Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) encompasses ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other long-term conditions that involve gut inflammation. These conditions can cause frustrating symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, weight loss, and fatigue. During travel, anxiety about managing symptoms and uncertainty can be overwhelming.
IBD patients face a variety of travel barriers, including knowledge gaps about safety while on immunosuppressants, required preparations, logistical barriers to continuing biologic therapy abroad, which may decrease drug compliance and trigger disease flare-ups, and perceived lack of IBD care abroad, all of which can discourage travel for many patients. “Thus, there was an unmet need for a support program to facilitate travel for IBD patients,” explained Kay Greveson, an IBD nurse specialist in London, and the project’s founder.
In order to meet this need, Kay Greveson partnered with Prof. Shomron Ben-Horin, Director of the Institute of Gastroenterology and the IBD Service Clinic at Sheba, who, at the time, was promoting a similar idea within the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organization. They decided to join forces, and established the IBD Passport – a nonprofit charity registered in the UK.
IBD Passport is a multilevel platform designed to help IBD patients overcome limitations caused by their condition, and enjoy travel. “Our aim is to provide a one-stop support platform for IBD travelers,” shares Prof. Ben-Horin. “The free website includes updated IBD-specific travel information, such as country-specific vaccine requirements, dietary tips, insurance advice and recommendations for carrying medication on airplanes or through customs. The website also includes more than 340 IBD specialty centers around the world that have joined our network and are available for patients who need IBD care abroad.”
Additionally, the website offers useful forms for healthcare providers that can be downloaded. “Our conviction is that traveling is an important component of modern life,” explained Kay Greveson, “and we have to do everything possible to remove barriers to travel and help IBD patients fulfill their dreams.”
To ensure a comfortable and hassle-free trip abroad, Kay Greveson and Prof. Ben-Horin also stress the importance of planning ahead, especially for patients taking biologics. Rushing through preparations may cause unnecessary stress, so giving yourself enough time to prepare is highly recommended.
Traveling to another country can be an exciting experience, but it can also bring changes to bowel habits due to differences in climate, food habits, and diet. For IBD patients, this can be particularly challenging. While it’s not necessary to avoid local foods altogether, Prof. Ben-Horin and Kay Greveson mention certain precautions that should be taken to prevent potential flare-ups. These include being careful with high-fiber foods and limiting lactose-containing foods. They also highlight the importance of maintaining good hygiene practices to prevent intestinal infections that can affect all travelers.
Since its launch, the IBD Passport website has been a game-changer for the thousands of IBD patients who travel for work, leisure, or study. Given the significance of travel in modern life, the platform’s efforts to break down barriers that limit IBD patients from experiencing the world are commendable.
In line with its holistic approach, Sheba is committed to providing patients with comprehensive solutions for all medical needs throughout their lifetime. By providing personalized care that takes into account all aspects of a patient’s life, and pushing the boundaries of treatment, we aim to empower our patients to lead fulfilling and active lives.