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How to avoid "traveler's tummy" on your next vacation, according to gut health experts

Ever had your bathroom habits change a little — or a lot — during travel? You're not alone.

Often referred to as "traveler's tummy," it's common to experience disruptions to your digestion and bowel movements while traveling. But there are things you can do to help prevent these effects.

Traveler's tummy symptoms "can be caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, especially when traveling to areas where the locals may be used to the bacteria in food and drink, but the traveler is not," explains Dr. William Li, a physician and bestselling author of "Eat to Beat Your Diet: Burn Fat, Heal Your Metabolism, and Live Longer." 

Li says common symptoms may include: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loose stools or diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Bloating 

For others, the disruption travel brings to your schedule — from sleeping to eating and drinking habits — may also have a constipation effect. 

"Sitting for hours, like during a long flight and train or bus rides, and having your usual diet interrupted are two possible culprits" of travel-related constipation, according to Harvard Health.

Ways to stay regular while traveling 

Start with a healthy gut: Getting into a routine of nurturing your gut can help prepare your body to better take on change.

"One of the things that we can do is to make sure that we're following the standard points of health and wellness," says Sunny Jain, founder and chief executive officer of gut health supplement company Sun Genomics. "Hydrating ourselves, making sure we're eating that healthy, balanced diet, getting our exercise."

Get enough sleep: "With lack of sleep, you're pushing your body to operate without its optimal restfulness — and that can be felt not only in your mental and body limits, but also in your intestinal tract," Jain says.

Stay hydrated, safely: Not all countries have safe drinking water. Harvard Health stresses the importance of drinking bottled water when necessary. 

Stay safety-conscious about food, too. "Eat only foods that are cooked and served hot; avoid food that has been sitting on a buffet. Eat raw fruits and vegetables only after washing or peeling them in clean water," the organization advises. And don't forget to wash your hands!

For people who struggle with constipation when traveling, Li says there are a few key prevention tips:

Increase liquids and fiber-rich foods: "Staying well hydrated is the No. 1 tip to prevent constipation, especially during travel," he says. "Eating fruits and vegetables gives you the dietary fiber that feeds your gut microbiome to maintain gut health, which includes regularity of bowel movements." 

Stay active: "Exercise helps the bowels to keep moving," Li says.

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