The Weekend Leader - Travel easy

Tips for a diabetic traveler

Dr. C M Batra


Vol 0 | Issue 1

Be it a family tour or a professional one, 'travelling' always sounds enthralling. According to the Indian Tour Operators Promotion Council, hundreds of thousands of Indian nationals travel abroad every year to explore foreign lands for varied reasons.

Not only outbound travel but domestic tourism is also a flourishing practice in India.

But travelling may not always be welcomed by many people owing to a number of causes, health issues being one of the prime reasons. The current scenario holds a grim picture with many lifestyle-related disorders like obesity, diabetes and heart ailments on the upsurge.

The statistical data on prevalence of diabetes illustrates that 40.9 million people suffered from diabetes in the year 2007 and the incidence is projected to increase to 69.9 million by 2025.

Happy journeys and pleasant trips may be a far cry especially for people with diabetes because often travelling comes as an emotional and physical burden for them.

They remain stressed about the qualms of their meal and blood glucose management and, more often than not, end with fluctuating blood sugar levels because of erratic meal timings and unhealthy binging.

Virtually it is simple and easy for people with diabetes to stay at bay from such complications of blood glucose fluctuation. A little rational planning and preparation beforehand can help them sustain their focus on their destination rather than on diabetes.

Some important precautionary and preventive measures for people with diabetes prior to travelling are:

* See your healthcare provider prior to travelling to assess the current level of diabetes control and to get guidance on various diabetes management issues.

* If you are on insulin, make sure to store it in a safe place, away from direct sunlight. Insulin loses its potency when subjected to extremes in temperature.

* While travelling or during a trip, if you eat out quite frequently, take extra care in making right food choices.

* Watch your meal timings and avoid long gaps in between the meals.Avoid skipping meals as it may lead to hypoglycaemia (dangerously low level of blood glucose).

* Keep some snacks handy while travelling to maintain blood glucose levels.

Important tips while travelling abroad

* Patients with dietary restrictions should contact their airline in advance about special meal options.

* The necessary medications and supplies should be packed in carry-on luggage rather than check-in baggage.

* Consult your doctor regarding time zone changes, jet-lag and drug and insulin dosage.

* Obtain a travel itinerary showing departure and arrival times, durations of flights, and time differences between the points of arrival and departure.

* Remember to keep a doctor's letter for Customs officials regarding your medical supplies, in case you need medical treatment overseas.

* If travelling abroad, prepare a list of suitable food available there in advance to ease your meal plans.

* Healthy snacks which are fibre rich, low fat and low calorie, taken in between the main meals, are ideal for people with diabetes, especially while travelling.

* Stick to the basics instead of binging on fat rich preparations.

* Baked dishes are better than fried preparations as they offer lesser calories and fat.

* Keep a check on portion sizes while eating out.

* Have fibre-rich food including whole grain preparations and salads.

* Drink plenty of water and avoid having sugary drinks and alcohol.

Snacking in between the main meals is a life-saving elixir for people with diabetes. Not only does snacking curb the hunger pangs by enhancing satiety, but it also defends the person from abrupt ebb and flow of blood glucose.

Snacks prepared from whole grains like oats and ragi are rich in fibre, have a low glycemic index (GI) and slack the process of digestion releasing the sugar gradually in the blood stream unlike simple carbohydrates which promptly raise the blood glucose levels.

Oats and ragi, being good sources of soluble fibre, have been found to have cholesterol lowering effects, thus diminishing the risk of cardiac disorders.

It is best to have baked snacks which have minimal fat rather than feasting on fat and calorie-dense fried preparations.

Baked snacks, enriched with grains like oats and ragi, are fibre rich; low fat, trans-fat free and low calorie are the best pick for people with diabetes while travelling.

Keeping a stock of such snacks before departing for a trip is better than regretting later.

People with diabetes can bid farewell to their anxieties about blood fluctuation if a little preparation prior to travelling and adequate precautions while travelling are taken. - IANS

Dr. C.M. Batra is a senior diabatologist at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi

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