier for you and those making your meals. Most people with IBS automatically think they will be triggers because of the emphasis placed on them by the internet “health gurus”. However, in my experience of well over 1,000 clients with IBS, hardly anyone has wheat as a major trigger and the vast majority can in fact tolerate enough to not consider it a trigger at all. Also, only about a quarter of my clients have had any issue with lactose, with only a handful having it as a major trigger.
- Take some low Fodmap snack bars with you just in case there are no snacks provided. I took snack bars and also carrot sticks, mature cheese and rice crackers. I kept the cheese in the lodge fridge and the rest in my daypack. I was very glad to have them because there were times when there was no break for snack time and I just ate those as we walked.
- Even though a large plate of food is placed in front of you for dinner, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it all. I ate about half of what was on my plate each night to ensure I was sticking to the rule of small meals so as not to irritate my hypersensitive IBS gut.
- Keep drinking throughout the day. Never drink large quantities of water all at once no matter how thirsty or you will get bloated at the very least. Sip water all day to make sure you get enough. This is essential for good bowel movements, especially if you have IBS with constipation.
- While walking, your gut is more relaxed and you will naturally have less problems with cramping and the urge to have a bowel movement. At home, I am used to going to the toilet after each main meal, and I knew the after-lunch one would be tricky since there was limited access to toilets while climbing mountains. But, surprisingly that middle-of-the-day urge never came – not even once.
All in all, the trip was a wonderful experience, not just because of the amazing landscape we walked through, but because for the whole trip, I had no IBS issues, no headaches, no neck pain and no back pain – all of which I am prone to. Prepare well and you too can get out there and enjoy nature.