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Gut-Friendly International Travel: Strategies to Keep Your Gut Happy

Posted by Brad Dennis, Ph.D. on

Gut-Friendly International Travel: Strategies to Keep Your Gut Happy

Planning a trip? As more people become vaccinated, travel destinations are opening, and many folks are planning to head overseas for their 2022 vacation. Unfortunately, all too often, travels end up accompanied by gut troubles – whether it’s constipation or diarrhea – and there’s little that’s worse than having your vacation interrupted by digestive upset.

Whether it’s a holiday resort you’re headed to, or a backpacking trip in the outdoors, here are some tips to help keep your gut from slowing you down when you’re traveling.

Carry a Laxative and an Anti-Diarrheal in Your Luggage

The last thing you want, if you find yourself struggling with intestinal troubles, is having to go out and try and find medications while traveling, especially if you’re in a country where you neither speak nor read the language. So do yourself a favor and pack several doses of each in your luggage.

Don’t Drink the Water

Even if the country you’re visiting has excellent water treatment and sewage systems, you’re going to be in a different country where the bacteria can be completely different than where you live. This is also why we often find ourselves catching colds or flus while traveling; our bodies are being exposed to different microbes and our immune system doesn’t have the same response as it would to something it clearly recognizes. Go for bottled water if possible, and if not, boil your water before you drink it.

Concerns about the water aside – staying hydrated is imperative. Dehydration can cause constipation, so find ways to drink liquids, even if they are caffeinated. Special equipment is also available now that can make unsafe water potable – you can find these items at REI or other outdoor activity store, and if you're going to be backpacking, one of these should absolutely be in your backpack.

Go Vegan / Vegetarian

Avoiding meat can often be your best bet when traveling. Meat is notorious for causing severe stomach distress if not cooked properly. Sticking with cooked (not raw) vegetable options is much safer, especially if your stomach is already feeling a little delicate (such as when on airplanes and trains, when just the travel itself may be giving you a little nausea). If you do want to try local cuisine that includes meat or fish, start out with small portions and see how your body responds.

Self-Catering = Control

Self-catering puts you in control of what you eat (it also tends to cost the same or less than staying and eating in hotels and restaurants the entire trip). Plus, it gets you out and about in your chosen destination more, as it means visiting farmers’ markets and grocery stores. You’ll meet more locals and see more of wherever it is you’re staying if you choose a self-catered room, apartment, or home.

Should I take Prebiotics / Probiotics?

The answer is: maybe. You should only take a prebiotic when traveling if your body is already accustomed to having a daily prebiotic supplement. Prebiotics are fiber – and it can take time for your body to adjust. Travel is not the time to start a new regimen; rather, it’s about continuing whatever your daily supplement regimen is already. Probiotics are easier on the digestive system and less likely to cause a problem, so if you can find a good probiotic that doesn’t require refrigeration, carrying one with you is a good idea.

Use these strategies to help your gut stay happy and healthy wherever you choose to roam!


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