Gut and Skin Health Expert Blog | The Y Collection

Travel Causing Gut Health Issues? Here’s How to Avoid Them

by Jelena Vulevic on Jun 07, 2023

As the summer season approaches, many people are gearing up for exciting travel adventures. Unfortunately, along with the thrill of exploring new destinations, it's common to experience tummy troubles during your trip. Whether it's constipation and bloating on a flight, diarrhoea when eating exotic foods, motion sickness, or a nervous tummy during boat trips or bus excursions, these issues can really put a damper on your holiday. 

Travelling also has silent effects on gut health, including altered microbial diversity, impaired gut barrier function, weakened immune responses and issues with nutrient absorption. In this article, we will explore common symptoms associated with gut health and travel, uncover the reasons behind their occurrence, and provide practical expert advice on how to prepare for and prevent them. Additionally, we will discuss how to restore your gut health once you return home.

Don’t let tummy issues affect your travel plans. Find out if Y GUT sensitive is right for you. 

Why does travel affect the gut microbiome? 

The impact of travel on your gut microbiome depends on many factors including destination, duration, frequency, your age and health status prior to travelling. Common things that affect your gut microbiome while travelling include: 

  1. Altitudes and Plane Travelling: Air pressure and oxygen level changes, travel-related stress during plane flights or travel to higher altitudes alter microbial diversity and balance.
  2. Temperature and Humidity: Different climates with varying temperatures and humidity indirectly affect microbiota through changes in our behaviours.
  3. Diet: Changes during travel, including trying new foods and altering mealtimes impact microbial composition and activity.
  4. Lifestyle Factors: Travel-related stress, jet lag, dehydration, and changes in exercise routines have indirect effects through the gut-brain axis and circadian disruption.
  5. Exposure to Environmental Microbes: Exposure to new environments and microbes impact the composition of the gut microbiota.
  6. Sleep Patterns: Travel-related disruptions and sleep patterns alter gut barrier integrity, immune function, and microbial diversity.

The gut microbiome is generally resilient and can recover once normal routines and habits are resumed. Nevertheless, prioritising gut health before and during travel is important to all but especially if you are already showing signs of an unhealthy gut or you are a frequent traveller. 

Common issues and possible causes 

Different individuals experience various gut health issues while travelling. Let's explore some of the common problems and their potential causes:

  • Constipation and Bloating: Prolonged sitting during flights or other forms of transport leads to reduced physical activity and slowed digestion. Dehydration from inadequate fluid intake and low humidity in aeroplane cabins can further contribute to constipation and bloating. Changes in routine and meal patterns also affect digestive regularity.

  • Diarrhoea when Eating Exotic Foods: Trying new and unfamiliar cuisines exposes the digestive system to different ingredients and preparation methods. Bacterial contamination, inadequate food hygiene practices, consuming street food or meals from questionable establishments can increase the risk of diarrhoea. Food intolerances to specific ingredients may also contribute to digestive discomfort.

  • Motion Sickness and Nervous Tummy: The rocking motion of boats, the bumpy or the curvy bus or car rides can trigger motion sickness and a nervous tummy. Sensitivity to motion, stress, anxiety, and an imbalance between sensory inputs received by the brain can result in symptoms like nausea, dizziness, and unsettled stomach.

  • Acid Reflux: Disrupted eating patterns, consuming heavy or spicy meals, and relaxation of the lower oesophageal sphincter can lead to acid reflux. The relaxation of the sphincter allows stomach acid to flow back into the oesophagus, causing heartburn, regurgitation, and a burning sensation in the chest.

  • Traveller’s Diarrhoea (TD): Consuming contaminated food or water in unfamiliar environments can result in TD. Pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites can be present in local food, water sources, or due to inadequate sanitation practices. These can cause gastrointestinal infections, leading to symptoms like multiple loose bowel movements, abdominal cramps, nausea, and occasionally fever. In some individuals these can turn into a chronic and a life-long condition. 

  • Food Intolerances or Sensitivities: Some individuals may have underlying food intolerances or sensitivities to specific ingredients commonly found in local cuisines. Consuming foods that trigger intolerances or sensitivities can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea, or abdominal pain.

  • Gut Dysbiosis: Travelling disrupts the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, resulting in gut dysbiosis. Changes in diet, exposure to different environments, stress, altered sleep patterns, and even certain medications contribute to an imbalance in the gut microbiome. This can lead to digestive issues, weakened immune function, inflammation, and potential effects on mental well-being.

By understanding the above, you can take proactive measures to improve gut health and prevent or manage these issues during your journey, ensuring a more comfortable and enjoyable travel experience.

Before you travel: prepare your gut for travelling 

Preparing your gut before embarking on a journey is essential to minimise the risk of digestive and other silent problems. Ideally, you want to start 2-3 months in advance but even 2-3 weeks are better than nothing. Here are some key steps to prioritise for maintaining gut health before travelling:

Keep a food diary

Start keeping a food diary a few weeks before your trip to understand how certain foods make you feel. Take note of any foods that cause discomfort or digestive issues, so you can avoid them while travelling.

