When you go on vacation, it’s quite easy to let your normal health regime slide. After all, a vacation is only for a short period of time, so it’s fun to ‘let go’ a little!
In most cases, your body can handle a brief departure from your normally healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, being in a new environment and eating new foods can be quite detrimental to your gut health. When you stray from your diet – even for a short time – your digestive system is the first to know about it. And sometimes, your immune system may be faced with unfamiliar threats which overwhelm it.
You don’t want to be suffering from indigestion or a gastrointestinal illness while on holiday! Nor do you want your immune system to be so compromised that you pick up bacteria and viruses more easily.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to safeguard your gut from the effects of new food and a change in routine. Probiotics!
One of the most common afflictions suffered while on holiday is traveler’s diarrhea. It’s thought that up to 50% of people experience this frustrating and quite debilitating problem when they leave home on vacation. Traveler’s diarrhea is usually the result of a bacterial contamination from food or water you have consumed. (1)
This is largely to do with the strength of your own immune system before leaving home, and your exposure to unfamiliar environments. Trying exciting new foods is fun, but it can also leave you worse for wear!
You see, the people living in the area you visit may be just fine drinking the water or eating their usual food, but as a visitor, your gut (and your immune system) won’t be used to it. There’s a high risk you’ll get sick simply because you aren’t used to the microbes in that particular environment.
Even more frustrating is that your symptoms can take 2-3 days to develop, so it’s difficult to know what exactly it was that made you sick! The first sign of an infection is loose stools and possibly some abdominal cramps or nausea. Vomiting or fever may develop, but this is less common.
The worst part is that your symptoms can persist for up to 10 days – even after you’ve gone home.
Coming down with the flu or a stomach bug while camping or relaxing at the beach can really ruin your precious holiday. Protecting yourself from these woes begins with protecting your gut health, and it should begin long before you leave home.
Because up to 80 percent of your immune system cells are in the lining of your gut, it makes sense to keep your gut as healthy as possible. The best way to do this is with probiotics. Probiotics support the ‘good’ bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract, keeping them nourished and functioning properly. They also help to ward off any ‘invaders’ such as pathogenic bacteria and yeasts by crowding them out. (2)
One of the main jobs of your gut bacteria is to ‘prime’ your immune cells against potential attack. These helpful bacteria let your immune cells know that a threat is nearby, and that they need to respond.
However, if you start your vacation with a gut full of unhealthy bacteria, your immune system will already be at a disadvantage. You’ll be more susceptible to potential invaders because your immune cells won’t be getting the right messages from your gut bacteria.
Scientific research has found that beneficial bacteria can not only treat traveler’s diarrhea, but prevent it from developing. Probiotics can also help to maintain your overall health and provide digestive support while you’re away from home.
A review of over 900 studies found that live bacterial cultures were highly successful in preventing traveler’s diarrhea. Most importantly, there were little or no serious adverse reactions to taking the supplements. (3)
Probiotics can also help to prevent constipation that may result from changes to your bowel routine. This is an unfortunate consequence of time zone changes, disrupted eating patterns and changes to your sleep. Dehydration from long air travel can also contribute. When your bowels get ‘blocked up’, your immune system can really suffer!
To really prepare your gut bacteria for the travel ahead, you should already be taking a probiotic supplement every day. If you haven’t, then start taking a probiotic at least two weeks prior to your departure.
Make sure it’s a high-quality, multi-strain probiotic from a reputable brand. Also ensure that you buy a brand that is shelf-stable, and that you can pack in your suitcase without refrigeration.
Probiotics manufacturers like Balance ONE make their products shelf-stable in several different ways. They use technologies like BIO-tract to freeze-dry and compress the probiotic bacteria, protecting them from the environment. They choose strains that are particularly long-lasting and hardy. And they manufacture their probiotics with a higher CFU count to allow for a small amount of degradation over time.
If you really want to enjoy your time away, make sure your gut health is up to scratch! Taking a good probiotic before, during and after your vacation can make all the difference between a great holiday and a so-so one.
You’ll also reap the benefits of better digestion, which will allow you to be a little more indulgent with new foods and treats. Best of all, you won’t have to worry about spending half your precious holiday sick in bed or sitting on the toilet!
Seek out a quality probiotic and start taking it well before your trip. Don’t forget that there are many other benefits to probiotics besides preventing travel-related illnesses – so you’ll probably want to keep taking it for life.