Our digestive system and holidays
Ever wished that you could buy your digestive system a separate ticket and fly off on holiday to enjoy yourself without it? You many find yourself worrying and wondering:
- Will the foreign loos be too intimidating to use?
- Will you get horribly bunged up?
- Will you make it through the plane journey without having to squeeze yourself and your nervous stomach into the tiny loo cubicle in a panic?
- Will your insides react noisily and objectionably to the foreign food, to the amusement of your fellow diners?
- Will you bloat so much that you feel as if someone’s mistaken you for a lilo and pumped you full of air?
- Will the lovely new clothes you bought to set off your holiday tan, dig unmercifully into your unfeasibly expanded belly?
None of this is necessary. Make peace with your digestion and holiday in harmony with your guts with these simple tips.
1. Stay hydrated
The first rule is to ensure you up your water intake if you’re going somewhere warm.
If you’ll be drinking more alcohol than usual, take pity on your kidneys and match every alcoholic drink with a glass of water. This will reduce the likelihood of craving fatty foods afterwards, with the knock-on effects these have on your guts.
Here’s the trick, though. Don’t drink more than a small glass of anything during meals, and for 20 minutes afterwards. This may sound bizarre but I promise you it will help your digestion. You’ll have to chew your food properly rather than wash it down with drinks, and you won’t be diluting your digestive enzymes. The result? You’ll feel satisfied sooner and your digestion will be more powerful.
Tip: See if you eat less when chewing more thoroughly – it’s a great trick!
2. A fruitful diet
If you are prone to bloating and wind, the next rule to observe, if you are going somewhere with glorious fresh fruit readily available, is to avoid eating it with other food. Fruit is fabulous for you, full of skin-nourishing vitamin C, which also counters prickly heat and allergic skin reactions. It is also rich in bowel-friendly fibre and often a source of natural digestive enzymes (eat mango, papaya, pineapple and guava for this purpose).
Have it for breakfast, away from other foods. Give it 20 minutes or so to pass happily through your stomach, and then have a more substantial second breakfast if you want it, in the time-honoured manner of hobbits. This reduces any tendency to bubbling and bloating as fruit mixes with other, more robust, foods.
Tip: Melon is a proud fruit as it wants your stomach all to itself. Don’t mix it with anything else if you want the most benefit from it.
3. The problem with raw foods
If you find your guts to be ultra-sensitive when surrounded by piles of healthily fresh fruit and appetising salads, it may be that all the raw food is too demanding for your stomach. Some people just don’t have strong enough enzyme production to deal with a lot of raw food. Try going for more cooked and warm food and see if that works better for you to reduce the bubbling and gurgling from your insides.
Tip: Not everyone benefits from eating in the raw. Warm up your food for a bubble-free day.
4.The 'loo' worry
If your bowel’s normally a little sluggish, it can be worse on holiday. It’s amazing how many people are adversely affected by having to use ‘strange’ loos – often meaning any loo except their own. They may refuse to go to the loo from the moment they leave home until whenever they return. The challenge of airport, plane, coach and hotel loos may just prove too much, especially if in a country with different ideas about loo design – how disconcerting are those ones with little shelves for your poo to fall onto?
The problem is that preventing a bowel movement is very bad for your gut. You quickly feel bloated and uncomfortable, possibly experiencing abdominal twinges and embarrassing wind, and it makes the eventual bowel movement hard and painful to pass.
To counter this tendency to gum up when out of your ‘toilet comfort zone’, try a Flower Essence to deal with the emotional stresses. Bowel Essence or Confidence Essence are two possible choices.
Tip: Lighten up the load on your tummy and you won’t bring back excess (internal) baggage!
5. Beat those tummy bugs
Scared of your insides turning out? Lots of people worry about picking up tummy bugs on holiday, especially if they’re going somewhere hot with unaccustomed foods to challenge their digestion. A happy, thriving population of friendly gut flora will counter a lot of potential trouble makers, so take a digestive aid such as Molkosan Fruit to keep your insides sweet. (Molkosan Vitality is easy to travel with and comes in handy 7 day pack of sachets).
You can also take a Milk Thistle supplement throughout your holiday to support your liver, reducing the adverse effect of strange foods and the occasional alcoholic beverage that might conceivably pass your lips.
A herb called Tormentil is a useful one to keep to hand and take at the first sign of any rumblings or similar trouble. Very swift-acting, it is traditionally known for its calming effect on the guts.
When abroad, take the recommended actions such as not using ice or eating raw unpeeled fruit or eating from street stalls, if you are in the relevant countries. It is important to stay hydrated, and be careful about your water sources – bottled water may be safest. Read my article on avoiding food poisoning during summer for some more tips.
Tip: Remember that proper food poisoning can be dangerous, so if symptoms are still present after 24 hours, or you have a fever or blood in the stool, seek medical advice.
6. Top foods to ease tummy troubles
These are some foods to pick for preference when on holiday, as they are anti-inflammatory and can calm troubled tummies:
Avocados, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, ginger, mangos, apricots, peaches, nectarines, papaya, pears, pineapple, blueberries, pomegranates, figs, mackerel, herring, salmon and sardines.
7. Stress and your digestive system
All calm on the holiday front? Some people find that their digestive woes disappear on holiday. None of the niggles, bloating banished and reflux reversed leading to a happy state of affairs. If this is you, it may be that your digestive problems stem from stress. Eating breakfast on the run, bolting your lunch whilst fighting deadlines, munching through craving-driven snacks in the evening, can all leave your digestive system severely hampered in its attempts to function properly.
When you relax on holiday, taking your time over meals, enjoying the view whilst dining, thinking of nothing more stressful than whether to go for your next dip before your massage or after your yoga session, there’s nothing getting in the way of efficient digestion.
In this case, it might be worth considering taking action to bring down your stress levels and thus benefiting your digestion once you get back to your normal routine. Take a little more time to eat well and you’ll spend less time feeling ill.
Maybe a stress-relieving supplement will help? Or finding some simple breathing exercises that you can practise in odd minutes to bring down your stress levels? Cutting down on caffeine and upping your water intake will soothe your nervous system, and save you money too!
And finally, remember to take your improved digestion home with you!