After years of staying in during the holidays and summer, you finally had the best vacation so far. How can you say no to new learning, a new culture, new places to visit, people to meet and more importantly, new foods to taste?
Experiencing new things, especially when it comes to food is fun and enjoyable. Here’s the thing: it will be harder for you to stick to your normal healthy diet involving fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat. The result: digestive problems.
Before you get excited with your trip, here are 16 things to remember about digestive problems while travelling plus tips on how to avoid this temporary, but surefire vacation killer situation.
1. Getting to Know the Connection Between New Food and Your Digestion
One of the best ways to enjoy a new place especially when in a foreign country is by exploring their food. This is because new cuisine means you are also able to get a taste of their culture.
Here’s the problem: experiencing a foreign land’s culture through their cuisine could be problematic. In fact, this could cause digestive issues that could put a damper on your trip and ruin your vacation.
The question is why.
At home, you are able to control your diet. You can go to the grocery and buy your supply of fresh ingredients to make sure that what you eat is natural. You also prepare your own food, which is crucial in preventing digestive problems.
The case is different when you are in a foreign place. Sticking to your healthy diet can be impossible because you are surrounded with other food choices you’ve never seen before. You are also unable to drink enough fluids since you are most likely out of your hotel room most of the time. When you are in a restaurant, you simply enjoy the food served instead of interrogating the chef.
In other words, you are merely a recipient, which could be problematic since you don’t have a say on what goes into your food or how it should be prepared. This could lead to various digestive problems, which you will learn below.
2. Don’t Get Stuck With Traveler’s Diarrhea
One of the common conditions that could happen to you when you are in a different country is traveler’s diarrhea. Historically named as Montezuma’s revenge, this condition usually happens to travelers going to underdeveloped countries. Today, traveler’s diarrhea could also knock on your door regardless of where you are in the world.
Traveler’s diarrhea is often caused by eating food or drinking water that contains bacteria such as salmonella, Escherchia coli, and Shigella, among others. If you have a particular intolerance, say dairy products, then you are prone to this condition too.
Tips to Minimize Risk of Traveler’s Diarrhea
- Stay away from greasy foods that are high in fat.
- Avoid high-fiber foods.
- Do not eat or drink dairy products.
- Minimize your sugar intake.
- Skip caffeine, at least until you get home.
- Never consume unpasteurized drinks or food.
- As much as possible, stick to bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth.
Do you want to know a secret about traveler’s diarrhea? Read the next section to find out.
3. Traveler’s Diarrhea: A Condition That Increases Your Risk of Developing IBS
Here is something you should know about traveler’s diarrhea: according to experts, this digestive problem is a significant risk factor for the development of irritable bowel syndrome.
Based on a study published in the Oxford Journals, researchers found out that traveler’s diarrhea increases your risk of irritable bowel syndrome. One factor experts are looking into is the use of antibiotics during the acute phase of infectious episode. Also, the presence of bacteria that resulted to diarrhea often leads to post-infectious IBS.
The question now is, why does this happen?
The truth is experts need to conduct further studies to determine the relationship and be able to connect the dots before coming up with a definitive conclusion. Citing the same study, experts were unable to demonstrate the specific agent causing diarrhea with the subsequent development of IBS. Consequently, they were not able to look into psychological factors, which are also crucial in the etiology of IBS.
While further studies are needed, this doesn’t mean you are safe. In the meantime, take note of the tips mentioned above and keep on reading because you will learn more tips on how to protect yourself – and your tummy – against digestive issues while travelling.
This is just the beginning. The succeeding sections will tell you what other digestive issues you might experience when you travel abroad.
4. Constipation and Travelling: A Lethal But Not-So-Happy Combination
This time, you don’t have to spend the entire time in the bathroom, which is good. Apparently, not being able to let go of the toxins inside your body doesn’t make it pleasant. The truth is constipation or difficulty to have bowel movement could lead to gas, bloating, pain and discomfort.
You might say that it is hard to stick to your usual schedule of sitting on the throne before heading out. Since you are in a vacation, your bowel movement schedule takes a step back and triggers constipation.
Thankfully, you can address this by trying the following techniques:
- Drink lots of fluids, particularly eight to 10 glasses of water daily.
- Include fiber in your meals
- If you feel the need to go, go ahead and do it. Don’t try to hold your poop off since it will trigger constipation.
- As much as possible, follow your diet as if you are at home. Any drastic changes in your diet could result to constipation.
5. The Gas-ing Game: Another Digestive Problem That Usually Comes With Travelling
You are in a bus full of strangers from different nationalities for a day tour. Suddenly, you felt the need to “step on the gas” and couldn’t hold it any longer. If only you’re at home, then this shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, you are hundreds of miles away from home and releasing gas won’t be the best idea, especially if there are strangers around.
