Healthy Tummy, Happy Travels

By Liz Robins / March 4, 2013

Photography by Robin Jolin

Beautiful beaches. World-class cities. Rustic retreats. Travel takes us beyond our everyday experiences, and that’s a wonderful thing—except when the result is an upset stomach. Stomach woes can affect travelers due to changes in climate, stress level, altitude, diet and exercise. Maintaining a healthy, stable diet can be a major challenge when you’re away from home.

Sometimes fast food is the most convenient option, making it appealing to the busy traveler. And many of us eat richer foods when we’re dining out. Trying new foods, eating at irregular times, drinking less water, and eating less fiber can also contribute to constipation and other tummy trouble. Even if you are bound for a relaxing vacation, the logistics of getting there and back can be stressful, which doesn’t do your digestive system any favors.

“The body is handling a lot of other activities and the digestive system can get low priority,” explains Golden Door Spa Nutrition Advisor Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, a doctor of public health and registered dietitian in San Diego and author of The SuperFoods Rx Diet (Rodale). “Diarrhea can occur in some people, especially those with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or sensitivities of the digestive tract,” Bazilian says. “The timing, amount and quality of the diet affect this, as does the overall stress of travel.”

Fortunately, healthy habits can help keep digestive woes at bay, no matter where you roam.

Stay hydrated Drink extra water to keep the digestive system moving, and steer clear of alcohol at least the day before significant travel. Bring along a BPA-free thermos or bottle (refill it at the airport) and sip throughout your journey, especially if you’re flying; the air at 30,000-plus feet is dehydrating. Bazilian suggests avoiding alcohol while flying—it dehydrates, displaces water you might otherwise drink, and can cause bloating and grogginess. Take an herbal tea break, and bring along your favorite organic tea bags for flights.
Pack healthy Pack simple snacks for easy access to something healthy when you’re hungry. Bazilian suggests small bags of nuts and dried fruit, an instant oatmeal packet (add hot water, along with the nuts and dried fruit), or a peanut-butter sandwich on whole-grain bread with sliced bananas.
Eat smart Eat three meals and two snacks a day instead of grazing nonstop. “Be aware that if you eat smaller portions overall,” says Bazilian, “the fat, calories, sodium, sugar, and potential for digestive upset goes down, too.” Once you arrive, include fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals, which contain water, fiber, and nutrients. Try to limit your fat and salt intake by avoiding fried foods and cream- or cheese-heavy foods.
Get moving After sitting for hours en route, take a brisk walk around the block for 15 minutes or more. “Your breathing will open up your circulation, delivering oxygen to your cells and gut,” Bazilian explains. “The gentle twisting of the trunk that occurs with walking also wakes up the digestive tract by giving it an internal massage.” Exercise may help reestablish digestive health in cases of diarrhea, cramping, bloating or gassiness. Aim for at least 15 to 20 minutes of brisk exercise per day throughout your trip.
Take a deep breath Meditation or deep-breathing may stave off or alleviate digestive discomfort. “The gut is a regional immune system in the body and it’s also sometimes called the ‘second brain,” says Bazilian. “According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, emotions are tied to the digestive organs, so worry, anxiety and stress can aggravate it.” Even a few minutes of deep breathing in a quiet space is beneficial.
Try natural remedies Bazilian suggests effective, time-tested stomach soothers like:
· Ginger: Sip ginger tea, add ginger to foods, or chew on crystallized ginger candies for nausea, upset stomach, or motion sickness.
· Flaxseeds: To lubricate the digestive tract and ease digestion, pour water over a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseeds and drink.

Enzymes help breaDigestGold_Probk food down into smaller particles so we can assimilate nutrients, explains Dave Barton, Director of Education for Enzymedica. They also encourage healthy elimination, as do probiotics, which maintain healthy bacteria in the gut and can alleviate gas, bloating, constipation, and the like.
Try: Enzymedica Digest Gold + PROBIOTICS, a digestive enzyme formula with 500 million cultures of specially coated probiotics. The healthy bacteria are released in the small intestine, where they can get to work. You, on the other hand, can relax and enjoy your vacation.

Liz Robins
Liz Robins

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