Managing IBS can be challenging enough at home, so the excitement, stress, and change of routine associated with travelling can be the perfect ingredients for a flare up.

One way to stay in control is to continue managing your food to avoid triggers. But what if you don’t speak the language?

A big thank you to David, one of our members, who got in touch to share the creative way he’s managed to communicate his intolerances and enjoy his holidays.

If you’d like to share a tip or are interested in writing a guest post, we’d love to hear from you! Just email


I just wanted to pass on a useful aid to anyone visiting foreign places, which I have found more than useful.

It is very difficult for a non linguist, such as myself, to communicate to foreign waiters and chefs the individual needs of someone with IBS.

To get round this, I translate my intolerances into the local language, then print the translation onto a credit card sized piece of paper, laminate it and carry it in my wallet wherever I go in that country.

No two IBS sufferers are alike in what they must avoid so there cannot be a standard translation. However, if you look at one of the search engines you will find sites that give free translations. Use one that gives the opportunity to re-translate into English just to ensure your message makes sense.

My personal message reads: ‘I have a medical condition where I must avoid any foods containing garlic, any of the onion family, chilies, eggs or any products containing lactose – cow’s milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt etc. Please suggest food that avoids these ingredients. Thank you.’ So far I’ve translated this message into Italian, Spanish, Croatian, Slovenian and Greek.

italian translation and flag

The benefit of these cards can be seen from our recent stay in Sorrento, Italy. The first evening meal at our hotel I presented the card to the Deputy Maitre’D, whotook it to the chef, who in turn suggested dishes I could safely eat, including one he made specially for me.

At that meal, there was butter on the table so I asked if they had margarine for my roll. They did not, but, the next morning at breakfast I was presented with my own, expensive, tub of vegetable margarine which appeared at each meal just for me. Also, without asking, at each breakfast there were croissants suitable for me and at dinner the chef made me my own sweet course as those on offer were not suitable.

At every restaurant we visited whilst out and about, the card was presented and the chefs would make suggestions from the menu or alter dishes to suit my needs.

The interesting thing is that I find that where ever we go that these people seem to appreciate that I have taken the trouble to explain in their own language and, also, without exception, appreciated the opportunity to improvise for my benefit.

I hope others can also benefit from this free aid to enjoy their foreign travels.