Prepare your gut for take off: how to avoid tummy troubles on your holidays

Do you have a holiday fast approaching? If so, we're sure you want to avoid gut issues at all cost! The Gut Health Clinic is here to make sure your holiday isn’t ruined by a funny tummy! Going on holiday can have many gut health benefits. From that much-needed relaxation of the gut-brain axis, to the introduction of exciting local delicacies packed with novel plants for your gut microbes to taste. To ensure both you and your gut health win, there are a few tips and tricks.

Why is getting a bad stomach on holiday so common?

Unfortunately, constipation and diarrhoea are both commonplace while travelling. As many as 50% of travellers experience some sort of gut issues when abroad. This can be because of many different factors, from changes in your circadian rhythm, to pre-holiday stress of packing and changes in what you eat and when.

If you do end up with a tummy bug, it’s generally advised to avoid anti-diarrhoeal medication at the start as it may prolong the infection, trapping the culprit in your intestine. Instead, try to:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals — this helps by putting less strain on your inflamed gut
  • Drink plenty of fluids but limit food and drink that may stimulate the colon, such as chilli, high-fat meals, coffee and alcohol
  • Limit your intake of FODMAPs (see above)
  • If the diarrhoea is severe — when fluid is passing ‘straight through’ — use an electrolyte solution (such as Dioralyte), to stay hydrated and maintain levels of important body salts, which help maximise fluid absorption from your gut
  • Consider psyllium husk (again!) — it not only softens stools but also thickens your stool output

Travellers’ diarrhoea is usually short-term, resolving within three to five days, and most cases are mild so don’t need medical treatment — but if you’re concerned do head to a pharmacy.

Should I do anything ahead of my holiday to prepare my gut?

4 weeks before your holiday, focus on building a diverse and therefore resilient community of gut microbes through diet before your holiday. This will optimise your gut health in an effort to lower your risk of gut infections. Aim to get 30 or more different types of plants a week across the six main plant groups (which we call the Super Six): vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes (beans and pulses), nuts and seeds and herbs and spices. And remember plant-based eating doesn't have to be boring nor does it mean plants-only!

1 week before your holiday, there is evidence that taking a specific type of probiotic bacteria for a week before your holiday reduces your risk of traveller’s diarrhoea. Unfortunately this isn’t currently available in the UK at the moment — but we’re working on it here at The Gut Health Doctor, so stay tuned!

How can I avoid mile-high bloating?

If you’re someone who gets bloating and discomfort while flying, it’s  because as the plane ascends, the atmospheric pressure in the cabin changes, which means any air trapped in your gut expands. We call this ‘mile-high IBS’. This is the same phenomenon behind your ears popping and your water bottle or crisp packet inflating after take-off.

If you’re one of those who suffers from mile-high IBS, reduce the chances of a bloated, painful gut by cutting down on a group of carbohydrates for 24-48 hours before take off. Book in with one of our specialist dietitians who can help design a meal plan to help you avoid this.

And remember to stay hydrated during the flight! Dehydration is a common cause of holiday-induced constipation, and nobody wants that.

What are the simplest ways to keep my gut healthy during a holiday?

If you tend to have a more sensitive gut go slow and steady when introducing the local cuisine. This is because, much like working a new set of muscles can mean aches, it can take a few days for your gut to adjust to a new diet. Your gut bacteria need to source a new set of digestive enzymes to deal with those new plants. Enjoy more familiar foods on day one and two, before immersing yourself into a culinary adventure.

If you experience constipation or loose bowel movement when travelling, consider taking some psyllium husk with you. This water-loving fibre (available from most health food shops) has a dual effect, helping to soften hard stools while also thickening looser stools. Our gut-specialist dietitians can advise you on the right dose for you.

And remember to stay hydrated during the flight! Dehydration is a common cause of holiday-induced constipation, and nobody wants that.

The good news is holidays are overall a big win for your gut. Lots of our clients who have underlying gut symptoms report dramatic improvements on holiday — and it’s thanks to that connection between your gut and brain. A happy and relaxed brain means a happy and relaxed gut. But if you struggle with gut lag or a grumpy gut on holiday, make sure you factor these strategies into your holiday prep so you can get the most out of your time away.

How OneWelbeck can help

The Gut Health Clinic, serves to provide specialist support for all your nutritional needs under the excellent care of OneWelbeck.

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Written by The Gut Health Clinic

The Gut Health Clinic team are gut specialist registered dietitians and join OneWelbeck to support patients with a wide range of health concerns from diabetes to digestive problems and women’s health.