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Staying well while travelling

By Denise Elliot

Getting diarrhoea, or sick in any way in a foreign country is a sure way to ruin your holiday. There are a few things that you can do before and during your holiday to ensure you return home refreshed, with renewed energy.

Treating your gut prior to leaving is a great idea, because you may expose yourself to different ‘bugs’ that your immune system has not encountered before. Probiotics are living bacteria that enhance our own health by helping establish a healthy microbiome. The microbiome is the diverse range of microorganisms in our body mainly concentrated in our digestive system that support our health, energy and digestion. All bodily systems are affected by the health of our microbiome.

If there are too many ‘bad guys’ and not enough friendly ‘good guys’ in your gut, the balance is thrown out, leading to all sorts of concerns or dysfunction and a major loss of microorganisms that can feed and nourish our microbiome. Diarrhoea of course is the one that commonly affects travellers. First and foremost it is vitally important to keep your water intake up to lessen the chance of dehydration. You should either have your own water bottle or check there has been no tampering of the lid of any bottled water you may buy.

A recent Cochrane report (published on the PubMed website) reviewed 63 relevant probiotic studies involving over 8000 people. It found that 21 out of 100 people benefited from probiotics and made them diarrhoea free after 3 days. In these studies probiotic foods (fermented) were also used, not only supplements. If a quality prepared, high dose probiotic was ingested, the figures might be even higher and lessen symptoms even quicker. Meanwhile why wait for the diarrhoea - having your gut in a good state prior to travel will lessen the likelihood of this scenario. I would suggest 4 to 6 weeks of taking a quality probiotic prior to travel - it will do you no harm - they are very well tolerated and safe for young and old. It’s like a health insurance policy. Personally I always treat my immune system with immune herbs 4 to 6 weeks prior, also at different times of the day, with a probiotic before bed and herbal support with food during the day.

Ideally take a reusable water bottle - once through security you can fill it up so you stay hydrated on the plane. While the aircrew do a great job, often the water offered is not enough or not at the right time when you might be thirsty during the night. It is best to not drink alcohol on a long haul flight but hey you are on holiday – but keep that water intake up there too. Always fill your bottle up from a reputable source.

If you have a regime of wellness support that involves vitamins, minerals, herbs etc take them with you. There is enough immune shock through travelling without altering your routine. Natural health supplements should not be a concern when travelling, but it is best to keep them all in their original bottles and declare them if in doubt. Anything in larger vessels than 100mls (skincare products and liquid supplements) need to go in your checked in luggage, as it will be confiscated from your hand luggage.

It is easy to get blasé with food when travelling and attempt to live on more snack foods – but do endeavour to have at least one good meal a day that involves some coloured vegetables.

If you want to recover from jet lag quickly - slip into the new time zone straight away - if you sleep when you get there during the day your energy will zap for longer, and may interfere with your sleep for a few nights.

Remember to have fun - travelling enhances your life however if you try and fit in absolutely everything you may come home worn out. You want to return home refreshed, so balance in your holiday is just as important as balance at home. Be flexible and any changes will pass over without extra stress. Enjoy your trips with good health.

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