How to Stay Healthy While Travelling Abroad

Leona Beeson BSc (Hons) Psychology

Holidays, backpacking, honeymoons: they're all super exciting, however they can be stressful for your gut. Use our healthy travel tips to help keep your gut happy when going abroad.

How travel impacts the gut

Let's start with an introduction to the gut...

The gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, including good and bad bacteria. This bacteria influences many areas of our health, including digestion and susceptibility to disease.

When we travel, there's lots of factors that can upset our gut bacteria and cause illness. Nasty bacteria or intestinal viruses can be picked up whilst abroad, leading to upset tummies. In fact, up to 70% of travellers visiting countries with hotter climates like India, Mexico and Thailand experience tummy troubles whilst away.

Because of this, we've put together a simple list of top tips to get your travels off to the smoothest possible start and see you through your trip safely.

Top travel health tips
Stay healthy and happy whilst travelling abroad this summer

1. Pack wisely

First up, make sure you stay well whilst abroad by packing for all eventualities. Ample sun protection is always a must, as well as emergency food rations. First aid supplies, including antiseptic and after-sun relief, are also important. If you do like to travel with your daily dose of friendly bacteria too, be sure to pack a supplement that's suitable for travel and promises to survive at hotter temperatures!

2. Avoid drinking tap water

Whilst it's important to be conscious about the amount of water you are consuming, it's equally vital you are aware of any opportunities where it could be contaminated. In many countries, the water is not purified in the same way it is here in the UK. This allows bacteria, parasites and even viruses to live in the water and make us more vulnerable to getting ill. That's why it is safer to drink bottled or boiled water in many places, despite the environmental implications. A good alternative for frequent travellers too, is to leave case space for a water purifying kit.

3. Stay extra hydrated

If you become thirsty, you are already dehydrated. It is so important for your health that you keep your fluids up in warmer weather, as water loss is increased due to the higher levels of perspiration. Dehydration can cause issues throughout the whole body and will contribute further to upset stomachs, so make sure you keep sipping!

4. Use sunscreen

Getting out in the sunshine is hugely important, in order to maintain healthy vitamin D levels and improve your mood. However, we're often not used to the intense heat and UV rays we experience abroad. This means we can easily fall prey to sunburn, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke, which can wreak havoc on your gut. Make sure you spend some time in the shade each day and use plenty of sunscreen to protect your skin, your gut and even your brain from sun damage.

Beach scene with multi-coloured chairs
Wish you were here...

5. Avoid unpeeled, raw fruit and veggies

Like with the local water, we also recommend you remain conscious about the food you consume whilst abroad. This means being aware of any opportunities for contamination that your meal might have had before reaching your table. For example, unpeeled, raw fruit and vegetables will often have been washed in tap water and as a result, will carry all the same risks as drinking that water would. Therefore, we advise you stick to a cooked version of your five-a-day, or wash any raw fruit and vegetables yourselves in boiled, bottled or purified water.

6. Rest well

Your gut and sleep patterns work with with one another. When you get a poor night's sleep, particularly whilst away, it can compromise gut health. In order to stay in tip-top shape, a full eight hours is ideal.

7. Avoid ice cubes

As we now know the science behind avoiding tap water, this one will make a lot of sense. Ice cubes, unless made yourself, will likely have been frozen from tap water and again, carry all the same risks we've mentioned. Our advice? Avoid them altogether, even with your evening cocktails. On that note, it's also wise to limit alcohol intake too as this can cause a variety of potential health problems including dehydration, plus some alcoholic drinks have a high-sugar content which feeds bad bacteria in the our gut - the last thing you want to do if you're trying to avoid 'holiday tummy'!

8. Stay Active

Physical exercise is excellent for maintaining overall health, however, we often forget to keep up the exercise whilst away. Walking tours, resort-organised sporting classes or self-planned workouts outside or in the hotel gym are all simple ways to stay in shape, inside and out.