For most travelers, being homesick is a mental and emotional malady that makes us wish we were back home where we’re comfortable. We’ve all experienced some degree of this feeling, whether it was sleep away at camp when we were young, moving away from home for college when we were a little older or simply taking a long vacation. But, for some wanderlusters, homesick isn’t just a matter of missing home, but a real, physical sickness.
When you travel, your digestive system can quickly take a toll, especially if you’re adventuring somewhere foreign where your regular dietary routine isn’t possible. And, nothing is worse than spending hundreds and thousands of dollars to travel to an exotic corner of the earth, only to see the four tiled walls of your hotel room’s bathroom. Other travel-related illnesses are a result of bacteria in the local area water or substandard food preparation safety procedures. In other cases, vacationers can get an upset stomach simply from the stress of travel.
If you have a history of digestive problems and want to be sure you spend all of your vacation relaxing, instead of reeling from stomach pain, then here are six tips to help balance your digestive system while you are traveling.
1.) Prepare for the Worst
You know your body better than anyone else, which means you have some general idea of how well behaved (or not) your digestive system is on a day-to-day basis. If you rarely have any stomach or intestinal discomfort, then you should be alright, as long as you follow the other tips below. Conversely, if you frequently have digestive issues already, you need to go the extra mile when you travel because that discomfort will be elevated.
This means bringing any digestive aids or other medicines that generally help settle your stomach. You may even want to talk to your doctor about any extra-strength digestive medicines that they can possibly prescribe to you. This will ensure that you and your toiletry bag are armed to the teeth to defeat anything from an upset stomach to diarrhea. Some wanderlust enthusiasts swear by taking a colon cleanse detox before traveling, to give their digestive system a clean slate on their vacation.
2.) Always FIltered Water
Did you know that your water at home is full of impurities, including bacteria? Luckily, the majority of these bacterias are non-harmful; plus, even if there are harmful bacteria in your drinking water, your body is used to it and has solid defenses. We’ve built an immunity to any digestive sickness lurking in our own water, but the same cannot be said when you travel. Thus, you should always use filtered water when you travel.
There is a common misconception that you only need to drink bottled water when you are traveling somewhere remote or destitute, but the truth is that you should primarily drink only filtered water anywhere that is foreign to you. Even a mega metropolis like London or Paris, which is as modern and sophisticated as home, can have bacteria in its drinking water.
To the average Parisian or Londoner who is used to this, it isn’t a big deal. But, it could be a violent, digestive nightmare for you. If you’re really prone to these issues, then also consider using bottled water when you brush your teeth and avoid any iced drinks (unless that ice was made from bottled water).
3.) Think Before You Eat
Depending on where you’re traveling to and the nature of your trip, there’s a good chance that you have a list of things you want to do and see that is longer than the day is. As you are bouncing from activity to activity, sight to sight, it can be very enticing to rely on quick, fast dining options that get you to the next place sooner.
While these are convenient choices for your sight-seeing schedule, they may not be so convenient on your body. Remember, food safety standards are not universal. Thus, to avoid the potential for having traveler’s diarrhea, you should resist the urge to eat rare or medium-rare meats, skip the street vendors and don’t eat or drink anything that is unpasteurized.
If you really don’t have any safe, healthy options available or can’t pass up the opportunity to try scorpion on a stick from a street vendor, then try and eat with as much moderation as possible, until you find a safer choice.
4.) Fluids, Fluids, Fluids
One of the best ways to avoid digestive problems or, at the very least, lessen their impact on your day is to drink lots of water and fluids. Fluids can help ensure that all food makes it through your system quickly and easily. As much as you don’t want to spend your entire vacation inside the bathroom, you also don’t want to be moaning and groaning because you can’t go the bathroom at all.
Constipation occurs when the person’s stool becomes too dry and hard to pass through the colon effectively. Hard, dry stool is a result of dehydration. Thus, the more water you drink, the more efficiently your body will be able to process consumed foods and pass them without any issues.
5.) Stick to What You Know
Again, you know your own body better than anyone else, which means you also know which types of foods have a high risk of causing you discomfort. For example, if you’re a little lactose intolerant in your normal, day-to-day life, then you should be especially careful and, when possible, avoid dairy when you travel (especially if those dairy options are unpasteurized!).
Some people make the mistake of foregoing their own common sense and eating things that have a high risk of making them and their stomach uncomfortable. “I’m on vacation!” they’ll exclaim enthusiastically, until a couple of hours later when they are groveling on the bathroom floor. Suddenly, that excited, “I’m on vacation,” fades into a weak mumble as they realize they are spending said vacation within spitting distance of a toilet.
Most people go away to escape from their routine, see something new and incredible and, most importantly, relax. Ironically, travel is rarely relaxing. Between the flights, foreign languages, unfamiliar streets, bustling traffic and more, there are a great many travel stressors. These sources of stress can actually lead to digestion problems.
That’s right; stress can cause an upset stomach and even constipation. Even if you’re having the worst vacation of your life, before it becomes even worse, always try and spend at least an hour a day truly relaxing.
A relaxed body ensures that your muscles (including those in your digestive system) aren’t tensed up and causing unnecessary discomfort. Also, handling your stress appropriately can prevent you from accidently stress-eating the wrong foods and hurling your body into digestive despair.
You want to make the most out of every vacation and trip you take. After all, these expeditions are often very costly; it would be a shame to waste such a significant investment and not have the great experience you promised yourself. Thus, you should always think of your digestive health before and during your travels. By following these tips, you will drastically reduce the risk of having your wanderlust curbed by stomach pain, bloating and even diarrhea and ensure you get the very most out of your hard-earned vacation.