Spring is the season of new beginnings. It is synonymous with rejuvenation, regeneration, and renewal. As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, the itch to travel tends to come out of hibernation too. Since spring is a delightful time of the year to take a break and a trip, you’re probably used to what’s next! Typical travel preparations include choosing a spring break destination, booking a flight, finding the perfect accommodations, packing the essentials—well, you’ve done this before—but what about preparing your gut? Is that on your pre-travel checklist?
Why Travel Affects Your Gut Microbiome
Your gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem that is at the same time resilient and vulnerable. Like all ecosystems, homeostasis is maintained through the intricate relationships of its living parts set to natural rhythms of the environment. Disturbances to the ecosystem, both natural and otherwise, can cause disharmony and dysfunction. This is true of our bodily ecosystems too. Travel can disrupt your natural circadian rhythms doing more than just disrupting your typical sleep schedule. Scientists have also discovered that our gut microbiota depends on these consistent rhythms to function optimally. An unhealthy alteration of the gut microbiome, such as caused by jetlag, can also impact dysbiosis.
For many of us, travel is tantamount to leaving our everyday routines on the tarmac and embracing a more laissez-faire attitude about sleep, diet, exercise, and alcohol. So, it should not be surprising that gut lag and traveler’s belly are common maladies associated with vacation. When our gut microbiome is unhappy, the effects can be ruinous. Returning from a trip sick or depleted can also result from dysbiosis, as certain members of our gut microbiome support our immune system and metabolic function.
8 Tips to Prepare Your Gut for Traveling
Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to help prepare your gut for travel this spring break.
Establish Your Baseline
To truly understand what is going on in your gut and how you can optimize your gut for travel, it is helpful to establish a baseline. We have trillions of microorganisms in our gut, but diversity is a really important factor. At-home gut tests focus on activity in your gut microbiome and provide insights related to inflammation, richness, diversity, gut lining health, gas production, digestive processes, and more. Your Integrative Functional Health Score will drive your food and supplement recommendations, which will focus on optimizing all aspects of gut health.
Take Inventory of How Certain Foods Make You Feel
It is totally fine to indulge a bit while on vacation, but not to the extent of physical discomfort afterward. Leading up to your spring break trip, take notice of how certain foods make you feel. Are there foods that cause you to become sluggish, bloated, gassy, constipated, or unsettled? To feel your best while away, avoid anything that makes you feel the opposite.
Supercharge Your Diet
Your gut microbiome thrives on a fiber-rich and predominantly plant-based diet. That means lots of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, and whole grains should make up the core of your diet. The key to eating for gut health is to eat fresh, whole foods and avoid processed foods loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients. An added benefit of eating a diversity of fruits and vegetables is that they are loaded with vitamins and minerals that support your immune system, which you want to be optimally functioning before traveling.
In recent years, scientists have been accumulating evidence that the Western diet is drastically changing our microbiome. We are experiencing a major microbial die-off and losing our invaluable diversity of the microorganisms that we depend on to fight off pathogens, educate our immune cells, digest food, and regulate brain chemistry, among other roles. In the same way that biodiversity in the natural world is critical for the health of our planet, biodiversity in our gut is critical for our health. Through our diet and other lifestyle practices, we can restore our natural gut biodiversity.
Anticipating that while traveling you will likely not be adhering to your normal diet — to prepare your gut for spring break — clean up and supercharge your diet before your trip.
Start Taking Prebiotics and Probiotics
Taking daily prebiotics and probiotics is one of those lifestyle practices that can contribute to the restoration of microbial diversity and richness. Prebiotics are essentially food for your microbe community, and probiotics are actual live microbe cultures that contribute to your existing gut community. Taking these supplements in conjuncture with a healthy diet is an easy way to boost gut health in preparation for traveling.
Dial-in Your Circadian Rhythm
As mentioned earlier, the microorganisms that live in your gut depend on consistent rhythms. Your 24-hour master clock is located at the base of the hypothalamus and is responsible for your wake and sleep cycles, which govern different functions in the body, including energy metabolism, DNA repair, and detoxification. Those trillions of microscopic organisms in our gut also utilize this clock to perform similar functions in their bodies. Our microbiome loves consistency, especially related to sleep and eating.
To ensure that your gut microbiota is happy and healthy before taking a trip, make sure you are getting enough sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Try and maintain your regular sleep pattern as best as you can while you are away.
Sufficient daily water intake is essential for keeping your digestive system moving and supporting a welcoming environment for your beneficial gut microbes. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation, which is also a common complaint following air travel. Plenty of fluids and fiber is a winning combination for gut health.
Move Your Body
Our gut microbiome is a mirror image of ourselves, and how we live our lives directly impacts the lives of those trillions of microorganisms that call us home. In the same way that they benefit from us eating the right foods, they also benefit from us exercising. Recent studies show that exercise is linked to an increase in beneficial microbial species and supports microbial diversity. Exercise also correlates with enhanced short-chain fatty acid synthesis or postbiotics (food our gut epithelial cells, an important component of the gut lining, eat).
The best type of exercise you can do for your gut microbiome is cardio, and even small amounts yield positive results.
Consistency is Key
While the above eight tips are all great ways to help prepare your gut for travel, the real secret to gut health is consistency. Eating a fiber-rich diet, taking the right prebiotics and probiotics, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, staying hydrated, and committing to regular physical activity is necessary to maintain gut health and, in turn, holistic health. Our gut microbiome does so much for us, and all it asks in return is for consistency in its care.
The information on the Viome website is provided for informational purposes only and with the understanding that Viome is not engaged in rendering medical advice or recommendations. Viome provides this educational information to share the exciting developments being reported in the scientific literature about the human microbiome and your health. Viome products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.