Holidays and vacations are meant to be fun, right?
Traveling, whether for work or on holidays, can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, but it can also have its downsides – and we’re not just referring to lost luggage! Unfortunately for some, it can also be challenging on your digestive system.
I’m writing this at a time where I, Zhenya, am about to head off to Vietnam for three weeks. While I’m excited to go and experience the cuisine, the culture and the adventure, I not only have 1000+ things to do this week, but I also have to think about how I will prepare myself for both travel and gut health.
I’ve been a gut health practitioner for quite some time treating not only myself, but plenty of patients over the years for their pre and post travel gut issues. And full disclosure; I have a husband whose gut does not love the first few days of travel. As a result, my checklist for gut happiness when traveling is tried and tested over many years.
So, what exactly happens to the gut when we travel… or prepare to travel?
Whether it be a weekend getaway or an extended holiday across time zones, the majority of us will likely experience some sort of digestive issue when traveling. Travel and gut health issues can be triggered by a number of things.
Our colons thrive on routine and a relaxed nervous system. The Parasympathetic nervous system is the governor of our digestive system and when planning even a weekend away we will consciously, or subconsciously, feel some sort of stress. And this kicks off the potential for troubled bowels when travelling – once out of routine the intestinal temper tantrum begins.
When your gut and body are stressed, they produce extra stress hormones in response, making it even more difficult for your body to digest food. The digestive problems you might experience on holiday can include constipation or diarrhoea, bloating and abdominal cramping.
Our digestive system can also be affected by low air quality if traveling by plane, train or bus, unusual food, long days and lack of sleep. These can all take a toll on your gut health. As you can see, or may know from personal experience, your digestive system is incredibly sensitive to change. Luckily there are plenty of easy ways to maintain good gut health on holiday!
Let’s start with pre-departure preparations
Stick to your routine
As mentioned above, I have about 1000 things to tick of this week before I set off on vacation, but what I am staying consistent with is my exercise and eating routine. As much as you possibly can, eat the foods you know your gut LOVES and don’t skip out on exercise. Even if it’s just a 30-minute walk outside, the gut will thank you for it. Drink plenty of water as well. Stress can cause a bit more dehydration and travel definitely does, so up your water intake the week before travel.
Purchase and pack your supplements
Remember that some countries may not let you go through customs with opened medications or supplements so its best to buy a new bottle/pack for your trip.
If you take quite a few supplements or prescriptions take only those that are absolutely necessary. And personally, I think a good shelf stable probiotic is a MUST! The others we recommend traveling with are listed below.
To try and minimise stress have yourself 99% packed and ready the night before. For us, that also means dropping our beloved pooch to the doggy sitter the night before. As much as I love her waking me up with her cold nose, I know trying to fit in dropping her off the day we set off will be more stressful on our time.
Travel and gut health – our top 10 tips
There are a few things you can do to prevent digestive problems when travelling. Making sure your gut health is on point when you travel can not only help keep you healthy but also make for a happy holiday!
- Water. Drink plenty of it! Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water as it will help to keep your body hydrated and flush out toxins.
- Eat small meals more often. This will help your body to better digest the food you are eating and will also help to prevent overeating. And if you know you have food sensitivities do your best to steer clear of them when traveling. [Handy hint: if you are after some recipes and tips for seasonal eating, check out our eBook].
- If you are travelling by plane be sure to make smart choices with lighter foods, perhaps request the vegetarian or vegan meal as it’s easier to digest and may be lower in preservatives. Fasting is also an option when taking a long flight. Avoid drinking too much alcohol as this too will cause dehydration. An even better option is to pack your own snacks! Also try to rest and sleep as best you can.
- Move around! If on a long flight or long car trip be sure to get up and walk around on the flight and if in the car, stop every 3 hours or so to stretch your legs and walk around a bit to get the blood flowing.
- Supplements I recommend for travel and gut health
- Shelf stable probiotic to be taken every day regardless of whether your gut is feeling fine or starting to show signs of discomfort
- Digestive Enzymes taken before food
- Charcoal Tablets – especially if you are prone to constipation when travelling
- Multi Vitamin with plenty of Vitamin C which also helps the bowels move
- Turmeric, the inflammation tamer
- Ginger, excellent for indigestion
- Magnesium – Few supplements offer as many varied benefits as magnesium. It plays a role in more than 600 reactions in the human body, including energy creation, gene maintenance, muscle relaxation, and regulation of the nervous system.
- Make sure you get enough fibre in your diet. Fibre helps to promote a healthy digestive system and can also help to prevent constipation.
- Does travel or flying cause you stress? Keep calm by practising meditation or perhaps use a calming essential oil like lavender. We love the Insight Timer app for its vast library of FREE meditations.
- Be sure to Exercise. Exercise, especially walking, helps to stimulate the digestive system and can also help you to avoid gaining weight while travelling.
- Be sure to PROP! If traveling with your own PROPPR is not an option, use the bathroom bin or even your suitcase to prop those feet up when sitting on the loo.
- Make the most of your holiday!
A good vacation can relieve stress and reset your body and mind. Instead of feeling isolated or hampered by your digestive disorder, try to focus on your itinerary and on having a good time to reap the benefits of your time away!