How to Avoid Grumpy Gut while Travelling?
Travelling and Gut Issues - Overview
Travelling gives people a much-needed break from their normal daily routine. However, travelling can also take a toll on a person's gut and lead to irregular/uncomfortable bowel movements and digestive issues.
The gut - the gastrointestinal tract (GI) or digestive tract - refers to the long tube comprising an organ system which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines and anus. The function of the gut is to absorb and digest food, so that energy and nutrients can be extracted and absorbed, and eliminate the waste material as feces.
Improper functioning of the gut can trigger problems like diarrhoea, constipation, heartburn, gas, nausea, and bloating. These problems can be very bothersome while travelling because any journey - undertaken by a car, train, plane, or some other mode of transport -- can stress the mind and the body, especially the digestive system.
The gut generally tends to get grumpy while travelling because of small and uncomfortable transportation seating, intake of strange new foods, overeating, insufficient water intake, and a weakened immune system due to exposure to germs and bacteria.
Grumpy Gut while Travelling - Ayurvedic Perspective
According to Ayurveda, the gut gets grumpy while travelling because any of the three doshas of the body -- Vata, Pitta, and Kapha -- can be thrown out of balance. However, generally, a grumpy gut while travelling is linked to the aggravation of the 'Vata' dosha.
Ayurvedic experts believe that travelling can unsettle people by taking them out of their comfort zone (home), disrupt their daily routine, and pull them across different time zones. As per Ayurveda, car trips, train rides or aeroplane rides propel the body through space at high speeds, and disturb the elements of air and space in the mind and the body. Hence, travelling can introduce a light, spacey quality into the mind and the body; thereby throwing the Vata dosha out of balance.
Tips to Avoid Grumpy Gut while Travelling
From the Ayurvedic viewpoint, grumpy gut while travelling can be easily avoided by ensuring the smooth functioning of the digestive system and a strong immune system. Ayurveda suggests several measures for keeping the 'Vata' dosha balanced during long-distance travel, so that the gut can function properly without causing any discomfort.
Some of the most Useful Tips for avoiding a Grumpy Gut while Travelling are:
1. Plan your Travel Diet
It is important to plan your travel diet carefully, so that you eat the right foods for a healthy gut. You must ensure that your meals comprise cooked green vegetables, healthy snacks, dry fruits like raisins, and fibre-rich foods including fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Avoid processed, sugary, and sodium-heavy foods.
2. Eat in Moderation
While travelling, you should always eat in moderation, especially while trying out new foods at restaurants. Over-eating can lead to a grumpy gut as it causes the stomach to stretch excessively, thereby resulting in uneasiness and pain. By eating in moderation, you can avoid problems like indigestion and food obstruction which may sometimes require emergency medical care.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Increased intake of water can also help you avoid a grumpy gut while travelling. Water can eliminate toxins from your system, reduce bloating, facilitate the transportation of food and nutrients through the body, and prevent headaches or body aches. Since dehydration or lack of sufficient water intake can cause constipation and disrupt the gut, it is important to drink plenty of water while travelling. But, the intake of sodas, sports drinks, and juices should be avoided as they contain sugar, dyes, caffeine, and artificial flavours. Alcohol consumption should also be avoided as it can have a dehydrating effect on the body.
4. Cook your own Meals rather than Eating out at Restaurants
You should try to cook your meals yourself at your hotel or resort, instead of frequently eating out at restaurants during the course of your travel. Buy fresh vegetables and groceries from nearly local markets to ensure healthy eating even when you travel. Restaurant food and other processed foods/fast foods should be taken only occasionally because their regular intake can have an adverse impact on the digestive system, and cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
5. Prevent Constipation
Constipation is a common issue which can cause immense discomfort while travelling. Constipation should be prevented by ensuring regular bowel movements, and not ignoring the urge to go to the washroom. Drinking lots of water can also prevent constipation and GI discomfort. Moreover, for tackling mild constipation, it is advisable to include Ayurvedic herbal formulation called 'Triphala' or some other laxative in your travel kit.
6. Do Exercise or some other Physical Activity
Exercise or other types of physical activity -- like Yoga, walking, cycling, or dancing -- can improve the digestive process and ensure that you don't have a grumpy gut while travelling. Exercise helps in burning fat and calories, and can also reduce stress as well as uplift your mood. Hence, it is recommended that some sort of exercise should be done even while travelling.
7. Take Rest and Relax
You should get plenty of rest while travelling. Rest and relaxation can give stomach the time to digest the food properly and keep pace with your hectic travel schedule. Over-exhaustion and lack of rest/sleep can adversely affect the functioning of the gut, especially when you are trying out new foods during your travel.
8. Maintain a Consistent Routine
Try to maintain a consistent routine while you are travelling to other places, so that the functioning of gut is not affected excessively. Even though it may sometimes be difficult to have a routine during travelling, you should try to eat at regular times, drink sufficient water, plan your sightseeing visits at suitable times during the day, and sleep properly at night. Consistency of routine while travelling can help prevent common digestive problems.
Grumpy gut while travelling can be avoided if you are careful with your eating and drinking habits at a place away from home, maintain a light exercise routine, and get enough sleep to give rest to the body. However, if you suffer from severe stomach pain, severe constipation, vomiting, fever, bloody diarrhoea, or other alarming symptoms while travelling, it is advisable to consult a medical practitioner or healthcare provider immediately.