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DR MEGAN ROSSI: What to eat to keep your gut healthy on holiday!

Who doesn’t need a vacation, right? But in the excitement of getting away from it all, we can sometimes forget to take good care of ourselves — including our gut — and this can be the very thing that undermines our break.

And there’s something particularly joyless about getting sick when you’re on vacation.

Problems can start on the flight itself – if the plane makes you feel uncomfortably bloated or constipated, you’re not alone. It’s something that happens to everyone, but it mostly affects the 20 percent of people with sensitive gut, including those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Essentially, the atmospheric pressure in the cabin changes as the plane rises, and this means any air trapped in your gut expands, causing that all-too-familiar bloating and pain. This air expansion phenomenon is the same reason your ears pop and your water bottle or crisp pack inflates after takeoff.

Who doesn't need a vacation, right?  But in the excitement of getting away from it all, we can sometimes forget to take good care of ourselves - including our gut - and this can be the very thing that undermines our break.

Who doesn’t need a vacation, right? But in the excitement of getting away from it all, we can sometimes forget to take good care of ourselves – including our gut – and this can be the very thing that undermines our break.

Another common travel complaint is changes in bowel habits (and we’re not talking traveler’s diarrhea, more on that later). This may be due to the simple fact that we eat different foods – great news for introducing new plant chemicals for our gut bacteria to feed on, but just like when you train a new set of muscles and they hurt afterwards, so too , can your gut.

It may take a few days for your gut to adjust to a new diet, as your gut bacteria need a new set of digestive enzymes to deal with those new plants.

Another factor is changes in our hormones such as cortisol, the stress hormone (think the stress of travel), which can speed up the transit of your food, diarrhea for some and constipation for others.

Constipation can also result from disruption of our biological clock (or circadian rhythm) when we move to different time zones.

Your gut bacteria have a circadian rhythm that can be at odds with a new time zone, affecting their normal daily production, such as hormone regulation and vitamin production.

It may take a few days for your gut to adjust to a new diet, as your gut bacteria need a new set of digestive enzymes to deal with those new plants

It may take a few days for your gut to adjust to a new diet, as your gut bacteria need a new set of digestive enzymes to deal with those new plants

It may take a few days for your gut to adjust to a new diet, as your gut bacteria need a new set of digestive enzymes to deal with those new plants

Melatonin is another hormone that takes quite a beating: it’s best known for regulating our sleep and wake cycles, it also influences our bowel movements and gut sensations. This explains why moving to different time zones can increase gut sensitivity.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your gut in the best shape possible for travel.

One option is to take a probiotic supplement (specifically 500 mg of Saccharomyces Boulardii CNCM I-745, available in health food stores and supermarkets) for a week before and during your vacation to reduce the risk of traveler’s diarrhea.

A major study published by the University of Vienna in the 1980s found that this particular type and dose of probiotics reduced diarrhea in travelers compared to a placebo group (32 percent versus 43 percent). Other strains of probiotics have shown no benefit.

Alternatively, before your vacation, it’s well worth focusing on building a diverse and therefore resilient community of gut microbes through diet to reduce your risk of gut infections. This means 30 or more different types of plants — from fruits and vegetables to whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices — per week, for at least four weeks prior to your vacation.

In the 24 to 48 hours before flying, reduce the chances of a bloated, painful gut by cutting back on a group of carbohydrates known as FODMAPs – or fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.

These carbohydrates are found in a wide variety of foods and are poorly absorbed in the small intestine; they end up in the colon, where they are fermented by the bacteria and produce gas.

This is usually a good thing, but when flying, the air expansion phenomenon means this gas is stretching the gut.

Going low-FODMAP means cutting back on wheat, barley and rye-based foods, certain types of sugar (including honey and sweeteners), beans, and some fruits (e.g. apples and peaches) and vegetables (broccoli, garlic, mushrooms) — you can learn more about good swaps on my website, theguthealthdoctor.com.