Start taking regular supplements 

Gut health supplements help support a healthy gut by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria, aiding digestion, or strengthening the immune system. If you don’t normally take supplements, this is a good time to start.

Increase intake of gut health foods

Incorporate more gut health foods into your diet, such as fermented foods, fruits and vegetables. These foods help promote balanced gut microbiota, regular bowel movements, and prevent constipation.

Minimise stress

Chronic stress negatively affects gut health. Prioritise stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in activities that help you relax and unwind.

Get adequate sleep

Prioritise quality sleep leading up to your trip as it plays a vital role in supporting overall health, including gut health. Aim for a consistent sleep schedule and establish a relaxing bedtime routine.

Limit alcohol and caffeine

Both alcohol and caffeine can disrupt gut function and lead to digestive discomfort. Minimise your intake of these beverages, especially before and during travel, to support a healthy gut.

While travelling: ways to avoid gut health issues 

It's understandable to let go and enjoy your holiday but it's important to prioritise your gut health to ensure a smooth journey. Here are some strategies to avoid gut-related problems during your travels:

Pay attention to what you drink 

While indulging in festive beverages, remember to drink plenty of water and try to moderate your intake of caffeine, sugary beverages, and alcohol. These drinks can dehydrate you and potentially exacerbate digestive issues, so staying hydrated will help maintain a healthy gut during your travels.

Practise good hygiene

Maintaining proper hand hygiene is vital in preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or carry hand sanitising gel/wipes with you when hand washing facilities are unavailable.

Be prepared for common issues 

Pack a travel kit with necessary medications for common digestive issues like diarrhoea, constipation, and indigestion. This ensures you have quick access to remedies and can address minor ailments promptly.

Stay active 

While it's tempting to lounge by the pool, try to incorporate exercise into your routine. Take a stroll, go for a swim, dance, or visit the hotel gym to keep your digestive system active.

Eat fresh fruits and vegetables

Rich in fibre and very high in water, they can help keep you hydrated and regulate your digestion. Whenever possible, include fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals or as healthy snacks during your travels to support gut health.

Take your supplements with you 

Don't forget to pack your supplements, especially if you've been taking biotics or other gut-supporting supplements. Continue your supplement routine while travelling to maintain gut balance.

Practise mindful eating

While enjoying your trip, be mindful of your food choices. Indulge in local delicacies but practice portion control to avoid overeating. Balance indulgences with nutritious meals to support your gut health.

Coming back home: how to reset your gut health after your travels 

Holidays are enjoyable and should not be avoided, but it's important to acknowledge that travel places physical stress on the body. This stress stems from factors such as time zone changes, disrupted sleep patterns, prolonged periods of sitting or standing, exposure to new climates, environments, and illnesses, as well as unfamiliar foods that disrupt daily routines. Restoring gut health and re-establishing a routine after returning from a trip are vital for overall well-being. Here are some tips to help you seamlessly transition back into healthy habits once you're back home:

Don’t over exert yourself 

After travelling, it's tempting to jump back into a healthy routine right away. However, it's important to take it one step at a time to avoid overwhelming your body and creating further stress. Gradually reintroduce exercise and healthy eating habits to reset your gut health. 

Prioritise sleep 

Getting back into a regular sleep routine is essential after travel, particularly if you've crossed time zones. Create a conducive sleep environment and establish consistent sleep and wake times to readjust your body clock.

Pay attention to what you eat 

Especially if you have overindulged, travelled long-haul or you generally travel often then the first 2-3 weeks after you return home are the time to avoid processed and sugary foods, excessive alcohol and caffeine and include as many  gut health foods as possible in your meals. If you have started using a particular gut health supplement, it's best to continue for a few more weeks or this might be a good time to consider starting one. 


Remember that everyone's gut health is unique, and it may take some time for your digestive system to fully recover after travel. If you have specific concerns or persistent digestive issues, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice. Also, if you have experienced a serious condition such as TD or similar issue, repairing your gut health requires a focused effort.

Key takeaways 

Travel significantly affects gut health, influenced by factors such as destination, duration, frequency, age, and pre-existing health conditions. Altitude and plane travel, temperature and humidity variations, dietary changes, lifestyle factors, exposure to new environments, and disrupted sleep patterns all impact the gut microbiota. While the gut microbiome is generally resilient and can recover when normal routines are resumed, prioritising gut health before and during travel is crucial, especially for individuals with pre-existing gut issues or frequent travellers. By understanding the impact of travel on gut health and implementing the tips provided in this article, you can minimise digestive issues and enjoy a happy and healthy journey. 

Remember, everyone's body is unique, and it's essential to listen to your body's signals and adapt these tips to suit your individual needs. Safe travels and bon appétit!

Don’t let tummy issues affect your travel plans. Find out if Y GUT sensitive is right for you.