If your initial thought after reading that headline was a lot, I don’t blame you. Despite our love for exploring new places and cultures, our gut is not too fond of the idea. From constipation to gas, gastrointestinal issues are common vacation woes. The feared traveler’s diarrhea gets up to 40 percent of travelers.
It seems like GI distress is an inevitable side effect of traveling. But, beyond the uncomfortable side effects, traveling affects your gut in ways many of us can’t see or feel.
Your Gut Microbiota May Change
It turns out. Our gut likes to stay home where it feels familiar. A small study looked at the microbiota of people who traveled. Throughout the study, the participants were asked to track their daily health, behavior, diet, and more.
One of the participants took a trip to Southeast Asia, and researchers found that two of the most dominant groups of bacteria in the human gut changed dramatically. What was more interesting was that the ratio came back to normal once the participant returned home.
You Could Experience “Gut Lag”
Jet lag affects every single inch of your body, including your gut. Our circadian rhythm, a fancy word for our internal body clock, determines many of our bodily functions and patterns. Whenever we travel, this inner clock goes crazy, affecting more than our sleep.
Gut lag is what some people describe as feeling hungry at the wrong times or having no appetite at normal eating times. Gut lag can result in constipation and diarrhea at its worst. Disrupting our inner clock can affect the gut microbiome and impair the immune function of the 100 trillion intestinal microbes that live in our gut.
What Can You Do before Traveling?
Gut issues while traveling should never stop you from exploring new places. Instead of being at the mercy of your gut next time you plan a vacation, try to prepare your gut for what’s about to happen. Just as you get ready by planning every outfit, make sure your gut is on your to-do list of things before departure.
Before your trip, try this:
- Take a prebiotic and probiotic blend at least two weeks before your trip.
- Start eating gut-healthy foods and more fiber.
- Drink more water.
- Eat a fiber-rich meal before you fly.
During your trip, try this:
- Eat small portions whenever you can.
- Avoid foods you already know irritate your gut.
- Do your best to keep an eating schedule.
- Get moving. Try to squeeze in some exercise.
In the end, what matters is that you enjoy your vacation time to its fullest. If you’re still feeling uncomfortable, try natural remedies like peppermint, fennel, ginger, and other anti-inflammatory herbs.