Putting on the “out of office” and hauling out the suitcase are signs of relaxation to come. But for some, it’s a cue for digestive complications to kick in. From adopting a more leisurely routine to navigating different time zones, these changes can play havoc on our bodies – and bathroom habits.
“Changes in routine, diet and sleep-wake cycles, and sitting still during long flights, are just some of the triggers for gut imbalance when you’re travelling,”explains nutritionist Sonal Shah, from Nutritionist Resource.
“That can result in common digestive complaints such as constipation, diarrhoea and IBS-type symptoms. But who it affects really depends on your current state of gut health.”
In particular, while jet lag is a well-known complication of travel, “gut lag” can also leave travellers feeling out of sorts. And it’s something the Duchess of Sussex knows all about.
“Gut lag is when travel causes disruption to your appetite,” says Sonal. “It makes you feel hungry at the wrong times due to fluctuations in the microbiome of the gut.”
Luckily, it can be anticipated in advance of travel. Writing on her old lifestyle blog, The Tig, Meghan shared this hack, “Misha Nonoo once told me that if you eat on the schedule of wherever you’ve landed, you won’t feel jet lagged. I was sceptical at first, but as Misha shared, it’s your stomach that tells your brain when it’s feeling wonky.
“By simply eating a meal at the time the locals are [eating] when you land, you trick your brain a bit and stay much more on track, and much less cranky.”
Sonal says Meghan is quite right and adds, “Start to adjust your schedule and the times you eat during the week prior to leaving for your trip. That way, your gut will be on the right schedule by the time you reach your new destination.”
Getting outside and moving about – if you land during daytime hours – can also help keep your gut healthy and facilitate this adjustment. “Exercise and getting fresh air are important for appetite hormones and ensuring the circadian rhythm [your sleep-wake cycle] adjusts to the new time zone,” says Sonal.
So, as holidaymakers begin to embark on their long awaited summer getaways, here are five more tips for keeping your digestion in tip-top working order, from the minute you start packing to the moment you’re lazing in the sun on that lounger…
1. Go ginger
Used in alternative medicine for thousands of years, the spicy root has the potential to become a traveller’s BF. “Ginger is my favourite remedy,” says Sonal.
“It aids circulation, which is ideal on long flights. It also works as a warming spice and can settle an upset gut, ease travel sickness and reduce internal inflammation.” Add fresh ginger to your meals or to your cup of tea, or have it in capsule form.
2. Take super-strength probiotics
Probiotics have a huge role to play in gut health, helping to restore the natural balance of bacteria. “Take supplements such as probiotics,” explains Sonal, “but ideally in a high strength – more than 15 billion strains per capsule.
If you’re an IBS sufferer, you’ll benefit from a 50 billion-plus probiotic.” Try out the supplements before you travel, to check they suit.
3. Opt for magnesium-rich foods
“Long-haul travel means we end up sitting for long periods, reducing our mobility and slowing our gut transit times,” says Anna Chapman, lead travel nurse at Fleet Street Clinic.
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She recommends magnesium-rich foods to get the gut going. Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and leafy greens are all good sources and can ease constipation and bloating.
4. Eat lots of fibre
To keep bowel movements regular, you need a good intake of fibre – from fruits, vegetables and wholegrains – but you need to be mindful of how it’s prepared.
To avoid holiday tummy woes Anna advises, “Avoid food that has been washed in tap water and served cold, such as salads and un-peelable fruits, as well as those that may have been handled lots. Ensure all the food you eat is well-cooked and served hot. ”
5. Say hello to H2O
Upping your fluid intake is vital when flying, as humidity levels on planes hover around 10% to 20% – that’s drier than the Sahara desert! “Aim to drink one litre of water for every four hours of flying to aid digestion. It will also improve your cognition and fight off fatigue.
People can be reluctant to drink plenty of fluids when travelling in case there isn’t a toilet available, but this can lead to constipation,” points out Anna. “To keep your gut happy, you really should try to get over this fear.
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