How to maintain gut health when traveling

Twalks can put you in a great state of mind and body and open the door to new opportunities for adventure and fun. However, the travel aspect itself can be a struggle. This is even more true for those who tend to get stressed before a flight or get nauseous during long car journeys. Anxiety can worsen common forms of physical discomfort, such as cramping muscles or back pain, as well as gas or constipation—all of which are often associated with travel and longer periods of stagnation and sitting.

And this can lead to problems with the intestines. “When you sit for a long period of time or are immobile, your gut motility decreases, which means the gas that’s in your gut is held in your gut and doesn’t pass,” says board-certified gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal. . , MD, FACP, DABIM. Plus, when you’re unable to get up and have a bowel movement or fart, you’re likely to experience additional bloating and discomfort.

“The second reason you’re so gassy on airplanes is specifically physics—Boyle’s law, to be exact,” says Dr. Sonpal. When you get on an airplane, the pressure placed on your intestines increases. “Boyle’s law dictates that if you observe a container filled with gas – such as a balloon or the human intestine – at a constant temperature, you will see that as the pressure around it decreases, the balloon expands and vice versa. he says.

This is why your bowel can expand and fill with gas when you are traveling and mid-flight. It also explains why you’re more prone to farts and stomach cramps during and after the flight as the body adjusts, finally releasing that trapped gas.

The good news is that you can benefit from gut health when you travel with a few simple tips. Here are a few to keep in mind the next time you’re on the road, courtesy of Dr. Sonpal.

How to maintain gut health when traveling

Drink lots of water

Hydration is especially important when you’re traveling because it can reduce gas, bloating, cramping and colic. “I tell patients to drink a bottle before the flight, during it and even after the flight,” says Dr. Sonpal. Carry your own reusable water bottle and drink water (or any hydrating fluid with electrolytes) every hour or so, and regularly throughout the day. Set a goal to start this practice the day before you travel and keep it up the day after you arrive at your destination.

Maintain a regular sleep pattern

Sleeping without a normal pattern in place can wreak havoc on your gut and digestive system. “The GI system likes predictability, so good sleep allows the colon to go to work and keep you regular,” he says. “If you don’t sleep, it doesn’t work properly and you get constipated and bloated,” explains Dr. Sonpal.

This can be difficult when traveling to destinations that are international, as there is the time difference aspect and an adjustment. However, it’s best to adjust to the rhythm of your destination if you can and maintain a typical sleep pattern and schedule that matches day and night.

Walk around and move

Walking as much as possible, or maintaining a level of activity and regular movement, can help prevent constipation and excess gas. “If you walk around, you contract the muscles in your intestines, where things in the intestines, like gas, will be released as they should and as you move,” says Dr. Sonpal. Plus, any form of movement is also good for increasing blood flow and circulation, which lowers the risk of developing blood clots or swelling in the legs and joints. This is especially important during a flight, due to the need to sit for long periods of time, the dehydrating effects of flying and higher altitudes.

Another bonus to getting up to stretch your legs? You can let off some gas discreetly. “Walking on the plane, or walking around the airport beforehand, will allow you to pass gas and possibly ease any anxiety you may feel about farting when sitting next to a stranger,” says Dr. Sonpal. Moving means you’re less likely to be labeled as aloof—or better yet, take a bathroom break and let it all out.

The same goes for long car trips as a mode of travel. Stop at a local coffee shop or explore a new area on the way to your destination, or even plan a few breaks to get some steps in.

Eat enough fiber

Eating fiber is very important for a healthy gut and digestive well-being, and you can get a nice variety with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, probiotics and prebiotics, beans and legumes.

“Fiber, all day every day, is the key,” says Dr. Sonpal. “You have to think of fiber as weightlifting for the colon, where if you miss a session, the colon won’t feel as good,” he says. Think about how your body reacts to missed weight training and how your arm and leg muscles may feel weaker over time.

“The same goes for travel and fiber, and if you miss a few days or aren’t aware of your fiber intake, you end up with constipation and then gas,” says Dr. Sonpal. A good tip: get your greens before you travel, as they are high in fiber.

“I always recommend a salad before a flight,” says Dr. Sonpal. Include other forms of fiber from easy-to-digest vegetables, as well as healthy, lean protein or fatty fish, as above, and integrate heart-healthy fat into the dressing.

An avocado-based or olive oil-based salad dressing is a good idea here, as the inflammation-reducing healthy fats are good for your body, and with avocado, you’re also getting some extra protein and fiber. . It’s a delicious thing to eat on the go—and it’ll keep your GI system humming, too.

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