Our gut is a sensitive organ that responds to even the smallest of changes in our diet or environment, which is why travelling to a new destination and environment can have an impact. Whether you’re travelling to Bali or Berlin, no one wants an upset tummy due to new cuisines or travelling circumstances, so what may they be and how can we prevent them from happening? Cate Lilja, nutritional, herbal, and complementary medicine scientist and co-founder of Optima Nutricosmetics tells us how we can keep our travelling gut woes at bay.
Ever wondered why you feel especially bloated or gassy when you fly? Well, there’s a scientific reason, so you needn’t worry as there are ways to counteract it. Due to the high altitude of the plane, the air pressure is reduced; this results in the gas in our gut expanding. If we add a carbonated beverage, (yes that includes sparkling water or kombucha), or chewing gum to the mix, we only create more gas. That gas becomes trapped, leading to uncomfortable distention and increased belching or flatulence. To help prevent the plane bloat, move around the plane, avoid carbonated beverages and try to avoid foods that you know normally produce gas – such as red meat, cabbage and lentils – leading up to your flight. It’s also a good idea to maintain hydration, pressurised plane cabin air can be very dehydrating which can lead to constipation when you land.
If you’re travelling into a completely new time-zone, you may not expect your bowel movements to continue like clock-work, just like you, your gut is jet-lagged. To help prevent any potential blockage, try to maintain a regular sleep pattern and exercise to help keep things moving. Whether this be some abdominal twists each morning or evening, a run or walking, it’s important to re-establish regular bowel movements to clean out the pipes, so to speak. Again, staying hydrated is paramount, so drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol that are both dehydrating and may affect your sleep patterns.
Our gut bacteria thrive off diversity, the more variety we have in our diet the happier our microbes are. However, if you’re travelling to new places with food that you know strays from your normal diet, you may need to keep your gut happy with a pre and probiotic. Supplements such as kiwifruit prebiotics, shelf-stable probiotics and gut-friendly nutrients like B vitamins, beta-carotene, polyphenols and collagen peptides help soothe the gut, feed the good gut bacteria and maintain its abundance. When our good gut bacteria are in-check, we can help reduce the amount of bloating, minimise indigestion and improve the regularity of our bowels. We also know that the combination of marine collagen with pre and probiotics also supports healthy skin, hair and nails – two birds, one stone.
If you’re travelling for holidays, the idea of relaxation may sound obvious, but if you’re travelling for work this may be a more poignant point to remember. Our gut is incredibly perceptive to mental and emotional stress, thanks to a range of hormones and neurotransmitters that spike in response to unnecessary worry. If you’re travelling and realise the places you eat don’t serve an array of vegetables, whole grains, ferments, legumes, fruits, etc., don’t panic. Sometimes where we eat is out of our control. When we produce a stress response, we shut off blood flow to our digestive system because our body believes we are in danger and diverts blood flow to areas like the brain, lungs, heart, and muscles. Your gut will be much happier if you enjoy meals in peace and make it up to it later with a big bowl of veggies!
Image via Sjana Elise’s Instagram.