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Upcoming Travel? 5 tips to support your Gut Health While Traveling

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Canmore, Alberta (Canada)

Travel is an expansive experience for the soul, but it can also be a stressful experience for your gut.

Follow these 5 simple tips to keep you & your gut supported on your next trip.

One dodgy street taco in San Cristobal Mexico ended my backpacking adventure & gifted me a digestive disorder known as post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome.

 

Of course there were some underlying factors that made me a sitting duck for some bad intentioned bacteria to take hold. A good decade or two of a processed food diet, and countless rounds of antibiotics in my child & teen years resulted in chronic digestive troubles and one sad gut microbiome.

 

11% of the global population is affected by the ride that is irritable bowel syndrome[1]. If you’re a fellow IBS sufferer you know that the management of this condition can really kill your vibe sometimes.

 

Ask anyone with a digestive disorder and they’ve likely experienced some dread with upcoming travel. The switch up in your routine and environment can impact your sleep, digestion and nutrition. Travelling may also have you relying on convenience foods which tend to be heavily processed and lack health supporting nutrients like fiber. Most of us are also drinking more alcohol, and tend to overeat while on vacation. If your travels span over 1 or more time zones your circadian rhythm or internal body clock will also be affected.

 

All of these factors can negatively affect your gut microbiome [2], [3]  & may leave you feeling less than optimal on your next trip.

 

Research in this field indicates that the gut microbiome is home to 3 pounds of micro-organisms that influence our immunity, hormones, metabolism, digestion, mood, cognitive function & even the expression of our genes [4], [5].

 

Needless to say, if you are looking to optimize your health for any upcoming travel you will want to start with your gut. Consider these 5 simple, science-backed ways to optimize your gut health so you can live your best life on your next trip.

Meal Spacing

Give yourself 3-4 hours in-between meals and snacks, and allow your body to fast for at least 12 hours overnight. This will support your migrating motor complex (MMC) which governs your intestinal motility.

 

This internal housekeeper clocks in every 90 mins on an empty stomach to clear undigested food particles, bacteria, and cellular debris to be evacuated in the stool [6]. Slow motility can also be associated with IBS symptoms such as gas and bloating, and with the development of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) [7].

Include probiotic & prebiotic foods

 

Probiotics are live bacteria that you can take in capsule form to help support your beneficial gut microbe communities. A prebiotic will selectively feed these health promoting microorganisms.

 

Probiotics alone can help with symptoms of gas, bloating, and bowel conditions like traveller’s diarrhea [8], [9].

 

You can also eat your probiotics & prebiotics during your travels. Include ferments like kimchi or sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, and kefir as a source of probiotics. Sources of prebiotic foods include onions, garlic, oats, bananas and cooked & cooled starches like white rice and potato.

 I always travel with peppermint & fennel tea to prevent or address bloating from gas, and ginger tea for motility and nausea support!

20 mins of daily movement

20 mins of movement per day is shown to have a positive impact on the gut microbiome & your overall health[10] .

 

I spent the majority of my 2021 summer travelling the west coast of Canada in an RV. To support my mental & physical health I made sure to intentionally move my body daily while on the road.

 

For me this looked like 20 mins of stretching or a yoga flow in the mornings, skipping with the jump rope I packed, hiking, and walks with my dog after meals. Find something you enjoy doing that also works for your environment!

Eat bitter foods before meals

Having bitter foods or herbs before meals will stimulate the release of your stomach secretions which includes HCL (hydrochloric acid). HCL helps your body digest & absorb nutrients like protein.

 

Not having enough stomach acid can lead to symptoms of gas, bloating, heartburn & indigestion [11]. The HCL in stomach acid will also provide protection against bad bacteria wreaking havoc on your gut-which is especially something to keep in mind if you are planning to travel abroad!

 

The production of HCL is impacted by factors like stress & nutrient deficiencies [12]. You can support the release of this secretion by eating bitter foods like olives, bitter greens like kale or arugula, dark chocolate, or radicchio before meals. When traveling I will pack either a bitters tincture for convenience or take a shot of apple cider before meals.

Eat the rainbow to support your gut microbiome diversity

Diversity is a measure of health for any eco-system, and the same is true for the eco-system living in your gut. Eating a diverse selection of plants during your travels will keep your gut microbiome diverse, healthy & resilient. Try to get as much colour on your plate as possible!

Implementing these tips will help you focus on soaking up every beautiful moment on your next trip instead of stressing about an IBS flare or dealing with the discomfort of bloating.

 

I invite you to let go of any pressure to be over controlling and rigid about what you eat on your travels in order to keep your gut happy. Eating while you are in a relaxed & grateful state allows the proper production of digestive enzymes and turns on your parasympathetic nervous system (aka the “rest & digest” system). I always recommend that my clients follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to nutrition, and this likely looks more like 70/30 when traveling.

 

80% of the time focus on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods to keep you nourished, energized and supported-but 20% of the time eat for joy & pleasure.

 

Safe travels!

 

Emma x

DISCLAIMER:

 

** The information and suggestions outlined in this article are not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. Always speak to your health care provider before starting any new natural supplementation or herbal support**

References & Resources...

Mindful outing tip: order a dirty martini with dinner and have the olives before you eat to stimulate your stomach acid. You could also order an ounce of Fernet which is an Italian amaro that is made from a number of bitters!

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