Nothing ruins a holiday faster than an upset stomach. Instead of enjoying the sights and soaking up the sunshine, your time is spent frantically searching for the nearest bathroom. Not exactly an ideal vacay.
This is where your gut health steps in. Your gut plays a major role in supporting a healthy, functioning body. That’s because it’s home to trillions of “good bacteria” that can affect your health. So when you care for your gut, you care for your entire body.
Life is a constant balancing act for your gut. A lack of sleep, poor eating habits and stress can all take a toll on your gut’s health. And when do we experience these triggers most? On long-haul flights and trips to new countries. Our usual schedule is thrown out of whack and replaced with cocktails and late nights, but that shouldn’t mean our gut health has to suffer.
So instead of being at the mercy of your stomach, take back control and adopt some good gut health habits to prepare for your next trip away. Of course, these tips should be incorporated into your daily life in order to enjoy their positive effects. But definitely before you hop on a flight.
Why does gut health matter?
When your gut isn’t healthy, it takes a noticeable toll on your body. It can affect everything from your mood to your weight and your skin, and many things in between. You already know it affects your stomach but it can also trigger fatigue and sugar cravings.
That’s because your gut is closely connected with your entire body, from your brain to your immune system. And when you nourish your body, everything operates in harmony. But when you neglect these healthy habits - and your gut can’t communicate properly - your whole body notices.
In other words, gut health is key. Without good habits in place, it’s easy for your microbiome (aka the trillions of microorganisms that live in your intestinal tract and house the good bacteria) to fall out of whack and trigger unwanted changes to your system.
What are some common gut problems when travelling?
As they say, trust your gut. Well, we mean it quite literally. You can tell a lot about your gut’s status just by looking inward and examining your overall wellbeing. Are you feeling bloated or overly nauseous? Do you have stomach cramps? Joint pain? Irritated skin? All of these signs can be traced back to your gut.
During a holiday, you’re usually stuck on a plane for long hours. This equals poor sleep, less than nutritious airplane food and high levels of stress. And then once you enter official holiday mode, your healthy eating habits are replaced with morning cocktails and indulgent treats.
(That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with an indulgent treat, but constantly pushing vegetables aside for fries every day isn’t ideal).
How can I keep my gut feeling good on holiday?
1. Don’t let your diet slip
One of the best ways to support gut health starts with your diet. This means loading up on nutrient-dense whole foods (e.g. green veggies and good fats) and pulling back on processed, sugary foods. This isn’t to say you should avoid tasting the local cuisine and treat yourself, it’s more about understanding what foods will and won’t trigger an upset gut.
2. Stay hydrated
While it can be tricky to stay hydrated on the go, it’s essential for a healthy gut. Water keeps your digestion regular and eases travel-induced bloating. Flying can be particularly dehydrating because of the high alts and low humidity in the air, that leech moisture from our body. So make sure to bring a full drink bottle on the plane with you and see if the flight attendants can refill it during the flight as much as possible.
3. Get your sleep schedule locked down
Poor sleep can really mess with your gut bacteria. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get a full night’s snooze on a plane that’s heading into a different timezone. But there are a few ways to boost your chances of getting some shut-eye!
Firstly, pick your seat wisely. Always aim for a window seat, this way you can lean into the wall and control the light too. Pack a light carry-on (for more leg room), bring an eye mask and skip the coffee. Avoid excess blue light exposure by wearing blue light blocking glasses on board and don’t forget to pack some lavender scented oil too.
4. Lower your stress levels
Stress is nobody’s friend - especially not your gut. Among other unfavourable side effects, stress can trigger the release of inflammatory chemicals that upset gut bacteria. While the point of a vacation is to relax, we all know how stressful they can get.
Delayed flights, missing passports and crying kids in tow can all send stress levels skyrocketing. To combat this, try breathing exercises and meditation - both of which you can do almost anywhere, anytime.
5. Take prebiotics and probiotics
Give your gut a boost with a probiotic supplement. Infections and antibiotics can cause damaging and sometimes lasting changes to your microbiome, which often results in bloating and pain.
But probiotics are a great solution. Probiotics are good bacteria you can take to help your body’s natural supply of good gut bacteria. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in your gut, so add both to your diet. You can find these in supplement form or in foods like yoghurt, kefir or extra green vegetables.
Time to take back control of your gut health. These habits will help your gut stay on track throughout the holiday period meaning less of a health crash in the new year and you get to maintain healthy skin right the way through.