Okay the reality is, if you're one of the unfortunate ones to suffer from Leaky Gut, IBS or any other GI issues, chances are you're probably half looking forward to vacation. And if you're like me, you're not cooking nutritious meals while away, but relying on someone else to prepare them for you. After all, it is vacation. So you order your first meal and since it looks pretty clean on paper, you think it's safe only to find yourself in agony one hour later. The problem is, culprits lurk everywhere when it comes to food sensitivity, leaky gut and other GI issues.
So what's causing your vacation stomach?
- Dehydration. This is the number one issue when it comes to keeping things moving and functioning properly. Overindulgence in alcohol coupled with fun activities doesn't allow much time for proper water consumption.
- Routine change. This goes hand in hand with #1. Since we're not in our normal routine, the things we would typically do to keep our guts in check are compromised. If you tend to stress about the routine change, this will add another layer of anxiety which will further compromise your gut.
- Vegetable oils. Most restaurants cook their food with vegetable oils. You can learn all about why cooking with oils isn't great for our health here. When you're used to cooking with animal fat, ghee, avocado oil etc, shocking your system with anything cooked in vegetable oil will likely cause an upset.
- Overindulging. You're on vacation and you just want to have a good time so you let loose. Only this generally backfires because you have the same gut you have at home, nothing really changes just because you're on vacation.
- Lack of exercise. If you're used to working out on a regular basis and decide to completely forgo exercise, this will have an impact on digestion.
- Not eating probiotic foods. If you consume an arsenal of probiotic foods on a regular basis but don't have any on hand while on vacation, within a day or two, you will notice a difference and it's not for the better.
So what can you do?
First and foremost, don't stress. The more stressed out you are about what will happen when you're on vacation, the more gut issues you're likely to experience. I personally find if I come at least somewhat prepared and know what I need to do, I can actually enjoy my vacation and not be worried the entire time.
Here is my vacation survival toolkit.
- Make drinking water a priority. Yes, it sounds really simple but somehow, most of us neglect this one and end up dehydrated. The easiest way to get a good start on hydration is to drink a good amount first thing in the morning. Warm lemon water is very beneficial for cleaning your insides while adding a dose of vitamin C and rehydrating your cells. I recommend starting your day with a liter of water. I know that sounds like a lot but you will notice a significant difference in how you feel the rest of the day.
- Take a quality digestive enzyme. When you're about eat food that you're not used to, you have no idea how it may affect you. I find that taking a digestive enzyme before a meal to be very beneficial. "If you have any type of digestive disease such as acid reflux, gas, bloating, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, malabsorption, diarrhea or constipation, then digestive enzymes can help. Digestive enzymes can take stress off of the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and small intestine by helping break down difficult-to-digest proteins, starches and fats."
- Find out how food is prepared. I've embraced being the difficult one when ordering meals. I've become an expert at asking how food is cooked, ensuring that no short-cuts are taken and nothing extra is added. If you have a food allergy or food sensitivity, it's important to let the chef know this.
- Take a probiotic. So the thing with probiotics is they're not all created equal. There's a reason why prices vary as much as they do. They both may say probiotics on the label but while one offers 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units) and costs $10 the other may be closer to $25 or more and deliver 30 billion CFUs. While I'm hesitant to recommend a probiotic, since none of them are regulated, studies do show that adding probiotics into the diet to be beneficial. While I think the best way to get probiotics is through food, supplementing is very helpful when we can't eat the way we want to. Speaking from experience, it makes a difference for me personally and I've been an avid user for years.
- Bring some bone broth. I know, I know, yet another things to bring along but you'll be happy you did. If you're a regular bone broth drinker, don't stop while you're on vacation. Either seek a place where you can buy some or bring some from home. For additional information on the health benefits of bone broth or for recipe, click here.
- Take a magnesium citrate supplement before bed. Timing does make a difference when it comes to certain supplements. Taking a quality magnesium supplement before bed can further aid with keeping the digestive system moving. Magnesium helps to relax muscles and the digestive tract as it is basically one long muscle. In addition to helping with digestion, it's also wonderful as a sleep aid.
- Move a little or a lot. On vacation, I actually get more of a workout than I do on a regular basis. I love waking up early in the morning and going for runs, biking, swimming, etc. Whenever possible, try incorporating some sort of movement into your day, particularly if you're used to working out on a regular basis.
- Have some fiber. Whenever possible, don't forget to load up on good sources of fiber from vegetables and greens and fruits as well. It's also important to remember that when you're eating fiber, you must drink a lot of water to assist moving these foods through the digestive system. Fiber does not get absorbed by the body but is broken down in the colon by the gut bacteria. Eating too much high fiber food and not consuming enough liquids can lead to bloating and gassiness.
- Try psyllium husk. If things get pretty bad, you can always turn to a natural source of relief. Psyllium husk has shown to be effective in relieving constipation and if used for short term, can provide a great deal of benefit.
- Again, don't stress. So easy to say and so difficult to actually implement. The gut is connected to the brain via the vagus nerve, which allows the two to communicate. It's very likely that when you've experienced a stressful situation or anticipated something new, chances are you felt it in your gut. That's not an accident as research has demonstrated that the majority of the body's serotonin is actually located in the GI tract (as much as 80-90% or more). Trying to incorporate some mindfulness practices, such as meditation (which I've discussed in this post) can help to relax the mind and body, which may in turn minimize GI issues.
My other go to is Kombucha and one of the first things I did when I arrived on vacation was to find the closest place that carried it and stocked up on it for the coming days. The good thing is, most grocery stores now sell it and it's not obscure the way it once was.
Vacation is a time to unwind and leave the cares and routine of every day behind. Hopefully the above mentioned techniques can help bring a little peace of mind and allow you to truly be in the moment and enjoy your time away. Happy vacationing!