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Tips For Travelling with Polycystic Kidney Disease

Taking a vacation is one of the best things you can do for your mental well-being.


If you live with a chronic illness like polycystic kidney disease (PKD), the thought of leaving the comfort of your routine may raise anxiety levels.




I'm here to share my patient (and nutritionist) perspective to help you make the most of your precious time away.


Even if PKD isn't holding you back from travelling, there's plenty you can do to ensure your kidneys stay happy & healthy, allowing you to fully enjoy your destination.


My name is Ciara ("Kee-ra") and I have ADPKD1 (stage 2). I'm a registered holistic nutritionist and have always been passionate about wellness, especially when it applies to kidneys.


I'm very grateful to be healthy and living a normal, busy life with my family. We recently took a trip to St Lucia with our young boys (ages 4+6) and it was a grand adventure on many levels.


Going into this trip, I was a little worried about my physical comfort while in transit, as well as hydration and the bathroom situation (I'm sure you can all relate!)


For me, this trip was a course of trial & error. It was a learning experience. I made mistakes, struggled at times, but eventually got into a solid routine so that I could feel my best and enjoy my vacation. I took notes to help inform this blog post because I know many of you have the same fears that I had/have.


My trip began with a 5-hour flight from Toronto, Canada to St Lucia. We stayed at a lovely all-inclusive resort on the beach for 1 week.


Here's exactly how I maintained healthy habits outside my typical routine and made the most of my trip:


Start at Home


Establishing healthy habits & a supportive routine starts at home. Proactively drinking enough water every day, eating mindfully, getting active and sleeping well, are the building blocks of good health.


If you can make smart choices every day to feel your best, you are ready to travel! All you need is a little planning, preparation and an open mind.



Hydration


The day before I was set to leave, I drank A LOT of water. I wanted to set a good hydration foundation.


I always, always have a bottle of water on me (except going through security at the airport). This is something I practice at home, so I made sure to continue while away. I never want to be in a situation when I'm feeling thirsty and I can't do anything about it. Remember, if you're feeling thirsty, you're already becoming dehydrated and the goal is to stay ahead of this if possible.


Staying on top of your hydration is also very important with heat & added sun exposure in southern climates. When you're on your flight, at a restaurant, or by the pool and someone offers you a drink always ask for a water even if you don't need one right away.


If you're outraged by the cost of water at the airport, plan ahead and bring your own reusable water bottle for your trip. After you've passed through security, fill the bottle. On your flight ask for more water if you need it; in fact, just ask for more than you need.


This brings me to another important topic: washroom breaks. Be sure to map out the closest washroom to wherever you are, even on the plane. Try to get a seat in the middle or aisle and NOT the window so you don't feel stuck and have to climb over other people.


If you're currently taking Tolvaptan, I'd strongly encourage you to select your seat ahead of time. If you end up with a window seat, just kindly let your seat neighbours know that you'll be getting up a lot... maybe they'll switch with you!



Nutrition

*my recent experience was in the all-inclusive setting, but this can be applied anywhere you travel


First, it's easy to over-eat on vacation and to strain your digestive systems. If you're eating a lot and not eating well, you're bound to feel bloated, tired and crappy. Let's avoid this!


Beyond eating smaller meals, here are a few things to help keep you on track:


Keep sodium in mind

Remember that high sodium food options are everywhere at restaurants. Take breakfast for example: there were tons of different breakfast meat options - these are low quality meats, filled with all kinds of additives that are not good for kidney health. Did I avoid these foods? No. I enjoyed them sparingly. I was on vacation after all! I ate the foods I wanted to eat, but was mindful of the amount each day and I always followed up with lots of water.


At dinner, I noticed there were many meat dishes that I knew would be high in sodium. I opted for more vegetarian options, dishes with lots of spices, pastas and seafoods when I could.


