With some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, many of us are eager to book our next flight to a vacation destination far, far away. Whether you’re thinking about turning up the heat in the Caribbean or experiencing snowfall in the French Alps, one thing is for sure: you won’t want to worry about a grumpy gut. Most of us are used to a routine when in the comfort of our own homes, from the foods we eat, the times we eat, and where we eat. It’s easy to get thrown off by differences in cuisine, meal times, and eating at restaurants. But, that’s what vacation is for, right?! Experiencing different foods and cultures is a huge part of the escape many of us daydream of during the cold winter months. However, with travel often comes a not-so-happy gut. From the airport to sitting on a plane for hours on end to a time difference, our problems often start before we even get to our destination. And once we do, being in an environment that’s not your own bathroom switches up your body’s response and may disrupt digestion cues. It’s not surprising that travel can have such a big effect on your digestive system! We’re here to give you some tips and tricks for your next vacay, so you can focus on sightseeing without stressing about keeping your system in check.
Maintain a routine. From your coffee in the morning to skincare routine at night, there are little things we do throughout the day that give our lives more balance, stability, and often decrease our stress levels. A change in eating habits (like eating at different times or enjoying different foods), drinking (like having that extra cocktail because, why not?!), and sleep habits can quite literally confuse our digestive system. That’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy your trip–you’re on vacation after all!--but maintaining some similarities to your at-home routine will help your body bounce back to its norm. If you usually wake up at a certain time, workout in the morning, or drink tea before bed, try continuing some of these during your vacation. Implementing these small habits while in paradise will get your digestion back on track, in as little as a day.
Fiber is (still) your friend on vacation! While it’s exciting to try new dishes, desserts, and drinks, your digestive system might disagree. If you anticipate hunger before boarding your flight or while you’re in the air (everyone loves a good plane snack), pack some snack options such as protein bars or cut fruit to munch on. Secondly, once you land, have your first meal in conjunction with a normal meal time at home. Eating right away will prompt your digestion to start, allowing you to stay more regular. Most importantly, hydrate during and after your flight. The air on a plane takes moisture out of your cells, making it even harder for a bowel movement to happen. Bringing your own water and asking for more mid-flight will help your entire body stay hydrated, reducing the chance of constipation. Furthermore, try keeping some sort of pattern in your eating, such as opting for a protein-packed, fiber-full breakfast and limiting processed or fried foods. It’s important to remember that everything is great in moderation! Don’t restrict yourself to experiencing these new things, but do keep in mind that your system might react in not-so-favorable ways.
Stay active. While vacation is a great time to get some R&R, doing light to moderate activity every day can help keep your digestive muscles activated and moving. Try swapping your usual spin class for some yoga on the beach or take a long walk through the new city! Movement on vacation should help you increase your feel-good hormones, and should never be used to “counteract” your eating and drinking. The key here is to try and incorporate some sort of activity into your new routine, even if it's just a quick morning stretch. Your digestive system will thank you!
Lastly, and probably most importantly, you’re on vacation for a reason. Traveling can be full of anxiety and stress, but you deserve time to unplug. When our bodies experience stress, our “rest and digest” system shuts off, and we prepare for “fight or flight”. The intestinal muscles often cramp up, as less of our energy is dedicated to passing waste along, making it harder for us to poop. Relaxing and really enjoying your trip will help increase your mood, bring you some zen, and relax those muscles that cause cramping and discomfort. So, try slowing your mind down with meditation, reading, stretching, or breathing exercises, and let your digestive system do the rest of the work.
The takeaway: Vacations are vacations because, well, they’re a time to experience new foods and switch up our repetitive routine. Accept that you’re more than likely to have some unwelcome disruptions to your usual–eating and drinking differently, not prioritizing movement, and getting less sleep. It may take your system a few days to catch up, and that’s okay! By doing your best to implement small constants to your normal routine, but also enjoying the scenery and taking a much needed break, you’ll help keep that discomfort to a minimum.
If you’re regularly experiencing constipation, diarrhea, or other forms of digestive upset it may be time to consult with a doctor. Schedule a free discovery call today with Dr. Kelcie Harris, Arrae’s holistic health expert, to find out what’s going on. She’ll help you create a personalized health plan so you can feel your best, even when you’re far away from home.