7 Rules for Traveling with Fructose Malabsorption

Las Vegas!__No Sugarless Gum

It’s not impossible to go on a trip when you have Fructose Malabsorption, but it makes it very difficult.  My husband and I went to Las Vegas last week for our 1-year anniversary (yay!) and I came up with some rules to follow to help stay feeling well.

Vacation, for me, used to be a lot about all the great food I would get to try–especially dessert.  Hopefully it will be able to be that way again one day, but now, it’s more like trying to survive and not get sick.

“Traveling with Fructose Malabsorption.”  That makes it sound less like going on a trip with a dietary disorder and more like bringing along a companion.  But that’s really what it feels like, too.  It dictates what you do on your trip, if you have a good time or not, and it’s something you’re constantly thinking about.

If I had to grade myself on how I did this trip following my own rules, I would probably give myself a C+.  I would use the excuse that I was figuring them out as I went, but I had most of them figured out already and I just got lazy.  And I paid for it later.
I journaled my food experiences which I’ll post later, but for now here are the rules:

RULE 1: Pack a Survival Kit

I was really not looking forward to spending a whole week without my bagels for breakfast.  And then I thought: Why not pack them?  So I did!  And it was easy!!!  Here’s a list of what I brought along with me:

  • 4 Almond BagelsSurvival Kit__No Sugarless Gum
  • Dextrose/cinnamon mix (for the bagels)
  • Dextrose (for sprinkling on Rice Krispies)
  • Peanuts
  • Miralax
  • 10 Smarties (I should have brought more)
  • Digest Spectrum

One of the first things we did when we got there was a grocery run.  Here are the things I bought (not all are pictured)

  • Rice KrispiesSurvival Kit2__No Sugarless Gum
  • Butter (for bagels)
  • Milk
  • Chips
  • Cheetos
  • Smarties (I bought more)
  • Silverware
  • Bowls

I never opened the additional Smarties I bought.  But doing this extra work was totally worth it.  It brought a bit of normalcy and routine to the trip and actually helped me feel excited about going.

Spilled Dextrose--the maids probably thought I was partying hard.

Spilled Dextrose–the maids probably thought I was partying hard.

RULE 2: Educate Your Travel Companion(s)

I’m really lucky.  Where I am crazy and unflinchingly stubborn, my husband is patient and unfazed by almost anything.  I couldn’t ask for a better travel partner, especially with my Fructose Malabsorption.  He even jumps in to help me explain things to waiters when he can see me start to give up.
However, I have been on trips before with people who don’t really understand my affliction and don’t seem to care all that much.
I remember one vacation with some people where I was freaking out about where we were going to eat, and trying to convince them that I needed a food itinerary.  But I was waved away: “Pfft, we’ll find you something to eat!”  I shouldn’t have let that placate me.  We found ourselves driving around and around looking for something.  After about 20 minutes (which really isn’t that long), they were getting really frustrated, and someone even shook her head and then pressed her face to her hands as if to say: I can’t BELIEVE this! I give up!  As if dealing with someone who has FM for 2 days was just such a burden to her.  It was not fun.
Anyway, I think if I had just been a little more forthcoming in the beginning and said I was willing to do all the work of finding a place that I could eat and everyone could enjoy, it might have gone differently.

The last rules are about eating out:

RULE 3: Make an Itinerary

This is tedious, but worth it.  If you’re like me and enjoy being lazy and staying in one spot, it’s not so terrible because you mostly know where you’ll be at any given time.  But if you like to go out sightseeing and crap, then you have to figure out your daily plan and then decide where to eat based on that.  It doesn’t leave a lot of room for spur-of-the-moment activities, but it could help minimize spur-of-the-moment dashes to the bathroom.

My favorite thing to do on vacation.

My favorite thing to do on vacation.

RULE 4: Go Fancy or Gluten Free

Once you have your itinerary figured out for what you’re going to do each day (or more importantly, where you’ll be) you can start looking for restaurants.  A good place to start if you’re having trouble is to look for restaurants that offer special allergy menus like vegan or gluten free (although remember: gluten free doesn’t mean fructose free!).  Usually places like this that are already willing to accommodate one dietary restriction will be more patient and likely to help.
In my experience places that are fancier are also more helpful.  And since their meats are such good quality, they are less likely to be marinated.  It may mean more money, but also less suffering.

RULE 5: Call Ahead

This is a super important one and the one I hate the most.  Trying to explain Fructose Malabsorption over the phone is like trying to teach your cat multiplication.  Or addition for that matter.  I’m not saying people are stupid, but it just adds an extra element to something that’s already frustrating.
What I do is look over the menu online, find a few options I could have, and then call to talk to someone knowledgeable.  One place even put the chef on to help answer my questions.  This way, they not only know you’re coming and can make a note next to your reservation, but you can make sure you don’t get there and end up eating white rice.  Unless that’s what you want.

****UPDATE 8/20/2013*****

Call ahead before you book your hotel to make sure they have a refrigerator and/or microwave if you need them!

RULE 6: Make a List

This I didn’t do until the end of the trip, and I wish I had done it sooner.  It’s so much nicer to just hand someone a list instead of having this conversation:

“I have some dietary restrictions…”
“Ok, what do you have?”
“Fructose Malabsorption”
“All right, what aren’t you able to eat?”
“Everything.”

Not fun.  Instead, make up a little card you can carry around with you of all the foods you can eat (much shorter than the ones you can’t) and make sure it’s labeled FOOD I CAN EAT (more about my problem with not writing this on mine later…).
I was also thinking I would put a little summary on the back of the card about Fructose Malabsorption.  I’ll let you know if I come up with something good.

RULE 7: Go Early

If you make your dinner reservation for when the restaurant first opens, you are more likely to get the help you need.  When calling ahead for a restaurant where you’d like to each lunch, it might be good to ask what times they aren’t busy.

The Airport

Another subject of note is the airport.  What do you eat there?  So far I have just resigned myself to eating poorly.  I pack some peanuts and then will either grab some potato chips, Cheetos, or Pop Chips for the plane.  You can grab some fast-food french fries too.  Definitely unhealthy fair, and probably all of those choices will make you gassy, but you can always blame the poor sucker sitting next to you (sorry, Hunny!).

If you follow these rules, there’s no reason you can’t have a great vacation and feel well the whole time.  Now if only I could get myself to do it…

2 thoughts on “7 Rules for Traveling with Fructose Malabsorption

  1. Hi, I noticed in your blog that you took “peanuts”. My understanding is that peanuts should not be eaten by FMer’s.?

    • I’ve heard that too and I think it’s because too many peanuts can cause gas and bloating (which we don’t need any extra help with!) but I found that if I eat about 1/4 cup I’m fine.

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