Five Natural Travel Essentials

Dr Aisling Dwyer MB BCh BAO (Medicine, Surgery and Obstetrics), MSc (Personalised Nutrition)

After being cooped up for so long, we can say goodbye to evenings at home on the couch and say hello to the outside world again. Now that restrictions are being lifted in the UK and Ireland, and COVID-19 is slowly relinquishing the stronghold it has had on our lives, many of us are eagerly anticipating our next foreign holiday to catch some sun and soak up the energy and culture of a new destination.

So how do we prepare for what’s sure to be the best, or at least, the most appreciated holiday of our lives? Let’s bring it back to basics and take our cues from the natural world on how to keep us in good health as we travel. Whilst we’re dreaming of piña coladas and sandy beaches, it can be easy to forget that voyaging to a new country brings with it a whole new kettle of fish. Travelling can cause stomach problems and negatively affect our gut health. New foods, new climates, different water supply and various modes of transportation – although exciting and just what we need to shake up the hum-drum of daily life – can put pressure on our bodies. So, how do you stop an upset stomach on holidays? How best can we support our health in a natural way? Here are five natural travel essentials to keep you well and help you enjoy your coveted time away.

beach

1.Be prepared with natural travel sickness remedies

When travelling, some of the most uncomfortable symptoms must be the nausea and upset tummy that often occurs whilst getting to or from our destination. If you consider yourself a sensitive traveller, you may like to consider using ginger and/or a travel band.

Ginger is well-known for its soothing effects on digestion, helping to calm stressed stomachs and easing nausea. Try ginger tea – brew a small chunk of ginger root in hot water or, for an easily transportable option, bring a natural ginger teabag with you in your travel bag for ginger tea on the go. Ginger sweets are another convenient way to get the benefits of ginger when on the move. Another popular method to help alleviate nausea are travel bands. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, a travel band works by applying pressure at particular acupressure points on the wrist area.

2.Stay hydrated

It seems too obvious to mention but drinking enough water is key. We all know to drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day but when on holidays, with the change to our routine, potential hot, dry climate, and increased alcohol intake, we need to consider drinking more water than usual. It can be easy to miss the early signs of dehydration which if unaddressed can leave us feeling worse for wear or ill in severe cases. Early signs of dehydration include dry mouth, dark strong-smelling urine, urinating less frequently, dizziness and fatigue.

  • Keep a water bottle on you wherever you go. Although plain water is best, you can keep your fluid intake interesting by mixing it with small amounts of fresh fruit juice.
  • In countries where it is not recommended to drink the tap water, only drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes in drinks. Clean your teeth using bottled water. Contaminated water can lead to gastrointestinal infection.
  • Aim for at least two litres of water a day, more in hotter climates and if you perspire heavily.

3.Short on space? Just take coconut oil

Coconut oil is a must-have for the health-savvy traveller, as it has so many uses it can be a real space-saver in the suitcase! It can be used as a general skin moisturiser, massage oil, after-sun lotion, hair conditioner, lip balm and even as a natural deodorant! Coconut oil contains caprylic acid and capric acid is a type of fatty acid, known for it's anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties1,2. This makes coconut oil a nice natural option to soothe insect bites.

4.Maintain good hygiene

I think we are all now well-versed now on how to minimise transfer of infection thanks to living through a pandemic. It’s good to keep these fundamental hygiene practises in mind as we travel.

  • Wash hands frequently, especially before and after eating
  • Carry hand sanitiser in your bag and use frequently

Food hygiene is also really important as contaminated food is a common cause of gastrointestinal infection.

  • Avoid salad that may have been washed in unsanitary tap water
  • Take care with local cheeses and ice-cream that may be unpasteurised in some destinations
  • Peel all fruit, including tomatoes
  • Avoid food that has been left in the open for a long-time, or exposed to flies
  • Ensure all meat consumed is thoroughly cooked
  • Avoid seafood if in any doubt of its freshness

5.Support your gut health with a probiotic supplement

When we travel, we are often exposed to new microbes in our environment. The billions of bacteria and other bugs that live in our gut, known collectively as the gut microbiome, play an important role in our gut health, immune health, skin health and energy levels. Learn more by reading – All about the gut microbiome. The introduction of harmful bacteria to the gut when we travel can upset the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, which can lead to diarrhoea and other symptoms of digestive upset.

Taking a probiotic supplement can help to keep the gut microbiome in balance. The most researched probiotic strain for diarrhoea is the probiotic yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii. In a meta-analysis of clinical trials assessing the efficacy of various probiotic strains, only one probiotic strain, Saccharomyces boulardii,  was determined to be significantly effective in preventing traveller’s diarrhoea3. Healthcare professionals can read more about the research behind Saccharomyces boulardii on the Probiotics Database.

How does Saccharomyces boulardii work? S. boulardii has a sticky outer layer that attaches to pathogens in the gut, reducing their ability to colonise the intestines and encouraging their elimination. It helps keep the gut lining healthy4 and it also impacts the gut’s immune cells, helping to reduce inflammation5. Holiday-goers may like to take Saccharomyces boulardii with them on their travels.

Pro tip: The best probiotics for travel do not require refrigeration

We hope these natural health tips help to ensure that your holiday is the blissful, relaxing break that you’ve been dreaming of all year.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like to read:

What is dysbiosis?

Which probiotics are for IBS?

References

  1. Huang WC, Tsai TH, Chuang L Te, Li YY, Zouboulis CC, Tsai PJ. Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of capric acid against Propionibacterium acnes: A comparative study with lauric acid. J Dermatol Sci. 2014;73(3):232-240. doi:10.1016/j.jdermsci.2013.10.010
  2. Caprylic Acid: Coconut Oil’s Secret. https://www.healthline.com/health/caprylic-acid-coconut-oil. Accessed May 31, 2021.
  3. McFarland L V., Goh S. Are probiotics and prebiotics effective in the prevention of travellers’ diarrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Travel Med Infect Dis. 2019;27(August):11-19. doi:10.1016/j.tmaid.2018.09.007
  4. Terciolo C, Dapoigny M, Andre F. Beneficial effects of Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 on clinical disorders associated with intestinal barrier disruption. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2019;12:67-82. doi:10.2147/CEG.S181590
  5. Stier H, Bischoff SC. Influence of saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 on the gut-associated immune system. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2016;9:269-279. doi:10.2147/CEG.S111003