Avoiding the dreaded traveller’s tummy and other digestive issues when going on vacation
If you are anything like me, your vacation is something you plan for and look forward to all year. For it only to be spoiled by an upset stomach. Conditions such as Gastritis and IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) can all be aggravated by flying, rich food, Anxiety and a different routine.
But there are ways that you can prepare your stomach for travel as well as protect it once you are there so that you can just lay back, relax, and enjoy that well-earned trip away.
Traveling with a sensitive stomach
I start preparing a week or so before we leave, I buy some good quality probiotics, which I take every morning. I am very strict with my diet, avoiding any foods that I know are a trigger for my gastritis. I also avoid alcohol and spicy foods, so that my stomach can be calm and at its best before I go.
If you are on medication for your digestive issues make sure you have packed enough to cover your holiday duration and a few days on either side, just in case of delays. It’s also a good idea to pack half in your suitcase and half in your hand luggage, in case you lose either bag.
Preparing your body for flying
Flying has always been an issue for me especially on long haul flights. I would feel ok whilst travelling, (although it would always make me gassy). But as soon as I got off the flight, I would get uncomfortable cramps for the rest of the day. Generally, only helped by having a lay down for an hour or so once I got to the hotel. I discovered that what I ate before and during the flight was having an impact on my gut and so now avoid certain foods and drink and it helped immensely.
Flying and food
Don’t overeat – Eating more smaller meals rather than one large one is much kinder to your digestive system. So don’t eat a huge meal at the airport. It better to eat light before the flight and take some healthy snacks on board to have later.
Eat plain food – As tempting as it is when you arrive at the airport with all those eateries smelling so good. Avoid anything too spicy, greasy, or overly processed.
Avoid gas producing foods – Steer clear of Beans, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and lentils.
Avoid carbonated drinks – Such as Cola, Beer, and sparkling water.
Take your own – I tend to try and avoid aeroplane food these days and take my own or buy something at the airport that I know I tolerate well.
Keep hydrated – Drink lots of still water before and during the flight to avoid dehydration
Camomile tea – I always take my own tea bags and ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water. It’s very soothing and relaxing on the stomach and helps keep me calm.
It’s often thought that stomach issues are caused by the general stress of travelling but a recent study by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has actually found it’s caused by a lack of oxygen, which can trigger inflammation in people who have issues with digestive issues such as IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). There isn’t much you can do to avoid this happening, but it may be possible for your Doctor to prescribe some medication to act as a preventative, so the stomach avoids becoming inflamed.
When you first arrive
It can be tempting to dive straight in with the cocktails and rich food, you are on holiday after all. But give your body time to recover from the flight. Don’t overeat on your first day and enjoy alcohol in moderation.
Keeping your stomach healthy
Eat fresh food – If you are cooking for yourself on holiday then try and get out to the markets and local shops and buy some fresh fruit, fish, meat, and vegetables and give yourself a break from hotel and restaurant food. Hotel and restaurants food is often more processed, full of salt and not as fresh as a home-cooked meal, so it’s good to mix it up a bit whilst your away.
Drink alcohol in moderation – I know this is hard for many, especially if you enjoy a drink or two when on holiday, but alcohol is very harsh on the stomach lining and after a few days of enjoying some Pina Coladas and ice-cold beers, you may not feel your best. Try to only drink alcohol with a meal.
Drink lots of water – Not only does this help your stomach it’s easy to forget to drink enough fluids when away from home and you can quickly become dehydrated. I like to use a Chilly’s bottle, or something similar when I am away. I fill it up with icy cold water and it stays that way all day, even in the hottest climates.
I use a few supplements when away to help protect my stomach lining and boost the healthy bacteria in my gut.
Probiotics – Travelling can really have a negative effect on the good bacteria in our guts. A mixture of different foods, alcohol and foreign bugs can wreak havoc on our digestive systems and upset the balance of good and bad bacteria. A good quality probiotic can help you recover quicker from a bout of diarrhoea and help rebalance your gut flora when you have had dodgy bacteria from food/water etc. There are lots of different ones out there, but for travelling, I use these as they don’t need to be refrigerated and so are ideal for hot climates. OptiBac for travelling abroad.
Slippery elm powder – I am never without slippery elm when travelling. It works by coating the stomach lining with its thick consistency and so helps Ito protect the stomach especially if you are eating and drinking foods that may irritate your stomach.
I take it 20 minutes before each meal and usually use the powder ( I always use this one – Indigo Herbs Slippery Elm Powder 100g) as I think it works better but I also take the capsules away with me as it’s not always convenient to mix the powder with water when out and about.
Psyllium husk – If constipation can be an issue for you then it’s a good idea to have some of this on standby. Constipation can easily happen on holiday as we often eat less fibre and can become slightly dehydrated, all things that can disrupt our usual routine. I will often sprinkle Psyllium husk on my cereal in the morning or mix it with a drink. They come in capsules too which can be easier. I use this one Psyllium Husks 500g in Storage Tub with Serving Scoop by Natural Health 4 Life
Wash your hands
We have all become better at this since Covid came into our lives but it’s still an important one to remember. Getting a stomach bug can completely ruin a holiday and so taking this simple measure might make all the difference.
I have a friend who goes on lots of cruises with her husband, they recently went on a small cruise along the Nile. She is scrupulous about cleaning her hands especially when away. A sickness and diarrhoea bug swept through the cruise, the only ones who didn’t get ill were her and her husband, she swears it was her thorough hygiene. I suppose we will never know for sure but it’s something to think about.
There are so many bugs and bacteria around when we are on holiday, touching surfaces, eating food from dubious places and our fellow holidaymakers all carry a risk. Washing your hands cuts down on that risk considerably. Try and wash them before you eat and after using the toilet at the very least. Hand sanitiser is particularly useful when on holiday.
Keep to your usual bathroom routine
It might be that you are out all day doing exciting activities and not following your normal routine, or maybe you are sharing a room with someone you don’t know that well and feel awkward about using the bathroom, but it’s important to find time to use the bathroom when you get that urge.
If you ignore the urge, you can become constipated, which can lead cause your whole digestive system having issues. Many people feel bloated and uncomfortable when they don’t go for a few days, which is not fun when you are on vacation. So, eat plenty of fibre, drink lots of water and try to stay in a routine.
Before I go away on holiday, I often get very stressed, packing for the family, taking the dogs to kennels, sorting out travel insurance, etc. It all can feel overwhelming, and I often find my stomach is uncomfortable, as stress is big a trigger for me.
So, I make sure I take some time to relax, even just half an hour the night before we leave. I might have a hot soak in a bubble bath or listen to some music. But just taking some time out from all the chaos can help avoid having digestive issues when away, as your body will feel calmer, and better able to cope with the stress of travelling.
Obviously when you are away it can be much easier to relax, and I strangely find if I have been having any digestive issues before I travel, they miraculously disappear when I arrive at my vacation destination.
I think being somewhere new, exploring, swimming in the ocean and just chilling out just stops me from focusing on my health as much and I seem to feel so much better.
Of course, I still need to be cautious about what I am eating and drinking but overall, I feel better than I do at home. So don’t stress too much about your issues, just be prepared and enjoy yourself.