Eat more colour

Fresh fruits & veggies were available but not as plentiful as meats & carbs. Colourful, fresh foods are great sources of antioxidants to help reduce inflammation and improve how you feel both mentally & physically.


I went out of my way at every meal to include these nutritious foods or to ask for extra.


Sometimes, fruits/veg was a great afternoon snack by the pool! I wouldn't count my servings but I found myself wondering, "have I eaten enough colour today?"


Balance your blood sugar

To start the day, I'd always opt for savoury breakfast options rather than sweet. The baked goods, pancakes and waffles give you a burst of energy, but due to their lack of fibre & protein, you'll experience a crash in energy soon after. I ate boiled eggs, sausage, a hashbrown + fruit most mornings (I am gluten-free, so toast was out of the question).


In general, there were a lot of "treats" available all day - ice cream, cakes, squares, candies. My kids thought they were in heaven! I would have dessert some days, but did not eat anything super sugary on an empty stomach because I knew I'd crash after. You CAN enjoy sweets while maintaining healthy blood sugar levels by including enough fibre in protein in EVERY meal.


Additionally, I was mindful of all the sugary, tropical drinks that are typically found on vacation; I probably had one of these each day, followed by more water.


Be prepared with good snacks

Nourishing snacks are important in-transit and on vacation. I didn't eat meals while on the flights because it felt like "too much" and would add to my discomfort. I snacked to balance my blood sugar and to get enough energy to keep going.


My favourite snacks for a flight include nuts (unsalted), boiled eggs, cheeses and granola/energy bars. You want to find protein sources that are low(ish) in sodium as well as foods that have some fibre to help keep you satiated. I always keep a little pack of nuts and an "emergency bar" (usually a Lara Bar) in my purse.


Having two little kids, I'm used to hauling around snacks and just recently started doing this for myself. It's reassuring to know that no matter what's happening, you've got a little something to sustain you if need-be.



Physical comfort


First & foremost, I was strategic about how I dressed on the flight. I would highly recommend wearing leggings, but I opted for a pair of very comfortable, stretchy, mid-rise jeans that I could wear all day. I can't have a waist band putting any pressure on my belly because my kidneys will scream.


So, wear your most comfortable outfit.


Something I wasn't prepared for was sitting up-right in a seat with a kid on each side of me, unable to move much. On my flight home, my youngest was sleeping on my lap and I could feel my lower ribs poking into my left kidney. All I could do was shift around a tiny bit at a time. I put a stuffed animal behind my lower back to change the angle a bit - it helped a little.


On a long flight, it's important to get up and stretch. You'll likely need to use the washroom multiple times anyway! Even though I was stuck in my seat for periods of time, my kids needed to use the washroom frequently, so I was able to do the same and stretch along the way.



Sleep/Stress management


Something that can easily ruin a good vacation: lack of sleep. Not only is sleep crucial for long-term health and stress management, it's imperative for you to feel your best and make the most of your time off.


My family had "quiet time" every day at 3pm and this was the perfect time to nap, rest and reset before dinner.


Down-time is enriching on vacay, don't forget to take some. It's easy to stay busy and forget to slow down but you need the rest (that's why we go away, right?)



Mindset


Have a mantra going into your vacation. Set a few simple goals.


Tell yourself repeatedly what you want to achieve on this trip. Remind yourself that this adventure - like all aspects of life - is about finding balance.


You don't have to fret over your health while you're away, but you also shouldn't neglect it. You can take small steps to keep your body (and kidneys) happy without expending too much mental energy.


My goals when I flew to St Lucia were, 1) have fun with the kids, 2) try to relax, and 3) ensure I feel GOOD and actually enjoy the time. I came back feeling successful. I hope you will feel the same way on your next trip.


Plan ahead.

Be mindful.

Check-in with yourself every day.

Let go and relax.


Please come join me on Instagram where I'll be sharing lots more on this topic!


XOXO







Ciara Morin

PKD warrior, Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) + PKD Wellness Expert



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