It’s that time of year again. The temperatures are climbing, school is wrapping up, and anticipation
lingers in the air. Summertime is also when many people choose to take vacations. Read on to find some
easy ways to keep your digestive system healthy while you’re relaxing.
- Keep eating that fiber!
With the changing seasons and changes in normal routines, it can be hard to maintain your usually
healthy diet. Don’t forget to include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet,
especially when you’re traveling. This will help keep your bowels regular, as well as supply your body
with the vitamins and minerals it needs. Handy tip to do this on the go: order a side salad with meals
and a fruit cup with breakfast.
- Make sure your immunizations are up to date before you venture outside the United States.
Many countries do not have the same sanitation standards for food preparation as we follow here in the
United States. Hepatitis A is transmitted by eating contaminated food. While uncommon in the United
States, it is much more common in other areas of the world. The good news is, there is a vaccine
available to prevent it. Not sure whether you’ve received the vaccine in the past? Ask your doctor to run
a blood test to find out. If you need the vaccination, it consists of two injections six months apart.
- Wash your hands often.
The most common infectious gastrointestinal illnesses in the United States are viral. These are most
commonly spread the same way the common cold is: infecting yourself from something on your hands.
Viral GI illnesses are not life threatening for most people as long as dehydration is prevented (small
children, elderly, and people with other diseases are at higher risk for complications from a viral GI
illness) and will resolve on their own. That doesn’t change the fact that getting one is miserable. Better
to prevent it!
- Drink plenty of water.
It can be tempting to drink less water than you usually would while traveling. After all, who wants to be
the one person in the vehicle who constantly has to ask for bathroom stops? Remember, you should be
stopping every two hours to stretch your legs (or getting up from your plane seat to stretch and walk) to
prevent formation of blood clots while traveling. Every time you stop to stretch your legs, you should need a bathroom break. Also, the air in planes is often dry, which can contribute to dehydration. Dehydration leads to irregularity in bowel movements, so make water intake a priority for your trip.
- Drink plenty of water.
Yes, this one is on the list twice. If you’re out in the hot summer sun, you may be tempted to grab a cold beer to cool down. While drinking in moderation is fine (the current recommendation is no more than one drink daily for women, no more than two drinks daily for men), alcohol also dehydrates you. If you do choose to drink alcohol, follow it with water.
It can be tempting to go on vacation and lay around all day long. While rest is a good thing, stopping your exercise routine completely may wreak havoc on your normally regular bowel function. Instead, find ways to exercise that are outside your normal gym routine (go snorkeling in some pristine water or take the hour long hike to the waterfall you’ve always wanted to see) while you’re on vacation. Exercise helps keep your digestive system moving.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the waiter how the restaurant’s foods are prepared.
Whether you’re on vacation or not, if there are certain foods to which you know your body is sensitive, it’s still best to avoid them. Ask the waiter how menu items are prepared. It isn’t worth ruining your vacation because you’re embarrassed to ask.
- Pack your medications in your carry-on.
If you take regular medication for your bowels, make sure you bring plenty with you to last the duration of your trip. It’s best to pack all your medications in your carry-on bag for plane trips, as checked bags can be lost in transit. Take your medication faithfully, just as you would at home.
Using these tips, summer vacation should be a breeze. Happy summer tripping!