Traveling and Gut Health: Tips for Happy Tummies on the Road


Posted By Author on February 6, 2024

Relaxing by the beach or jet-setting to a new corner of the world is what vacation is all about, but digestive problems can hinder even the best-laid travel plans.

The worst way to take the fun out of any trip is by spending too much time in the bathroom or having an upset stomach that leaves you less than ready for adventure. 

Traveling by air, land, or sea adds stress to your digestive system and overall body, leaving you susceptible to a number of gastrointestinal issues.

At Charleston GI, we believe that a highly anticipated trip is not the time to worry about digestive issues. Whether you’re venturing to a beach close by or traveling halfway across the world, we are here to help! Keep reading to learn how to keep your gut healthy while traveling from our Charleston Gastroenterology specialists!

Common Causes of Stomach Issues While Traveling

Experiencing discomfort while on vacation can be due to many different factors, from stress to dietary changes. Here are some of the most common causes of an upset stomach while traveling: 

Overindulgence 

Traveling is more than experiencing a new location – it’s also about trying your fair share of new foods. Eating out at local restaurants or consuming foods unfamiliar to your body can mean consuming more sugar, caffeine, and greasy foods than your body is accustomed to resulting to unhealthy gut. The disruption to your gut bacteria can lead to bloating, constipation, or traveler’s diarrhea. 

Not Drinking Enough Fluids 

The number one item on every vacation to-do list is exploring, whether that be visiting the museums in your European escape or venturing off the beaten path of your national park excursion. Not drinking enough fluids can slow down digestion, causing stools to harden and become painful when a trip to the bathroom arises. 

Anxiety and Stress of Traveling

Depending on where your adventure takes you, shifting time zones can be a difficult adjustment for your body. Interrupted sleep schedules, eating at different times (and unfamiliar foods!), and less rest can all add stress to your digestive tract. 

Pressure Changes in the Air 

Flying can be a triple whammy when it comes to digestive issues. Stress, dehydration, and pressure changes are a recipe for bloating and constipation in the air. Drinking carbonated beverages or gassier meals during or before your flight makes it more likely you’ll experience bloating and constipation in the air. 


Five Tips on How to Keep Your Gut Healthy While Traveling 

1. Stay Hydrated!
Water is the lifeline to your digestive tract, helping to break down food, move waste through your system, and absorb essential nutrients. Staying hydrated can reduce your risk of constipation while traveling, keeping you on the move and ready for the journey ahead! 

2. Eat Fiber-Rich Foods
How do you keep your bowel movements regular and stop yourself from having an upset stomach while traveling? A high-fiber diet! Fiber can not only keep your bowel movements on track, but can help with abdominal pain, bloating, and other stomach problems. The best sources of fiber include: 

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Beans

    The key to a high-fiber diet is to move slowly and steadily, as too much fiber can lead to bloating and discomfort if you don’t give your body time to adjust.

3. Go, Go, Go! 

Whether you are getting to your vacation spot by car or by plane, the act of traveling can involve a lot of sitting. Light or moderate exercise can increase blood flow to the muscles in your digestive tract and reduce the risk of constipation. Don’t feel like you need to hit the hotel gym every day – you’re on vacation, after all! Instead of hopping in a taxi, explore your area by walking to boost your digestive health. 

4. Say Goodbye to Overeating

Trying new foods is part of the experience, but it is important to stay mindful of your eating habits. Overeating causes the stomach to expand, putting undue pressure on other organs and increasing abdominal discomfort. Overeating can also cause the contents of your stomach to leak into your esophagus, causing heartburn. Avoid the risk of overeating by: 

  • Chewing your food slowly to feel fuller 
  • Getting a smaller portion size by sharing a meal 
  • Drinking water before, during, and after meals 

5. Managing Stress 

Stress can arise in many ways, especially when exploring an unfamiliar place. When you feel emotional or physical stress, your body enters a state of “fight or flight.” This shift can suppress your immune response and digestion, and increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar production. 

Chronic exposure to stress can cause inflammation to your digestive system, causing abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. While stressful situations cannot always be avoided, there are ways to relieve stress and keep your digestive system running smoothly: 

  • Stay active and keep your body moving
  • Practice deep breathing to relax your mind and body
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Give yourself a travel buffer – arriving early to the airport can reduce the stress of waiting in line or missing a potential flight 

Concerned about Stomach Issues While Traveling? Contact Charleston GI! 

A vacation is about a fun-filled adventure – so the last thing you want to worry about is running into digestive issues along the way!

Here at Charleston GI, we aim to create a stress-free environment and help you on your path to a healthy gut. At our GI clinic near you, our board-certified gastroenterologists can help address your digestive tract concerns before you travel and discuss ways to provide relief designed specifically for you. 

Are you still experiencing stomach issues after following these tips? Schedule an appointment with a GI doctor near you to rule out any underlying gastrointestinal conditions. 

We have four convenient Charleston area locations to choose from, in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and Carnes Crossroads.

There’s no referral needed, so schedule your appointment today, with Charleston GI! 

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