Traveling Could Have a Negative Impact on Your Gut Flora
4 min Read
When you decide to go away on holiday, and to visit new places and undertake an adventurous journey, one of the biggest setbacks is when you suffer from intestinal problems while you are travelling.
When you are on holiday, due to the sudden change in routines and eating habits, the natural balance in the body is often compromised. Our bodies have been used to the same rhythms, so when you change a routine too quickly, there isn't enough time for bacterial flora to adapt. Any unusual drinks and new foods, with which the body may be unfamiliar, can have further effect on the already disrupted intestinal balance. In the case of more adventurous travels, to particularly far-away destinations, it is sometimes the lack of sanitary standards, or contamination of the food or water threaten the balance of our intestinal flora. 1
Common Gut Disorders When you are Travelling
If you happen to experience abdominal pains during your trip and you do not defecate frequently after arrival at your destination, or if your stools are noticeably hard, you may be experiencing constipation. 2
Travelers’ diarrhea is characterised by the evacuation of faeces in liquid form two or three times within 24 hours. Sometimes it is accompanied by severe fatigue, and in certain cases it also manifests itself with mild or high fever. It usually appears two to three days from the start of a trip, and lasts for up to five days. 3
Abdominal pain is a very common complaint among travellers. The main causes include inadequate nutrition and anxiety problems. Travelling can be stressful and there may also be unfamiliar foods not usually found back home. A new routine, imposed by a long journey, will alter the timing and ritual of digestion, which can cause abdominal pain. Abdominal pain can also occur in association with travellers’ diarrhoea, or following a febrile gastroenteritis caused by salmonella. Always seek the help of a doctor or healthcare practitioner. 3
How to prevent intestinal problems when travelling
The intestinal flora is made up of “good” bacteria, but also of potentially harmful bacteria, both of which are essential for preserving the health and functions of the gut. Under normal conditions there is a perfect balance between these types of bacteria, but some situations can affect this harmony, favouring the establishment and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria, and thus causing intestinal disorders. To help prevent the onset of gut disorder during travel, it’s helpful to follow a few simple rules: 4
Make a point of trying to relax and try not to get overwhelmed with stress and anxiety.
Don’t alter your eating habits too drastically. It’s good to try and maintain your usual habits and to avoid the temptation of trying new foods and drinks, at least for a few days. Opt for foods such as vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts and natural yoghurts. 5
Avoid raw foods and avoid eating naturally fermenting foods, such as potatoes, broccoli, cabbage and all fizzy drinks that can increase gas production in the stomach. 6, 7
Avoid drinks made in bulk (always opt for sealed and bottled drinks where possible) and hydrate yourself with liquids that restore the mineral salts lost during travel. 8
Make time for physical activities throughout your trip, even if it is just a brisk walk each morning. 10
It’s often useful, with the recommendation of a doctor, to take probiotics that protect the intestinal flora and can help reduce the risk of travellers’ diarrhoea.
Take indicated probiotics that contain the following bacteria: Bifidocateria • Bacillus clausii • Lactobacilli • Eubacteria. Treatment should generally begin a few days before the trip and continue for the duration of your stay. Discuss your prevention plan with your healthcare provider before you embark on your journey. 11, 12
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- 8 Easy Tips to Avoid a Grumpy Gut While Traveling; healthline, July 2019 [quoted June 2021] https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-to-keep-your-gut-healthy-while-traveling & How is traveler’s diarrhea diagnosed?; Healthline, February 2019 [quoted June 2021] https://www.healthline.com/health/travelers-diarrhea#diagnosis
- Avoid Digestive Problems While Traveling; Everyday Health, December 2011 [quoted June 2021] https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-travel/avoid-digestive-problems-while-traveling.aspx
- Travelers’ Diarrhea: A Clinical Review; PMC, May 2019 [quoted June 2021] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6751351/
- Role of the gut microbiota in health and chronic gastrointestinal disease: understanding a hidden metabolic organ; PMC, July 2013 [quoted June 2021] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667473/
- Eat plenty of fiber; Healthline, July 2019 [quoted June 2021] https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-to-keep-your-gut-healthy-while-traveling#2.-Eat-plenty-of-fiber
- 20 Foods You Should Always Avoid While Traveling, According to Doctors; Best Life, February 2020 [quoated June 2021] https://bestlifeonline.com/unsafe-foods-abroad/
- Why fermented foods could cause serious harm to your health; Independent, November 2019 [quoated June 2021] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fermented-food-gut-health-digestion-kimchi-kombucha-sourdough-a9204226.html
- Drinking Water Safety for Travelers; Smarter Travel, June 2017 [quoted June 2021] https://www.smartertravel.com/drinking-water-safety-travelers/
- Drink lots of water; Heathline July 2019 [quoted June 2021] https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-to-keep-your-gut-healthy-while-traveling#3.-Drink-lots-of-water
- How to Exercise with Irritable Bowel Syndrome; Healthline, March 2020 [quoted June 2021] https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/ibs-and-exercise
- Using Probiotics for Diarrhea; WebMD, July 2020 [quoted June 2021] https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/probiotics-diarrhea
- Should You Take Probiotics Whilst Travelling?; News Medical, March 2019 [quoted June 2021] https://www.news-medical.net/health/Should-You-Take-Probiotics-Whilst-Travelling.aspx