Passing out gas can be uncomfortable, painful, and embarrassing. This could get worse if you are lactose intolerant and you added dairy in your diet.
Aside from this, the following foods could cause excessive gas so make sure you avoid them during your trip:
- Vegetables like artichoke, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus
- High fiber foods
- Milk and other dairy products
- Soda and other carbonated drinks
6. Heartburn: A Condition That Will Follow You Wherever You Go
Medical dictionary defines heartburn as burning pain in your chest, just behind the breastbone. Contrary to its name, heartburn is a form of indigestion caused by acid regurgitation into your esophagus.
Here’s the thing: heartburn is willing to pay a visit even if you are away from home. Since vacation time equates to eating, it has more reason to take over your body.
Check out these tips to help you manage heartburn while on a trip away from home:
- Eat small meals, especially before going to bed.
- Don’t or at least minimize intake of alcohol.
- Avoid smoking.
- Stay away from foods that trigger your heartburn.
7. IBS and Travelling: How to Make the Most Out of Your Vacation
Here’s the truth: travelling, regardless if it’s for leisure or business, and IBS are two concepts that often don’t go well together. Aside from the irregular and sometimes painful bowel symptoms, you will never know when IBS symptoms will strike. This uncertainty could cause stress, fear, and tons of embarrassment because of your inability to control the symptoms.
Let me tell you something: you can still manage IBS even if you are in a foreign place.
Tips to Manage IBS While Traveling
- Pack your own survival kit. This should have your medications, a change of clothes, tissue, wipes, and alcohol just in case nature calls.
- If travelling by plane, request the attendants that you will be seated near the restroom for easier and faster access.
- Avoid eating food and drinks that could trigger IBS symptoms while on board.
- Always ask about where the nearest restroom is, just in case.
- When eating in a foreign land, stick with foods that you are comfortable to eat. Save the experimentation once you get back.
Travelling with IBS may be challenging since you will never know when it will pay a visit. Keep these tips in mind to make the symptoms more manageable.
It would be easy to set aside and go through the discomfort. After all, you don’t travel often so you want to make the most out of your trip. Unfortunately, this could lead to more complications, which you will learn more about below.
8. What You Should Know: Health Complications for Untreated Diarrhea
Let’s say diarrhea strikes and you didn’t pay attention to it. You will go home anyway and just seek treatment where you are comfortable. That’s fine.
However, if not treated promptly, this could lead to various health complications like:
- Dehydration, which makes it difficult for your body to function normally
- Drop in blood pressure due to loss of fluids and electrolytes
- Kidney failure
- Toxic megacolon wherein your colon is unable to expel gas and stool
- Bowel perforation due to extensive damage to the lining of your large intestine
In worst cases, untreated diarrhea may lead to death especially if not treated promptly.
Apparently, it doesn’t end there. Read the succeeding sections to know what other health complications you are subjecting yourself to if you don’t get treatment as soon as possible.
9. Get to Know the Health Complications that Comes with Untreated Constipation
Constipation sounds like a simple and manageable condition. This is even more acceptable when travelling since you don’t have to hop from one restroom to another.
Unfortunately, constipation is not a laughing matter or something that you treat lightly. Otherwise, you might experience the following conditions:
- Hemorrhoids or swollen veins in your anus, which puts you at a higher risk if you have IBS.
- Anal fissure wherein large or hard stool could cause tiny tears in your behind.
- Fecal impaction or hardened stool stuck in your intestine.
- Rectal prolapse or intestine that protrudes from your anus.
What’s the bottom line? Even when in a different place, make sure you get enough water and fiber content to make bowel movements easier for you. Stick to your already healthy lifestyle regardless of where you are.
10. Heartburn: A Medical Condition You Should Not Ignore, Or Else –
Heartburn doesn’t seem to be a serious medical condition, especially if it doesn’t happen often. However, if you experience heartburn more than once within the week, it is best to seek professional help to identify the cause and provide you with appropriate treatments. Otherwise, heartburn could lead to GERD and eventually lead to:
- Damage to your esophagus such as esophagitis, esophageal stricture, and esophageal ulcers.
- Barrett’s syndrome.
- Tooth decay and other oral health problems.
- Breathing issues.
You don’t have to go through these complications, especially when you are in a new, foreign place and simply want to enjoy the scenery and what the place has to offer. There are ways to prevent this, which you will learn more about later in the article.
11. A Condition You Can’t Run Away From When It Comes to Travelling
Fact: whether you are a candidate for IBS or not, stress will always find a way to knock at your hotel room even if you are out on a vacation.
