Nothing puts a damper on a vacation like being at the mercy of your upset stomach. Your time in a new destination should be spent discovering new sights and diving into foreign cuisine, not looking for the next available bathroom (or sticking to crackers and ginger ale). After having major digestive issues on my last big trip abroad, I've been very adamant about getting on board with good gut-health habits for the next time around. To get the 101 on how to keep your gut healthy and happy while traveling, I reached out to chief gastroenterology fellow Melissa Hershman, M.D., R.N., B.S.N. "According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an estimated 30 to 70 percent of travelers will experience diarrhea while abroad," cites Hershman. "Water and foodborne bacteria are often the culprits, though viral infections are not uncommon, especially in large travel organizations," she notes. Here are her top tips for staving off stomach sickness, wherever your plans take you.
Keep it clean
It may seem obvious, but it is easily forgotten while you're out exploring and enjoying yourself: Always clean your hands before eating. Hershman counts pre-meal hand-washing with soap and water or sanitizer as one of the easiest things you can do to stave off stomach issues when traveling. There are many factors that will be outside of your control, but ensuring your hands are always clean before dining is entirely up to you. Carry a hand sanitizer to clean hands on the go when a sink and soap aren't readily available.
Become a "picky" eater
By no means do we advise actually becoming a picky eater, especially when exploring new parts of the world and immersing yourself into other cultures. You should, however, be knowledgable about your food choices. Variables aside, Hershman notes that "eating hot foods and sticking to washed or peel-able fruits are simple tactics to reduce the risk of transmission of infection."
Have the right meds
"Travelers should check the CDC website to determine pre-travel vaccination recommendations and consider prophylactic vaccination against hepatitis A," recommends Hershman. "Should symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting occur, it's helpful to carry over-the-counter mediations such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate, which can rapidly treat most infectious symptoms as long as not medically contraindicated."
Give your gut a boost
"Both infections and antibiotics can cause significant and sometimes lasting changes to the gut microbiome resulting in dysbiosis with lingering symptoms of bloating, pain, and loose stools," describes Hershman. "Starting a probiotic supplement or adding enriched yogurt or kefir to your diet and adding a fiber supplementation or extra green vegetables, like a daily green juice, can help to curb these changes."
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