Let’s look at some steps you can take while traveling, which will help prevent GI distress.
1. Plan ahead: Where are you going on your trip? Are you going to go to Zimbabwe? Are you going to go to Antarctica? Are you going to go to New York City? Depending on where you go, the steps you need to take to avoid getting ill may be different—for example, the colder your destination, the lower the risk of certain parasites. Going to Los Angeles is going to be a different scenario than going to parts of Asia or Africa. Of course, no matter what part of the globe you travel to, you could bump into someone from an area of the world experiencing an outbreak. It pays to be vigilant no matter where you go.
2. Be cautious in busy airports and public transportation. You don’t need to be over the top about hygiene, but you do need to on high alert. It’s no different than being on the lookout for pickpockets when traveling. You need to keep your wits about you. For example, the first thing I do when I get off the airplane is head straight to the bathroom and clean my hands thoroughly. You touch so many surfaces when traveling by plane, and these surfaces have been touched by thousands of other people. If you don’t clean your hands thoroughly and have something to eat or touch your eye, it’s easy to transfer bacteria or parasites. The same is true for airport showers. If I have been on a long haul flight and am really tired, I will have a shower, but I use my own tea tree soap that I’ve brought along. Hand washing is probably one of the most important things to do when you travel. That includes after handling money and your passport as well.
3. Get a letter from a healthcare provider explaining that your supplements are necessary: I’ve heard of many occasions where people have had their supplements confiscated and thrown out by airport security. Having a letter like that can go a long way towards saving your bottles of supplements. Also, plan carefully, so you only take the pills that you need immediately in your carry-on case.
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4. Focus on bringing the items that you need based on your destination: For example, when I go to Australia, I bring essential oils that will help repel the flies. If you’re going to Antarctica or a skiing destination, you’ll need to be prepared to combat sunburn. If loose bowels are a risk, taking probiotics with you may be a good idea. Saccharomyces boulardii is very good for traveler’s diarrhea.
5. Be careful with drinking water: Many people get sick from drinking water when they travel to countries that don’t have reliable water safety systems. In some places, unscrupulous people will sell you contaminated water, claiming that it is fresh and clean.
6. Be careful where you eat: I have eaten in some pretty nice restaurants and still ended up sick. Alternatively, I ate street food on one of my first trips to India, and I didn’t have a problem with it. In my opinion, if you’re traveling, the water and food are the two most likely sources of infection.
7. Take useful natural medications with you: Activated charcoal is good to have on hand because it can soak up toxins. Probiotics and B vitamins can also be helpful. I know some people find magnesium supplements useful when traveling by plane. Others use melatonin for jet lag. Lavender oil, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil are also a good addition to your travel pack.
8. Minimize alcohol intake and maximize your intake of fresh, high-quality water. If you’re putting alcohol into your gut, it’s hard for that GI tract to detoxify. If you eat contaminated food, it’s now an open invitation for serious gut problems.