Smooth Travels

Escape from tummy troubles

Smooth Travels

Sprinting for the toilet doesn't exactly add charm to a vacation. Unfortunately, a troupe of tummy-troubling bacteria can hide in unfamiliar environments, leading to traveller's diarrhoea, constipation, and more. Skip the excitement with these helpful tips for avoiding digestive woes at bay while on the road.

In the flurry of excitement and preparations preceding summer vacation, our gut often slips our minds. But when a stomach gurgle evolves into digestive distress, we can find our ideal vacation inconveniently interrupted. This summer, leave four common digestive woes behind.

Diarrhea

While not typically life-threatening, consuming tainted food or water can result in an unpleasant pit stop. Your risk for travellers’ diarrhea rises when the climate, social conditions, or sanitary standards and practices differ from those of your home country.

Unfortunately, dining out could further heighten your risk for becoming glued to a toilet, as proper hygiene practices are often neglected in the restaurant kitchens of developing countries.

What to pack

Outwit Montezuma’s revenge with probiotics: a recent study confirmed that probiotics can help prevent travellers’ diarrhea in adults. For travellers, Angela Hunt, a Calgary-based naturopathic doctor, suggests Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic that does not require refrigeration.

What to eat

Reduce your risk for attracting food-borne pathogens that cause diarrhea by consuming all food, including meats and eggs, which may be added to sauces, hot and fully cooked.

What to avoid

In even the clearest pool, pathogens may be lurking, so avoid swallowing water during a swim. You may want to skip the dip altogether if you have open wounds or scrapes, as pathogens find these helpful passageways into the body.

What to do (when all else fails)

If you’re among the 30 to 70 percent of travellers who succumb to diarrhea, Hunt recommends goldenseal—or its constituent berberine—for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities to help curtail the symptoms, along with a probiotic, rest, and water.

Hunt adds that, when recovering from diarrhea, travellers should follow the BRAT diet of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast; ensure all dishes they consume are fully cooked; and avoid fatty and spicy foods.

Constipation

One in four Canadians report symptoms of constipation, with travel being a common instigator. Changes in our eating and drinking habits, dry air in airplanes, stress, and reluctance to use public washrooms are among the causes of mid-trip irregularity. Experiencing new food or microbes can also toy with our normal gut flora, resulting in diarrhea, dehydration, and eventually constipation.

What to pack

Use a fibre supplement such as psyllium as insurance for sufficient fibre intake, which makes your stool heavier and fast tracks it through your intestines.

What to eat

Munch on whole grain crackers, fruit, and high-fibre foods to keep you regular. Pair these snacks with water, which softens stool and mitigates dehydration that can lead to constipation.

What to avoid

Nix caffeine and alcohol unless you diligently drink water to offset their dehydrating effects, and limit your intake of low-fibre and processed foods such as cheese and chips.

What to do (when all else fails)

Take a dose of magnesium citrate. It’s gentler than other laxatives and won’t stimulate diarrhea, according to Hunt (be careful not to take more than 1,000 mg, which could have you racing for the toilet). “It brings more water into the colon, making bowel movements easier to pass,” Hunt explains.

Heartburn

Heartburn sufferers will find that, while on vacation, heartburn triggers abound. Quintessential vacation experiences such as sampling exotic foods and the urge to overindulge could easily court a painful episode of heartburn.

What to pack

Stash gum in your suitcase for post-meal chewing. Chewing gum increases the production of acid-subduing saliva. Pass on mint varieties, however, because mint may cause the valve that regulates acid flow to loosen, releasing acid from your stomach into your esophagus.

What to eat

A full stomach can easily flow back into the esophagus, so eat small portions more slowly. Caffeine and spicy, acidic foods can also provoke heartburn.

What to avoid

Leave the skinny jeans at home—restrictive clothing can compress the valve that controls acid flow. Although you may be travel-weary, avoid sleeping immediately after a meal, as your stomach contents can easily surge into your esophagus when you lie down.

What to do (when all else fails)

Instantly relieve heartburn with one or two teaspoons of baking soda in a glass of cold water or take an antacid. Use these cures sparingly, however, as Hunt warns they decrease stomach acid, which may elicit a future episode.

Hunt also encourages travellers to think back to whether it may have been a typical heartburn trigger—such as drinking alcohol, eating too quickly, or drinking too much water—that triggered their latest attack, so they will know how to prevent another bout of heartburn.

Motion sickness

Transportation, whether by car, plane, train, or boat, can turn your stomach upside down. For those prone to motion sickness, locomotion produces an effect involving the senses registering motion—such as your eyes and inner ear—are in conflict with one another. One body part may sense motion while the others do not, which sends the brain mixed and/or startling signals, creating motion sickness.

What to pack

Slip ginger capsules or tea into your travel bag. With roots in Chinese medicine, ginger has staunch anecdotal support as a remedy for motion sickness, although research remains inconclusive.

What to eat

Calm a queasy stomach with dry crackers and unsweetened carbonated beverages. Hunt says a tart green apple may also help to quell nausea.

What to avoid

If you’re predisposed to motion sickness, avoid reading and watching TV while on the move. Steer clear of spicy or greasy foods and overeating, which can also trigger motion sickness.

What to do (when all else fails)

A 2014 study found that behaviours such as gazing at the horizon, driving, or lying down, eyes closed, helped to evade motion sickness.

Consult a natural health practitioner to compile your personalized travel kit, tailored to your needs and destination.

Take the homeopathic route

Vancouver-based homeopath Nicole Duelli suggests three fast-acting homeopathic remedies for travel-related sickness:

  • Nux vomica combats symptoms such as nausea, irritability, and headaches associated with jetlag, hangovers, constipation, and heartburn.
  • Cocculus indicus soothes motion sickness symptoms such as dizziness and nausea.
  • Arsenicum album treats diarrhea and vomiting.

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