Did you know?

You can overdo it with fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut — they’re good for your gut bacteria, but can make you feel bloated. Then halve your portions for two weeks and re-evaluate. If your symptoms improve, continue with smaller portions and gradually increase them as your gut adjusts.

But be sure to reintroduce these foods once you land, as most FODMAPs are prebiotic, ie they feed good gut bacteria.

Also avoid large meals on the day you travel (and during the flight) – this will help reduce the pressure on your gut. Instead, divide your usual amount of food into five or six meals.

Before the flight, along with adequate hydration, I tend to avoid the rich and heavy meals and stick to packaged snacks, such as my low-FODMAP pea and mint hummus (see recipe in box, right), veggie sticks, and whole-grain crackers .

If you suffer from constipation or looser bowel movements when traveling, consider bringing some psyllium husk with you. This water-loving fiber (available at most health food stores) has a dual effect: it helps soften hard stools and makes looser stools thicker. Try half a tablespoon (3 g) per day mixed in 150 ml of water per tablespoon.

When you arrive at your destination, go straight into the meal plan in the new time zone and try to get your digestion going by making sure your first meal contains at least two to three different types of plants.

And if you do get traveler’s diarrhea, avoid anti-diarrhoeal medications in the beginning, as this can prolong the infection and trap the culprit in your gut. Try instead:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals – this helps by putting less strain on your inflamed gut.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, but limit foods and drinks that can stimulate the colon, such as chili, high-fat meals, coffee, and alcohol.
  • Limit your intake of FODMAPs (see above).
  • If the diarrhea is severe – when fluid is flowing ‘straight’ – use an electrolyte solution (such as Dioralyte) to stay hydrated and maintain levels of important body salts, which help maximize fluid absorption from your gut.
  • Consider psyllium husk (again!) – it not only softens the stool, but also thickens your stool.

Traveler’s diarrhea is usually short-lived, clearing up within three to five days, and most cases are mild, so medical treatment isn’t necessary — but if you’re concerned, go to a pharmacy.

The good news is that holidays are generally a big win for your gut. The majority of my clients with underlying gut symptoms report dramatic improvements on vacation – thanks to that connection between your gut and brain.

A happy and relaxed brain means a happy and relaxed gut.

Try this: Hummus with peas and mint

Creamy, minty and free of garlic and onion – a rarity in the world of dips – this is a great lower FODMAP option (see main article) to enjoy before a long-haul flight, or as a mid-air snack.

Makes 6 servings

  • 270 g peas
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Handful of fresh mint
  • Twist of pepper

Grind the peas, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, oil and salt with 60 ml water in a blender until semi-smooth (one minute). Add the mint and the pepper.

Blend for another minute, leaving some of the texture of the mint leaves.

AskMegan

What effect does adhesive cream used to fix dentures on the intestines have?

F. Caba.

This is a brilliant question, and I’m sure a lot of people will wonder. It’s similar to what happens when you accidentally swallow gum — which, despite the old wives’ tale, doesn’t get stuck in your gut or take seven years to digest.

Most glue (and gum) travels through your system undigested and passes into your stool within 36 hours. This is because one of the main ingredients is a vegetable chewing gum, cellulose gum, which humans (and our gut bacteria) don’t digest very well.

It’s still worth trying to keep the amount you swallow to a minimum, as the product typically contains other ingredients, such as thickeners and artificial sweeteners, which in large amounts may not be good for your gut bacteria. But don’t stop using them — a 2022 review article in the Journal of Dentistry showed that dental adhesives can improve bite force and chewing performance, meaning you’re more likely to enjoy a wider variety of gut-loving foods like nuts. and seeds, with a positive effect on your gut health.

Get in touch with Megan Rossi

Email drmegan@dailymail.co.uk or write to Good Health, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT — please provide contact details. dr. Megan Rossi cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Answers should be taken in a general context; Always consult your doctor in case of health problems.

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