Think about this: you are in a foreign land with no idea of what is going on around you. There is a possibility you might get lost, everything else is new, and their food is something you saw for the first time in your life. These situations could be stressful, thereby increasing your risk of digestive issues.
The best way to combat this: relax. You know your body more than anyone else so make sure to stick to your normal and healthy diet even outside of your home. Don’t forget to decline the offer to try new cuisine in a nice way.
Here’s the good part: you can avoid these bathroom-friendly situations even while you are on vacation. Check out the tips below on how to make the most out of your trip without worrying about your rumbling tummy.
12. Water: Your Ultimate Solution to Your Tummy Situation
Fact: water is perhaps the best drink around. It contains zero fat, zero calories, and comes with tons of health benefits. One of them is to ensure that your body is in its best shape even when in a different place.
Here’s the thing: staying hydrated is important to prevent diarrhea and constipation, especially during travels. At the same time, it minimizes the risk of dehydration, which is something you don’t want to happen when in a foreign land.
The challenge is this: how to maintain eight to 10 glasses of water everyday when travelling.
Tips to Increase Your Water Intake
- Always bring a water bottle with you wherever you go.
- Bring extra bottles of mineral water just in case buying one is expensive.
- Drink a glass of water before, during, and after meals.
- Consume complimentary water from the hotel you are staying at.
- Instead of coffee, juice, or other beverages, simply request for water.
The bottom line is to drink as much water as you can and your stomach will reward you for sure.
13. Watch What You Eat And Make Your Belly Happy
You might be tempted to try different cuisine and experience what the specialties are in a particular place. However, this could spell disaster too, especially if you are not too careful.
Before you eat and indulge for experience, here are tips to remember to minimize your trips to the bathroom:
- Avoid uncooked fruits and veggies without their skins. Otherwise, eat uncooked fruits and vegetables that you peeled yourself.
- Check if the meat is completely cooked.
- As tempting as it may be, check the ingredients and pay attention to the method of cooking before buying street food.
- Say no to ice, unless you are sure that it is made of filtered water.
- Watch out for unpasteurized dairy foods to avoid bugs from creating havoc in your stomach.
More importantly, take note of your triggers and adjust your meals accordingly. This will minimize bathroom situations while on a vacation. This leads you to the next tip.
14. Don’t Forget to Pack Healthy Snacks
If you want to reduce your risk of stomach problems, then here is a simple solution for you: pack your own healthy snacks. The good thing about packing your own snacks is that you are sure of what you are getting. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about the effect of the food you will eat.
When packing your snacks, make sure you choose the healthy path. Trail mix, grain-rich granola bar, and dried fruit are among your best options. These foods are high in fiber, but not too high that will make you run to the bathroom every 30 minutes. At the same time, you have a cheaper alternative during snack time instead of going for street foods.
Place your snacks in a zip-lock so it won’t take too much space in your bag.
15. Never Leave Home Without Your Travel Buddy
Probiotics are live microorganisms or bacteria, which are similar to the microorganisms found in your gastrointestinal tract. It comes in variety of forms:
At present, experts are looking into the role of probiotics in managing IBS and other digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel disease, infections and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. In fact, preliminary evidence showed that probiotics help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics and infections. Consequently, it improves IBS symptoms too.
Here’s the truth about probiotics: experts need to conduct further studies to determine its effect in the digestive system. In the meantime, it won’t help if you bring your supply to maintain balance in your digestive system’s natural flora.
Take it one capsule per day as your preventive measure while you are on the road.
16. Ask: It’s Your Ultimate Weapon to Prevent Trips to the Bathroom
Admit it. Unless someone tells you what it is, you are shy to ask what’s in the dish, especially if you are in a foreign country. After all, you don’t want to offend anyone or think that you are just a Westerner who looks down on other people.
Apparently, asking is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to minimize digestive problems. It makes you aware and informed, which could be beneficial to your health. At the same time, it makes your trip less hassle since you don’t have to worry too much about stomach issues.
Don’t feel embarrassed or guilty to ask the ingredients in the dish or how a certain street food is prepared. It’s okay to ask where the nearest bathroom is or make certain requests like being seated near the restroom just in case IBS or other digestive issues visit your body. This way, you will be able to make the most out of your trip instead of spending it inside the bathroom.
When you are on a vacation, the last thing you need is to visit one bathroom to another. It doesn’t happen often, so you want to make the most out of it – and visiting bathrooms is not part of the itinerary.
Apparently, there will always be risks involved in travelling no matter how careful you are. In that case, take note of these 16 tips and tricks to minimize your risk against digestive issues. Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated, stick to healthy diet, and watch what you eat carefully to minimize digestive issues when travelling.