Traveling Tips for a Happy Gut
I’m currently in the midst of a 16 day road trip vacation as I write this blog post.
My husband and I started out a few weeks ago with a 15 hour drive to the beaches of New Jersey to vacation with my family, and we’re now hanging out in Cincinnati to meet up with some friends.
Vacationing is a summer tradition for many of us, and does wonders to reduce stress and improve overall health and wellbeing.
But, traveling can also be stressful and taxing on the body, especially if you have any gut issues or autoimmune diseases and need to eat well to feel your best (that’s me for sure!).
Going on vacation can mean being away from a kitchen, needing to eat out more often, and throwing your body out of its usual routine - all things that can definitely affect your gut health.
So, I put together a list of things that are critical for maintaining a happy, healthy gut when I travel.
I hope you find them useful in your own travels too!
Travel Tip #1: Plan Ahead With Your Food
This is something my husband would probably appreciate if I did a little less well at.
I tend to over prepare when it comes to bringing food and snacks with me when we travel, and all of my bags of food and coolers often take up a majority of our car.
But, I know that if I don’t have enough food available and easy to grab on the road, we’ll either end up making a ton of stops (and the food quality won’t be as good), or I’ll feel really yucky from not eating enough.
When we’re road tripping, my go-to safe restaurant is always Chick-fil-a - they have gluten free safe kitchen practices, and they’re generally a “healthier” option than other fast food places.
But, they’re not open on Sundays, and if we travel out of the south east there usually aren’t as many of these patches of heaven nearby.
So, this is where my obsessive food prep and packing come in to play.
Before leaving on a trip I try to buy a bunch of snack bars and easy to grab and eat food options that will survive a long car trip.
The meat bars provide a large amount of protein to keep me full, the performance bars have a good balance of all macronutrients, and the fruit gives me that little energy boost when I need it.
I also try to prepare and bring an actual meal or two with us so that we don’t need to stop as often to eat a substantial amount of food when we’re on the road.
For this trip I made this amazing pasta salad using Cybele’s Free to Eat Superfood Pasta (which I absolutely love, and highly recommend for all occasions if you can tolerate lentils!), chicken, grapes, cucumbers, and walnuts - recipe coming soon, I promise.
This was a great option for both my husband and I when we needed something a little more filling than bars, and allowed us to drive 15 hours with only one meal stop (breakfast).
Planning and preparing food for traveling can be time consuming and overwhelming, but it is so worth it to have more than enough on hand when you’re on the road and in need of healthy food options.
I recommend starting at least the planning process at least a week in advance so you give yourself plenty of time and don’t have to rush at the last minute.
Travel Tip #2: Drink Lots of Water
Hydration is so, so important to good gut health!
Dehydration, or just not drinking enough water during the day (even if you don’t feel dehydrated), can increase constipation, among a host of other digestive complaints.
And I don’t know about you, but a sluggish gut is one of my main issues whenever I travel away from home.
Drinking water while traveling (either on the road or in a plane) is difficult - for me, I’d rather get to my destination and not have to make 10 bathroom stops along the way.
So I tend to not drink anywhere near enough water to support my body’s hydration requirements (which is close to half your body weight in ounces) while I’m traveling.
One day of not staying properly hydrated won’t throw your digestion off too much, so I can usually recover once I get to where I’m going.
But, vacations tend to also throw me out of my routine, which means I’m not carrying my quart sized mason jar full of water with me everywhere I go.
I have to make it a priority to drink more water than I think I need on vacation, especially if I’m in a warmer environment and sweating more than usual.
I’d like to bet that the majority of the time when my digestion isn’t feeling it’s best while I’m on vacation is because I’m not staying properly hydrated.
So being conscious of how much water you’re drinking each day will only help to keep your digestion running smoothly, and allow you to better enjoy your time of relaxation!
Travel Tip #3: Bring Your Favorite Supplements
Traveling is definitely a minor stressor on the body.
That means, despite all of your best efforts, it still might have an effect on your gut function for the next few days.
But don’t worry, just because you’re experiencing some abnormal digestive symptoms you won’t lose all the progress you’ve made in the healing process.
I tend to not eat as many vegetables and way more acai bowls and Paleo baked goods (natural sugar is still sugar) when I’m on vacation than when I’m cooking in my own kitchen at home.
This tends to throw off my digestion a little, and I end up being a little constipated and bloated.
And because I know that this tends to happen, I make sure I’m prepared with my favorite gut healing supplements to counteract (the best that I can) these unwanted effects.
Since my gut usually slows down a bit while I’m away from home, I focus a lot on taking magnesium before bed.
Magnesium citrate, the form of magnesium found in Natural Calm (which is the product I love for supporting GI regularity and healthy magnesium levels), is a form of magnesium that is not readily absorbed in the body and helps retain water in the intestines.
When I’m on vacation I tend to increase my dose from around ¼-½ tsp to up to 1 tsp at night depending on what I think I need.
I also love to use my go-to gut healing supplement, slippery elm bark powder, as a GI “band-aid” when I eat things I normally don’t on vacation.
You’ve probably heard me talk about slippery elm powder before, and that’s because it’s my absolute favorite thing to use for any sort of gut discomfort.
If I’m feeling a little off during the day, or after eating a high sugar or high fat meal (which tends to bother me lately), I take a small amount of hot water mixed with ½ tsp of slippery elm powder to help subside my GI discomfort.
It works pretty much immediately, and I’m back to feeling like my normal self again, ready to enjoy more of my vacation!
The last supplement that I make sure I have with me if I’m traveling is my probiotic.
I’ve been using the spore-based Just Thrive Probiotics lately, and I’m loving how they make me feel.
For me, I usually don’t feel any GI effects of taking probiotics, but the effects are a little more subtle - like not getting sick a lot, having more energy, and sleeping better.
All things that are important when traveling and away from my usual routine!
Travel Tip #4: Relax and Enjoy
Vacation is a time to let loose a little, and if you’re anything like me that means way more sugar and way less veggies than you’re used to.
And that’s totally fine, vacation should be a time where you can enjoy these things without worrying about how they’ll affect your gut (hint: the effects won’t be long lasting).
I’ve spent far too many years being afraid of what one bite of Paleo banana bread was going to do to my gut and how far it was going to set me back.
Now, I’m more than confident that a week or two of eating outside of my usual habits isn’t going to cause a relapse, or permanently mess up my gut health.
So on vacation, I don’t stress over not eating my normal amount of vegetables, or eating an entire bag of pork rinds of lunch (yes, that happened).
I trust that my body wants to be healthy, and that it’s strong and resilient enough to handle whatever I may throw at it.
And if you do start having some unpleasant gut symptoms, know that you’re not alone.
Even my husband, who has never had a digestive issue a day in his life, was feeling the GI effects of vacation eating.
It’s totally normal, and almost to be expected, to have some change in your gut function while away from home and eating and doing things you normally don’t.
So, friend, don’t stress about a few changes in your gut function.
Trust me when I say you’ll get right back on track when your vacation is over, and you’ll enjoy yourself a whole lot more if you don’t stress over it.
The Bottom Line
Having a game plan for your food while you’re traveling and away from home on vacation will serve your gut health well.
But, don’t stress if you have to eat a few things here and there that are outside your normal real food, healthy way of eating.
A week of indulging and enjoying yourself won’t set you back and cause gut issues that will take months to overcome - you’ll recover quicker than you think!
And if you do experience some GI issues while traveling, coming prepared with your favorite supplements to get you back on track is a great idea too.
Happy (and healthy) travels!
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