How to Avoid “Traveler’s Tummy” and Protect Your Gut Health
April 9, 2024
By Mia Barnes

Traveling sounds like the best way to spend your time off until you experience “traveler’s tummy,” turning your vacation into a spiral of digestive concerns. If you’ve been in and out of the bathroom after eating a local delicacy on the street, you’ve likely eaten contaminated food. This condition often manifests as diarrhea, indigestion and constipation. Learn some valuable tips to protect your gut while traveling and maximize your time off.

Common Causes of Traveler’s Tummy 

The primary causes of digestive distress are the contaminated foods and drinks you ingest. Other known factors are changes in eating habits and a weakened immune system brought on by the stress of long-haul flights and new surroundings. Thankfully, it rarely becomes serious and improves within one to two days without treatment. Watching what you put into your body while en route is essential to stay healthy. You may also carry digestive medications if you visit a high-risk area. 

Tips to Avoid Traveler’s Tummy

People may experience bloating, stomach pain, heartburn and other digestive symptoms. Here are helpful tips to protect your gut while traveling. 

1. Choose safer foods to eat

While it’s a great idea to experience the unique flavors of street foods and local delicacies, choose a restaurant that prepares what they serve hygienically. Examine the premises, ensure servers are appropriately dressed and glance at the kitchen to ensure items are prepared properly.

In addition, opt for cooked dishes instead of raw. Cooking can eliminate bacterial hazards like staphylococcus aureus and E. coli found in unwashed fruits, uncooked meat and unpasteurized dairy. 

2. Stay hydrated

Not all parts of the world can access safe drinking water, so be conscious about your beverages. Many people get their water source from a stream or tap that may contain bacteria they’re not used to. They sterilize it by boiling, so unless it’s been heated, politely refuse any water offered to you. 

Also, be wary of cold drinks that may include unsterilized ice cubes or sliced fruits washed with contaminated water. Instead, order steaming hot beverages and get clean bottled water at convenience stores. Stay hydrated to prevent constipation and gut concerns, but ensure you drink safely.

3. Get enough shuteye

Sleep is important for the immune system and gut health. Studies have found that lack of sleep can interrupt gut microbes and increase stress hormones and inflammation, leading to digestive issues. 

Getting adequate rest in a new environment might be challenging, especially if you’re in a place with a different time zone. One tip is to adjust your circadian rhythm by following the new day and night cycle. Force yourself to stay awake until it’s nighttime. Moreover, remember to set the room temperature to 60-67° F to create a conducive environment for sleep. 

4. Eat foods loaded with fiber

Soluble dietary fibers from vegetables and fruits help regulate the gut flora. They are processed into short-chain fatty acids that lower the incidence of gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome. Fill up with these beneficial foods. Include fruits, whole grain rolls and cereals in your breakfast for their fiber and other nutritional content to improve your tummy. Add some lean meat to your lunch and dinner to maintain a healthy diet while on the road.

5. Exercise 

A change in location means a shift in routine, which can deprioritize physical activities. Unless you’re walking a lot and spending several hours outdoors, sticking to your fitness routine is essential because it’s good for your gut. Growing evidence points to the connection between the gut microbiome and cardiovascular exercises. Longer and higher-intensity workouts allow oxygen to travel to the brain and bloodstream, creating a suitable environment for good bacteria to grow. It may shield you against digestive effects when on the move. 

Protect Gut Health While Traveling

Flying to and being in a new place for a few days affects your physiology, including gut health. The disrupted circadian rhythm can lead to various troublesome symptoms, ultimately affecting your digestive system. Watch what you eat and drink so you don’t accidentally ingest microorganisms that cause diarrhea, constipation and indigestion. Sidestep a traveler’s tummy and enjoy your time off.

Related Posts

Persian Herb Platter with Feta Whip (Sabzi Khordan)

Persian Herb Platter with Feta Whip (Sabzi Khordan)

Nowruz, the Iranian or Persian New Year Celebration, centers around the spring equinox. Rooted in the Zoroastrian religion, Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years by people from all over Western, South, and Central Asia, as well as throughout the Black Sea...

About the Author

Mia Barnes
Bio: Mia Barnes is a health and wellness freelance writer with a passion for providing safe, healthy, and practical travel and lifestyle tips. Mia is also the Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind Magazine, an online healthy living publication.