It’s that time of year where our inner travel bug starts coming out! The travel season is here -- you’re probably itching to get out of town and explore some new places, taste new foods from different cultures, and leave the day-to-day hustle and bustle behind for a little while.
Traveling and exploring new, adventurous places is what I live for, but something I always keep in mind is how vulnerable my gut is when I’m traveling. Traveling can put unfamiliar stress on your body -- your body can sense that you’re outside of your typical daily routine, your sleep schedule is probably off, and you’re eating on the go.
The air pressure of the airplane can cause constipation and a delicate digestive system and it’s difficult to find healthy food choices, not to mention you’re going to be in a new place with foreign foods and new people.
All of this stress and unfamiliarity can really take a toll on your gut health. Don’t let gas, bloating, digestive issues, and an unhealthy gut take away from your travels. There are plenty of ways to stay gut healthy-minded, even when you’re away.
Traveling can be stressful, from packing your bags to getting to the airport on time to hauling all your luggage around with you when trying to check into your hotel room. The stress caused during traveling can have harmful effects on the health of your gut. Keep your stress levels down and promote a healthy gut with these stress-free traveling tips:
Have a plan. Plan out your activities, hotel stays, and transportation and make a list of what you need to pack so you don’t leave anything you might need behind.
Pack healthy snacks. Pack low glycemic snacks and healthy protein bars to enjoy when you’re on-the-go and in between meals.
Get enough sleep. Sleep is an essential part of overall health and gut health and sleep quality are directly correlated too. Make sure to get to bed early and a get good night’s rest in your hotel room.
Exercise to keep your stress levels down. Movement is a great way to keep your body’s stress levels low. Go for a morning jog or take a long walk to breakfast.
Practice yoga or meditation. Relax your mind and your body by practicing yoga in your hotel room or outside on the beach. Take a moment each morning to meditate before setting out for your day.
Relax, you’re on vacation! Traveling is supposed to be fun and relaxing. If you’re feeling stressed on your vacation, take a moment to relax and remember you’re here to enjoy yourself.
Protect Against Jet Lag
When you’re traveling, changing time zones, sleeping on airplanes, and eating meals in the middle of the night, your body becomes confused. You’re tired and your body is working hard to adjust to the new time zone and your meal schedule that’s been thrown off.
Alter your eating schedule when arriving at your new location at first. Eat smaller meals more often throughout the day and then gradually adjust your meal times to fit the time zone that you’re in now.
When traveling you probably find yourself stagnant for long periods of time while in transit. Whether it be sitting on an airplane, a train, a bus, or in the car, your gut wants you to get moving. When you’ve arrived at your destination make sure to do something active to get your blood flowing and your gut happy.
Bring a yoga mat with you and do morning yoga each day. Even take your practice outside to your hotel room balcony or out onto the beach. Take a walk to your mid-day shopping trip instead of taking a car or bus. You might even be able to find a bike rental nearby and bike your way around your temporary home. Hit the hotel gym or hop in the pool and swim a few laps. Or look for local adventures near you.
Avoid Alcohol & Caffeine
It sure can be difficult to avoid adult beverages and morning coffee when you’re on vacation, but both are important to avoid for a healthy gut. Caffeine stimulates the gut causing bloating, gas, and discomfort. Instead of drinking coffee, find an herbal tea to sip on.
Alcohol also irritates the gut by causing inflammation in the GI tract. Sure you may want to enjoy an adult beverage while relaxing on vacation, but try your best to limit the amount of alcohol you consume. And if you do decide on a drink to pair with your authentic Italian dinner, try to choose local, organic wines.
Eat Healthy, Familiar Foods
Cooking healthy meals while traveling is generally outside of your control. This means you’re probably eating out at restaurants, eating on-the-go, and not having much control over the fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats that may or may not be prepared for you.
First, pack snacks that your gut already loves like healthy protein bars. When eating out, look for healthy options that your body is familiar with and ask the restaurant how the chefs prepare their food.
New places can also carry different natural bacteria that your gut is unfamiliar with which can throw off your gut bacteria. Carry probiotic supplements with you to keep the good bacteria in your gut.
Also, make sure to stay away from tap water and choose bottled water instead. And, if you’re cooking yourself, wash your fruits and vegetables before cooking with them.
If and when the stress of traveling creeps in, don't let it interrupt your time away. Instead, recognize the way your body is feeling and do it a favor by actively working relax--try meditating.
Meditation is a natural practice of calming your body and mind and is very helpful for grounding yourself when in a stressful state. In fact, meditation has many more benefits too, including:
Promotes emotional health
Improves quality of sleep
Helps to control pain
Brings down blood pressure
As beneficial as meditation might be, many of us have trouble getting into that meditative state of mind.
Define your intention.
Relax your body, stage by stage.
Explore your senses.
Investigate your feelings.
Keep circling back to your body.
And remember, traveling is all about exploring new things and having fun, so anchor your thoughts, calm your mind, and relax your body.
“When in Rome” -- overeating is likely to happen when you’re traveling and experiencing new foods. You’re excited about the new cuisine your destination has to offer and you want to try new things (no matter how full your stomach might feel). Overeating messes with your gut and causes it to feel uneasy and unhealthy.
Your body has to work harder to secrete additional hormones and enzymes so you can properly break down larger amounts of food.
Overeating causes your gut to produce gas, making you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
Your metabolism speeds up when you overeat so you're able to digest excess food. This might make you feel temporarily hot, dizzy, and sweaty which doesn’t sound pleasant while traveling.
Overeating can also impact your quality of sleep. Your body’s sleep and hunger hormones will rise and fall throughout the day and night after eating too much, upsetting your sleep cycle.
It’s okay to want to try new things, just be mindful of your portions. And drink lots of water before, during, and after your meals to aid in proper digestion.
Healthy Travel Snack for a Healthy Gut
Keep your gut healthy while traveling by packing healthy on-the-go snacks for in-between meals.
Herbal teas: Herbal tea promotes the breakdown of foods, aids in digestion, and calms bloating. Plus, you might be able to find some surprising herbal teas where you’re traveling.
Healthy fats: Macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and dried coconut are delicious healthy fats that are easy to take with you and pack away.
Healthy protein bars
Magnesium: Magnesium supplements aren’t a snack BUT they calm the nervous system and reduce stressors that can affect your gut. Pack some in your suitcase before you head out for your travels.
Insoluble fiber foods: Insoluble fibers will keep your gut healthy, keep digestion moving, and will help you avoid constipation while traveling. Apples, bananas, and honey are all tasty foods that are high in insoluble fiber.
Low glycemic snacks: Gluten-free bread, oatmeal, peaches, and chickpeas are low on the glycemic index which promotes gut health and keeps your energy levels high.
Plan your trip, get enough sleep, pack healthy insoluble fiber foods, and protein bars and make sure to stay hydrated to keep your gut healthy and your travels happy. Most importantly, have fun exploring new places and new experiences!
Where are you traveling to next?