Maintaining a healthy gut is often overlooked when travelling abroad - for work or play.
I first learnt about the importance of gut health when I moved to London in 2010. It’s like my insides decided to go on holidays and shut up shop. A six-month sickie, sabbatical with not even an out-of-office on. Nothing worked properly and I had no idea why.
I suffered from food intolerances, hormonal imbalances, skin rashes and managed to put on 6 kilos in 4 months.
But even after numerous medical tests, naturopath appointments, going on and off the pill, I’d had enough and was still in the dark. It wasn’t until I started reading about the role our second brain has on the rest of our bodies that so many things clicked into place.
So what Causes it?
Moving or travelling abroad doesn’t just affect the external factors in your life, but your insides too. It literally changes the makeup of bacteria living in your gut. A new time zone and climate, a sudden change in diet, flight dehydration, an increase of alcohol and jet-lag all make it difficult for your body to adjust and find balance. But if we prep correctly and stick to a few routine tasks – travelling with a happy and healthy gut is totally achievable.
Get your pH Levels Right
Our pH (Power of Hydrogen) balance is extremely important when it comes to gut health. Many digestive issues stem from excess acid in the gastric region and not enough alkaline minerals in the intestinal tract. Our ideal pH is slightly alkaline – 7.30 to 7.45.
Our bodies become more acidic as soon as we step onto that plane thanks to the stagnant air, lack of alkaline based food options and bacterial pathogens floating around. One of the easiest ways to achieve a pH balance is by regularly consuming Apple Cider Vinegar. I add a tablespoon to my morning lemon water to alkalise my body from any acidic foods and drinks from the day before.
Travelling or not, I’m all about the probiotics. Containing billions of bacteria which line your stomach, these guys balance all that is good and bad (we need a dose of both to live).
You can now easily find tablets that don’t need to be kept in the fridge as many probiotic brands have travel specific ranges. Get them from your local pharmacy or online.
Personally, I prefer WelleCo’s super elixir formula which is a probiotic, alkalising multivitamin and green smoothie mixed in one. It travels well and is a perfect way to kick start the day on a healthy note. Plus I’ve just killed two birds with one stone: pH levels and probiotics!
For best results, begin taking these at least a week before you travel, and double daily dose on the day you fly. Aeroplanes and Gut Bacteria are not friends.
If you’re not one for the tabs, don’t stress – you can get drinkables that contain plenty of that good bacteria. Kombucha (I LIVED on it in Austin), kefir, greek yoghurt and fermented foods are widely known for their probiotic goodness.
When we travel, we put additional stress on our bodies. Additional stress = additional bacteria. Exercise helps to improve the balance of bacteria by modifying the gut flora.
Not only is your body enjoying the routine activity, but it’s creating anti-inflammatory properties in the microbiota. This can have a fourfold increase for your immune system.
If you’re struggling to find ways to exercise when you’re travelling, here are a few I prepared earlier!
Don’t feel like you need to go 110% – light exercise will suffice. Plus it will have an alkalising effect on your bod and help you ward off that jet-lag! #winning
Drink Loads of Water
Thank you, Captain Obvious. But I’m talking about clean water. Filtered water. Yes, many countries provide good, clean tap water, but the subtle differences in pipes can have a big effect on your bowels. If you are drinking tap water – boiling it first will ensure you kill any nasties your gut isn’t used to. Also, it won’t hurt to skip on the ice cubes when going for drinkies.
Many developing countries sell 5-gallon jugs for just a few dollars, otherwise, a couple of 2-litre bottles shouldn’t set you back too much.
And for those long-haul flights – aim for one litre of water for every hour you’re in the air and hope for the isle seat
Be Conscious of your Food Intake
I know, I know…this is hardly appealing when you want to try everything in the hotel buffet. But think about it – you’re in a new country, your stomach has no idea what these new flavours are and is flipping the fudge out. Boiled eggs are a perfect breakfast when you’re travelling. Nuts are also a great option – they’re packed with nutrients and travel well.