How to Stay Healthy While Travelling Abroad
Holidays are relaxing, but they can be stressful for your gut. Use our healthy travel tips to help keep your gut happy when going abroad.
The microbiome away from home
The term ‘gut microbiome’ refers to the population of microbes residing in the intestines. It is a delicate balance of trillions of microorganisms, including good and bad bacteria, which exercises influence over many areas of our health, including digestion and our susceptibility to disease. When we travel, a whole host of factors can upset this symbiosis and cause illness. Jet lag, caused by a disruption to your body’s natural circadian rhythms, has been linked to dysbiosis and a loss of regularity in microbiota1 (head over to the Probiotics Learning Lab for more explanations of healthcare terms in the glossary). Furthermore, nasty bacteria or intestinal viruses picked up whilst abroad can lead to upset stomachs, which affect up to 70% of those visiting high-risk countries, such as India, Mexico and Thailand.
I’ve compiled a list of my top tips to help maintain gut health, to get your travels off to the smoothest possible start! Make the most of your time away and download and/or print our ultimate packing list for your holiday or business trip.
1. Wise packing
In order to ensure your wellbeing whilst abroad, pack to account for all eventualities. Ample sun protection is always a must, as well as emergency food rations. First aid supplies, including antiseptic and after-sun relief, are also important. If you do like to travel with your daily dose of friendly bacteria too, be sure to opt for one that's suitable for travel, so it doesn't overheat!
2. Keen to clean
One of the key ways of avoiding pathogenic bacteria is practising good hygiene. Hand sanitiser is a useful item to keep with you at all times, and it is also prudent to be conscious about the food and drink you are consuming, and any opportunities for contamination that they might have had before reaching your table.
Your gut and sleep patterns work in conjunction with one another, and so poor sleep, particularly whilst away, can compromise gut health. In order to remain in tip-top shape, a full eight hours is essential where possible.
4. Room service!It can be difficult to stay healthy on holiday, with the tight schedules of travel and the temptations of exotic foods. Many resort to an excess of indulgent, unhealthy foods which only further upset your stomach health. Instead, try to take with you some healthier alternatives for when hunger strikes, as mentioned before, or stock up on easy foods to eat from your room, from local shops. Some easy snacks to make while travelling might include a selection of mixed nuts and dark chocolate, or fruit and a raw peanut butter dip. Natural cereal bars are also a great option. Slow-energy-release foods such as these are ideal to keep you going on your travels.
5. Fun out of the sun
Getting out in the sunshine is hugely important, in order to maintain healthy vitamin D levels and improve your mood, amongst other benefits. However, those of us unused to the intense heat experienced abroad may fall prey to sunburn, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke, which can both wreak havoc on your gut. Make sure you spend some time in the shade and protect your skin, your gut and even your brain from sun damage.
6. Drink more than you think
If you become thirsty, you are already dehydrated. It is imperative that you keep your fluids up in warmer weather, as water loss is increased due to the higher levels of perspiration. Dehydration can cause issues throughout the whole body, and will contribute further to upset stomachs. Try to keep up a consistent intake of water, and avoid drinking too much at once. In many countries, it is safer to drink bottled or boiled water, despite the environmental implications, so be aware.
7. Eater of habitThe variance in diet that occurs when we travel can also cause problems for our gut health. Eating at irregular times (often due to jetlag or packed itineraries) can lead to microbiome dysbiosis2, and a sudden shift in the type of food consumed was shown, in a study3, to influence gut transit times. It’s best to mimic your normal eating routines as much as possible to reduce gut stress.
8. The Military Ps
The military doesn’t often come to mind when we think of holidays, but in this case we can learn a thing or two from their motto: ‘Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance’. In other words, before going away, it helps to think ahead. Though spontaneity can be the most exciting part of a holiday, having a plan in place makes it easier for you to remain happy and healthy. This could include preparing handy phrases pertaining to your diet, to make others aware of any restrictions if you don’t speak the language, or taking precautions to avoid illness and being aware of the risks.
9. Up and at ‘em
Physical exercise is excellent for maintaining universal health, and going away does not justify a lull in your activity. Walking tours, resort-organised sporting classes or self-planned workouts are all simple ways to stay in shape, inside and out.
Hope my top tips help you to have a happy and healthy holiday!
If you liked this, see these other related articles in the Probiotics Learning Lab:10 Family Holiday Health Tips
1. Thaiss, C. et al. (2014). 'Transkingdom Control of Microbiota Diurnal Oscillations Promotes Metabolic Homeostasis.' Cell [Online]: 159/3. Available at: https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(14)01236-7. Accessed: 04/07/18
2. Asterholm, I. W. and Scherer, P. (2012). 'Metabolic Jet Lag when the Fat Clock is out of Sync'. Nat Med: 18(12) 1738-1740
3. Dey, N. et al. (2015). 'Regulators of gut motility revealed by a gnotobiotic model of diet-microbiome interactions related to travel.' Cell [Online]: 163/4. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26406373. Accessed: 04/07/18