We’ve all been there: a sunny beach, a gorgeous new city, a cute little cabin in the woods…and your stomach doesn’t feel so great. No matter what’s on your itinerary, traveling can be stressful for your digestive system. Chalk it up to eating out more often, new cuisine, overeating, maybe even not being as comfortable using the bathroom in a new place. The fact is, travel and time changes disrupt your body’s natural rhythms of eating, digestion and sleep, which is why travel tummy is all-too common. It’s estimated that diarrhea affects 40-60% of people, and up to 48% of people suffer from constipation while traveling. As we all know too well, nothing ruins a vacation faster than having to high tail it to the bathroom every few minutes.
So as you pack your bags, keep gut health in mind with these tips to keep your tummy in top shape no matter where you are.
Pack your probiotics and other helpful meds
When it comes to what to pack, we fall into the “just in case” category. Don’t forget to pack whatever probiotics and supplements you take as you want to keep your gut as stable as possible. We recommend also packing some Butyricum, a powerful probiotic that relieves occasional gut discomfort. You may also want to bring over-the-counter medications for the symptomatic management of diarrhea, indigestion, and constipation. Like we said—just in case.
Drink lots of (bottled?) water
Water is the name of the game if you want to avoid constipation. Of course, make sure the tap water is safe to drink. If it’s not, stick to bottled water and avoid ice cubes in your drinks. While we understand wanting to treat yourself on vacation, try not to drink too many sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol as these can all irritate your gut. Plus, alcohol and coffee speed up digestion which leads to loose stools.
Speaking of loose stools...
Not to make light of it, but we know it can be hard to go to the bathroom in shared accommodations or public restrooms. But try. Don’t ignore the urge because you’re embarrassed by what is a basic human function. Not having a bowel movement when you need to can lead to constipation and eventually diarrhea.
Food, fiber, and what NOT to eat
Fiber makes a great travel buddy for you and your gut while on the road. To keep your bowel movements regular, fill up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans.
Of course, if you’re not sure if the water is safe to drink, stick to peeled fruits and cooked veggies. In general, food served hot is usually safe to eat as the heat kills most germs. However, avoid cooked food that has been sitting out, such as a buffet.
As for what to avoid, the CDC recommends steering clear of raw meat and seafood, fresh salads, salsas, and juices, and any street food.
Jet lag? Try gut lag—the case for good sleep
We’ve all heard the term “jet lag”, but did you know there’s such a thing as “gut lag”? Yep, gut lag refers to the disruption of the rhythm of your gastrointestinal system as a result of traveling across time zones. Or any sleep disturbance, really. Research shows that your gut microbes are closely linked to your circadian rhythm. Sudden shifts in your normal sleep-wake cycle can adversely impact your digestive system. So not to be a wet blanket on holiday, but try to gently adjust to any time changes. Go outside in natural light during waking hours, even if you’re tired. Resist the desire to stay up too late at night, and get a good night’s sleep.
Drink water, eat fiber, sleep well…we know these tips can make it sound as if traveling is more work than play, but don’t let it be. Absolutely take care of your gut health, but also—have fun! Breathe in the sights, meet people, push yourself to try something new. In some ways, traveling is actually quite good for your gut health as you’re being exposed to different microbes. Remember—exploring the world means sometimes being uncomfortable, and being uncomfortable can make for a great travel story.