You’re anticipating your vacation and looking forward to exploring new places and eating delicious food. For many of us, savoring the local flavors is a big part of international travel. Unfortunately, also for many of us, so is the upset stomach that can come with eating unfamiliar food.
There’s nothing more disheartening than having your stomach feel off after you’ve sampled one of the best meals of your life. Maybe you feel full long after you’ve eaten. Maybe you feel uncomfortably bloated, nauseous, or even constipated. None of these are fun and can put a serious damper on your vacation enjoyment.
You are not alone. Many international travelers battle with “travelers flu” or “traveler’s diarrhea” and wonder why. Could it be something you ate?
How Does International Food Affect the Gut?
There are a couple of reasons why so many people face stomach issues when traveling. Most of them have to do with changes in what our bodies are used to. A trip overseas can change the microbial communities in your gut, otherwise known as your microbiome.
When we are traveling, our schedule and rhythm often change. We eat at different times, sleep at different times, and pretty much ask our bodies to adapt to a new routine. That can change the dynamics of the GI tract. Travelling, especially flying, can cause you to become dehydrated, which often leads to constipation.
And then there’s the food. As delicious as it may be, most likely, it is different food than your body is used to. You may be eating more carbs than you usually do, the portions may be larger, and may contain more fat. It is a vacation after all.
What Happens In Your Gut
The change in routine and change in diet can throw our guts for a loop. This can lead to GI upset. Your bacterial community is usually stable; however, when traveling, your microbiota may be challenged by new foods and changes in your routine.
The human gut hosts hundreds of species of bacteria that work to break down the food you eat and help your body prevent and fight disease. There is even some evidence that the gut microbiome can affect our mental health.
When your gut microbiome is more diverse, your digestive system is healthier and more able to handle changes. When things like taking antibiotics, changes in diet, or stress reduce the diversity of your gut microbiota, you are more susceptible to stomach upset.
How Can I Prevent Stomach Upset during International Travel
Probiotics can help you avoid these uncomfortable and unwelcome digestive problems and make your international travel more enjoyable. Probiotics contain friendly bacteria that occur naturally in our gut. This bacteria interact with our body’s immune cells and helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome. This can help build a strong immune system and get the gut working smoothly.
How Do Probiotics Help You When Traveling?
Probiotics are a mix of different bacteria, usually Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces, and Bifidobacterium. Taking probiotics before your travel can help keep constipation at bay. The probiotics form a barrier that protects the mucous lining of our intestinal tract and keeps harmful or unknown bacteria from entering the body by water and food.
When Should You Take Probiotics?
Start taking probiotics at least two weeks before your trip. They help get the helpful bacteria growing in your gut. This will boost immune function and give you the best chance of good health while traveling. Keep taking the probiotics throughout your trip and for two weeks after you’ve returned home.
Which Probiotics Are Best for Travel?
Keep these points in mind when choosing a probiotic for traveling:
- Choose shelf-stable probiotics, those that need refrigeration may not travel well.
- Check the best by date and make sure they will be viable during your entire trip.
- Look for a probiotic with a colony-forming unit or CFU of 30 billion.
- Look for probiotics with diverse species, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
Ultimately, you should feel free to enjoy your wanderlust to the fullest, delicious local food included. Just show your gut a little love along the way.