Picture this scenario. You’ve landed in a new place – for work or for play. You’ve just had your first meal there. You get back to your hotel room, settle in, and… uh-oh. You’ve got stomach issues.
Gonna get real here: Maybe it’s gas, bloating and indigestion. Or, on the more extreme end, maybe it’s diarrhea or its equally unpleasant cousin, constipation. Whatever your symptoms may be, having gastrointestinal issues when traveling can be absolutely debilitating. As a lifelong sufferer of IBS – and acid reflux – I know that feeling of being away from home and having your tummy get totally out of whack. While I still struggle from time to time, below are some of the tips I’ve learned to help me both prevent and cope with these nasty symptoms. Read on!
UP YOUR HYDRATION GAME
To put it mildly, let’s just say I’m a very “regular” person. But the one time I do get a little backed up is when I travel – something that I know many, many other people experience, too. This is due to many reasons – a change in diet, travel conditions, lack of sleep, stress or anxiety. One tried-and-true method to staying regular is to drink a ton of water. My usual quantity is about 70 ounces, but before I travel I try and drink close to 100 ounces. I know, it's a lot. And yes, you’ll have to pee a whole bunch on the plane. But it really does make a huge difference to keeping yourself regular and, oh yeah, to feeling better, too.
SUPPLEMENT WITH MAGNESIUM
Magnesium is another great digestion helper; in fact, research has shown that magnesium deficiency is correlated with constipation. I find taking magnesium to be particularly helpful when traveling, as sometimes you’re eating food that is devoid of your usual nutrients and minerals. Added bonus: Magnesium can help calm you down and fall asleep, which is a boon for anxious, jet lagged travelers like myself.
PROBIOTICS FOR THE WIN
Taking a probiotic has changed my life and it's something I do every single day. (Thanks Amina!) But I find that when I’m traveling, I need to supplement with a probiotic more than ever. This is because we tend to shift our diets when we’re not at home, disrupting our usual routines with food that's often been prepared differently. Supplementing with plenty of “good” bacteria in our bellies can help the digestion process . I love Prescript-Assist.
SNAG SOME DIGESTIVE ENZYMES
Supplementing with digestive enzymes is another must-do for those prone to gastrointestinal issues. Similarly to probiotics, digestive enzymes ease the process from transitioning to your "usual diet" to your "travel diet," facilitating the breakdown of things like hidden gluten and casein (aka proteins found in things like dairy).
EAT SMALL, FREQUENT MEALS
Big meals are a no-no for IBS sufferers, and this adage couldn’t be truer when traveling. Your system is extra delicate right now, so take care to not overwhelm it with big, rich meals. Instead, eat 4-5 mini-meals (I aim for around 250-300 calories each) throughout the day. If this style of eating is unrealistic – say you have a big dinner out planned – be sure to order thoughtfully and chew your food slowly. Doing so will really help you gauge how full you are and prevent the dreaded post-meal bloat.
The best thing you can do for a haywire tummy while traveling is to chill out. Stress, anxiety and lack of sleep can all exacerbate stomach issues, which is why it’s super important to carve out some down time. If you’re jet setting for work, this means making an effort to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, powering down from electronics and treating yourself to mini breaks like a quick bath. Whatever you can fit in, do it. If you’re on vacation for pleasure, take my advice: SLOW DOWN. Give your body plenty of time to recover and reset, prioritize leisurely activity like reading and don’t feel guilty about sleeping in and taking frequent naps. Your stomach will thank you. Plus, hey, you're on vacation!