It’s that time of the year – the holiday season – you pack cases, children, dogs, into cars and planes, chase the sun, a sandy beach, a handy ice cream hut/cocktail bar and of course you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
As much as you long for a break, away from the normal pressures of everyday life, holidays can play havoc with your digestive system. Heat itself can swell the gut, capillaries expand and the bacteria/yeast organisms that thrive on sugar/starch multiply and release more gas. Then there’s the stress; the getting to and from your vacation destination can be fraught with tension; juggling children, flight cancellations, traffic jams, we’ve all been there. When you arrive there’s no guarantee your accommodation will provide the R&R you crave.
I remember settling into a B&B room with my daughter once when she suddenly screamed and jumped out of bed. There were spiders, more than one and she suffers from Arachnophobia. Let’s just say it took a while to catch the creatures and set them free.
A ‘regular’ digestive system craves stress-free routines and holidays rarely provide that. More than 100 million nerve cells line the gastrointestinal tract from oesophagus to rectum called the enteric nervous system, ENS. The ENS communicates with the brain via the Central Nervous System and vice versa. When under stress, you release more Cortisol and the brain influences the intestinal tract accordingly. Conversely dysbiosis in the microbiota (colonies of gut bacteria) can influence the release of more Cortisol and symptoms of anxiety and depression back to the brain through neuro transmitters. The brain can affect the motility of the gut and the gut can send messages to the brain of well-being or unease. It basically means holidays can trigger constipation or/and diarrhoea.
Maybe the motor home/tent/B&B/hotel/condo/cottage/villa plus pool is perfect, everything you anticipated and more, the next hurdle is food. If you cannot take your own supplies, or if you run out, you are stuck with whatever the establishment/local shops/restaurants provide. You may be lucky, you may have gluten-free/dairy free/sugar-free/organic options or delicious home-grown food on tap, but it’s more than likely you don’t. You are subject to whatever is available. Remember, most establishments tend to buy (in bulk) the cheapest version of ready-made/processed foods.
However, you’ve decided you don’t want to be worrying about what you eat when you’re away. This is your holiday godammit and you’re going to eat/drink whatever you want, when you want. For example; you’re racing to catch a plane your stress levels are high, the need to eat is extinguished, you don’t feel hungry. Then, you’re on the plane settling down in your window seat, your appetite returns, all that’s on offer is the in-flight menu. You choose the pizza twists and gin and tonic, which set off a chain reaction of awfulness.The “bad” bacteria have a field day feasting on the sugar/starch and your stomach struggles to digest processed food in a pressurized air cabin. You have bloating and indigestion and you’ve not even arrived at your Air B&B.
As a tip, Ginger can reduce nausea and help promote digest juices as well as soothe, motion sickness.
Before you regret booking the five-star hotel on Lake Maggiore, there are strategies to help you survive and also allow a little indulgence. When you first arrive at your holiday destination give your brain/gut time to adjust. Avoid alcohol and stick to simple foods – choose veg/salad, and proteins that have been steamed or poached. Eat less rather than more. It’s probably hot and you just don’t need to ingest as many calories to keep warm. Go for a gentle walk or swim. You will need to rehydrate, drink water but also remember black/green tea is rich in flavonoids and can have a ‘cooling’ anti-oxidant effect on the body. Avoid fried foods or rich meals cooked with alcohol, or cream/dairy. Remember to take your time chewing foods before you swallow. By the second day your body may be able to tolerate a more varied diet including a glass of red wine, which again, is high in flavonoids, but keep it simple. Choose more vegetables, fruits and herbs over starch and proteins. However, if you are in a country where water quality is poor or/and hygiene preparation is questionable, stick to bottled water/drinks and cooked foods. It’s just not worth picking up a nasty bug from a lettuce leaf rinsed in foul water. If you feel your tummy reacts, revert to foods that are easy to digest – mashed/puréed/smoothies etc. If possible, you can always try a cleanse day of wonderful freshly squeezed juices. Always check out local specialities. Real Greek yoghurt, for instance, is delicious and is made from the milk of sheep or goats that roam the hills and forage on herbs, flowers and grass. It is full of good bacteria which is heaven for your gut. Whatever country you’re in try their locally sourced raw organic honey. It can help assuage a sweet tooth as well as feed you anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins.
BEST HERBS TO HELP YOUR GUT WHEN TRAVELLING
(Cooked with foods, or added to salad)
Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamon, cloves, oregano, artichoke, dandelion
peppermint, cumin, fennel, dill, tarragon, parsley.
BEST FOODS/DRINKS TO HELP YOUR GUT WHEN TRAVELLING
Travel proof probiotics
Locally sourced natural yogurt, preferably goats/sheep
Fruit for breakfast (peel off skins if not organic) mango/papaya/kiwi/pineapple/figs, apricots/peaches/dates
Teas such a Green/Black which are rich in flavonoids
Nuts and seeds such as flax/chia/sunflower/sesame/hazelnuts/walnuts/almonds/pine nuts/chestnuts
A mix of vegetables celery, cucumbers, asparagus, olives, kale, beets, leafy greens, lettuce spinach, radishes
If you have a tendency to constipation when you’re away I recommend, you take a pack of gentle herbs with you. Senna can be harsh, you might want to choose herbs such slippery elm, fennel, dandelion, liquorice, rhubarb, ginger, peppermint. I keep a blend in stock at CHHC. Also, take with you, probiotics – both Optibac and Viridian, for instance, supply products fit to survive being packed in a suitcase.
If all goes haywire, remember a simple colon hydrotherapy treatment before you go away, or/and on your return, can quickly help get rid of unwanted nasties and assist the integrity of your gut. This can be combined with an infusion of good bacteria for optimum restoration of health in your intestinal tract.