The stress of traveling not only takes a toll on your nerves, but it can also result in something we call "travel gut." And stressful travel can occur especially around the holidays.
During travel, regular "routines" are interrupted because of excitement, apprehension, tension, or sometimes even fear.
Whether you're taking a flight, boarding a train, or on an extended road trip, your stomach is likely to be an uncooperative passenger. So we talked to an expert in nutrition and asked him about the causes and what travelers can do to ensure they spend more time exploring the outdoors and less time in the bathroom.
Daniel O'Shaughnessy is an award-winning nutritionist based in London and soon to be the author of the upcoming book, Naked Nutrition: an LGBTQ+ Guide to Diet and Lifestyle.
He answered some frequently asked questions about hitting the road and beating the dreaded "travel gut."
Gaycation Magazine: Is there a way to prepare your body nutritionally before heading out on a big trip even if you aren't health-conscious in everyday life?
Daniel O'Shaughnessy: Prepare food --- service stations and airports aren’t the best places to pick up healthy snacks. Try getting some healthy low sugar protein bars, nuts, and seeds, beef jerky, or oatcakes for example to have with you on your journey.
Hydrate - aim to get in a litre of water before you begin your journey and sip more throughout the journey (toilet breaks allowing).
Have a workout - hours being sedentary travelling means it’s good to have a workout the evening before or before you travel. It could even be a stretch or yoga class.
Is there something that happens to the body when people travel? Why do some people stop having bowel movements when they fly; is there some science behind that?
I guess there are many factors including: being in a closed space with others, being served plane food which can be high in salt and sugar and refined carbs --- you are more likely to be dehydrated --- you don’t move as much. The altitude can play a role in digestive discomfort.
How should your diet be adjusted once you get to your destination? Or should it?
Increasing fiber foods such as fruit and veg and whole grains but also many consider a magnesium supplement when travelling on a plane which can help relax the bowel (do check potential interactions with medications).
What would your advice be nutritionally for long trips in the car?
Prepare food in advance as service stations are the worst. If you need to go to a service station then try to find one with a mini supermarket in so can have something like cooked chicken with a salad. Otherwise, prep snacks as above.
What kinds of food and drink should people eat and drink before they take a long trip?
I tend to eat lightly before a long trip to minimise sluggish feelings and digestive discomfort. This is usually something low carbohydrate like a salmon or chicken salad.
On the plane, I tend to skip the food if I can and bring my own, or just have something low carb with some fruit.
Should diet be considered as much as packing the appropriate items in your luggage before traveling?
Well, most people travel for a vacation purpose so don’t make the diet ruin the fun but always pack a healthy snack selection as you don’t know what is local around you at the destination. For example, on a cruise I went to I packed protein bars, nuts, and protein powder which helped when I wanted something that wasn’t a meal or went to the gym there.
Any final advice for travelers?
A multi-strain probiotic is usually a great insurance product to get and either take or keep with you in case of any stomach upset on your travels.
For more information about Daniel O'Shaughnessy, you can click HERE.