Foreign travel: How to keep our digestive system happy

Woman Forming Heart Shape on BellySome people are fortunate in never having to consider the behaviour of their digestive system but for those with a more sensitive apparatus, business travel can be the trigger to set off a nightmare of discomfort. Carol Sadler shares her tips for keeping stomachs settled.

Business travel involves high footfall locations, which means that many surfaces contain a cocktail of bacteria. Frequent hand washing, particularly before eating is vital. Disinfecting hand wipes are often invaluable; I even use them to clean airline tray tables and handsets.

Fluids are essential to avoid dehydration and the complication of constipation, but we need to be sure of a safe supply.  Buying bottled water is the simple solution, but make sure that the lid seal is intact. The inflated price of bottled water can make it a target for refilling used bottles. In one middle-east location, I’ve returned pre-used bottles three times before resorting to a canned fizzy drink to guarantee a sterile beverage.
If the locals drink the tap water, then it is probably safe to do likewise. If you are particularly sensitive, then boiling the water twice will destroy most bugs. If tap water isn’t advised for cleaning teeth then again, use boiled water or bottled water and avoid ice cubes in drinks.

Travel can involve long periods of being sedentary, on long flights or in meetings, our digestive contents can get sluggish if we don’t to keep moving. Take every opportunity to walk or climb stairs to give our bodies the muscle movement that helps avoid constipation. Check out the excellent blogs on this site by Julie Dennis with tips for getting exercise on business trips.

Sugar ingredientsFOOD SENSITIVITY
If our digestive stability is easily rocked, then keeping close to foods we eat at home is the best way to avoid trouble. It helps to eat simple foods where we recognise the ingredients and carry emergency snacks so that we can avoid items that might cause distress. If you don’t feel that the tap water is safe to drink, then salads and fruit with edible skins, will also be a risk. People with allergies should be acutely aware of reading ingredient lists, checking menus and requesting special meals when possible.

We rely on our intestinal flora of friendly bacteria to keep our digestive system happy. Topping up our supply of the good guys can help avoid our digestion being overrun by pathogens. There are many probiotic supplements available. Boots does a Digestive Support capsule with 10 billion bacteria per capsule, containing bifido and lactobacillus bacteria, plus ginger root. Their recommendation is to take one capsule per day in Europe and two per day outside Europe. This is a somewhat arbitrary guide, but we can assume that any bacteria new to our system may cause us digestive upset, the further from home we travel, the more likely we are to imbibe bacteria foreign to our system. Extra sensitive types should start these probiotics a few days before travel. I carry them with me and use if the need arises.

Healthy breakfastFIBRE
Look out for opportunities to get some fruit and vegetables, wholemeal bread or high fibre cereals. It’s easy to fall into the low residue food trap and return home constipated.

Awareness of digestive health and a few sanitary precautions should enable us to travel for business with no cares other than the buzz of the work to be done.

Author: Carol Sadler PhD
Carol is a Nutrition Consultant. She counsels in diet and lifestyle change at Surrey Cardiovascular Clinic where clients have been referred by the clinic cardiologists. Prior to this Carol worked in private practice in Dubai for nine years, where she had various media engagements including Emirates Radio 2 Lifestyle Show monthly ‘phone-in’ on nutrition topics; Gulf News Friday Magazine (weekend supplement) monthly nutrition letter answered; City7 TV appearances on Breakfast Television and Lifestyle Show commenting on nutrition topics. Contributions to local magazines, and organizations, eg Rheumatoid Arthritis Group, Grazia Magazine, Living in the Gulf magazine. She continues to write nutrition articles and blogs, recently writing for Reader’s Digest, and HASTE Academy heart health charity and provides talks on diet issues. Carol is a member of The Nutrition Society, a Registered Nutritionist at the Association for Nutrition, Registration No. 912 and a member of SENSE (self employed consultant Nutritionists group for professional development).

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