You’ve made your plans and bought the tickets, and you’re ready to head off to an exotic destination for the summer. But have you prepared your gut for the trip?
Traveling can trigger digestive problems that take all the enjoyment out of your vacation. But never fear: Travel probiotics can keep your gut balanced no matter where your summer adventures take you.
Do you really need travel probiotics?
If it seems strange to get a probiotic just for travel, think about how much your gut goes through on a trip: You change your eating habits, try unfamiliar foods and drink water from different sources. You’re also likely to eat more fat and processed food and less fiber than you would at home.
Then there’s the stress of traveling. Even if you’re headed to a relaxing destination, you still have to plan, pack and navigate airports before you arrive. You spend a lot of time sitting in cars, shuttles and airplanes instead of moving. During all this, you may not drink enough water to stay hydrated.
These combined factors can have a significant impact on your gut. It’s no wonder the Cleveland Clinic cites diarrhea as the most common problem that travelers experience. Depending on destination and time of year, diarrhea can affect between 30% and 70% of travelers. You’re most likely to get traveler’s diarrhea if you head to a hot or humid climate in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, certain Caribbean islands or some parts of Asia. Contaminated food and water are the most common causes, although you can also get sick from eating foods your body doesn’t tolerate well.
Some people have the opposite problem and get constipated when they travel. This is most often due to drinking too little water or too much alcohol.
Jet lag from frequent travel across time zones can also throw your gut out of whack. When your sleep gets disrupted, it can affect gut microbiome diversity and microbial balance, resulting in dysbiosis that makes it harder to return to your usual sleep patterns after your trip.
How to choose the best probiotics for travel
Taking travel probiotics can help you avoid these problems on your next summer getaway. Look for a product containing one or more of these specific probiotic strains shown to prevent traveler’s diarrhea:
- Saccharomyces boulardii
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus casei subspecies bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus fermentum
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- A combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum
Shelf-stable probiotics are easiest to travel with since you don’t have to worry about keeping them cold. If you’re flying across time zones, a travel probiotic that includes prebiotics may reduce jet lag and protect you from stress-related dysbiosis.
For best results, start taking travel probiotics about a week before your trip, and keep taking them straight through until a week after you get back. Doing so ensures you have a consistent source of beneficial bacteria to maintain microbial balance and keep potential pathogens at bay.
More gut health tips for summer travel
In addition to probiotics, you can take other steps to ensure gut health while traveling:
- Drink plenty of bottled or filtered water, and avoid ice cubes made with tap water
- Fill your plate with high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans when you eat out
- Avoid processed foods, fried foods and alcohol, which may disrupt your microbiome
- Avoid buffets at hotels, restaurants and events; these foods are more likely to make you sick
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly
- Exercise daily during your trip to keep your gut moving
Just in case you wind up with traveler’s diarrhea despite these precautions, keep an anti-diarrheal medication on hand. Symptoms usually resolve within a few days. But with a probiotic as part of your regular summer travel plans, your gut should be well-fortified against the stresses of travel so that you can enjoy a problem-free vacation.