I am back from a vacation, gleaming. Honestly, I love this new trend of weekend getaways. Come a long weekend and you head for your dream destination. The preparation part is exciting too: experimenting with a new look, shopping - new clothes, new footwear, new makeup style, new accessories. Friends flooding the uploaded pictures with "oohs" and "aahs" and jealous comments on social media. The preparations proved worthwhile.
But, only you know how difficult it is to smile through those comments with an upset, aching tummy sitting in the office, not feeling like eating anything anymore. Why? Because, your digestion went for a toss and you had not prepared your gut for the travel.
Many a times, it is seen that continuous eating out, exploring new cuisines, unbarred aerated and alcoholic drinks, munching on junk (chips, cookies), erratic sleep schedules, not drinking enough water during sightseeing take a toll on your digestion. The travel fun ends and you end up feeling bloated with acid reflux, gas, regurgitation, nausea, headache and in severe cases, diarrhoea.
If only, you had prepared your gastro-intestinal (GI) tract beforehand. Wishful thinking? No, it is absolutely doable. Here are four tips to help you prepare your gut for the holidays:
1. Detoxify your body in advance
Before embarking on a journey, it's important to cleanse the GI tract and flush out toxins to help achieve healthy digestion. The process also strengthens liver, kidneys and their functioning to help them deal better with the load of toxins during holidays. Some foods that detoxify the body should secure a place in your diet before and during the journey. These are easily available and require no cooking.
Green tea is an excellent diuretic (compounds that increase frequency of urination). It flushes out toxins through frequent urination. However, the water loss from the body should be compensated by drinking more water to save oneself from dehydration.
Raw vegetables and fresh fruits give you loads of insoluble fibre to beat partial or precipitated constipation, pushing out residual stools laden with toxins that are responsible for flatulence, unsightly burps, abdominal heaviness and also stinky farts. Vitamin C present in them is a rich antioxidant that improves intestinal flora.
Beetroots, my favourite crunchies contains "betalains", a compound that gives beet their unbeatable red colour and has rich anti-inflammatory and fungicidal properties. Betalains repair and aid regeneration of cells especially liver cells - the body's main detoxification centre.
Other foods good for detoxification are fennel (saunf), avocados, artichokes, and lime juice. Pick your choice.
2. Probiotics are a must in your menu
More often then not, we tend to eat heavy foods, rich gravies, too much of alcohol or aerated drinks, white flour-predominant preparations, chips, cookies, baked goodies loaded with bromelain, which kills the friendly bacteria present in our GI tract, leading to indigestion.
The only way to combat this loss of good bacteria is by adding them back through natural probiotic foods in diet, making a conscious choice. Probiotics are live medium of bacteria or yeast, which aid in speedy fermentation of food in the GI tract leading to healthy digestion.
Yogurt is one such natural probiotic that should feature in the form of curd, raita or a snack in daily diet specially while eating out continuously.
Even, Ayurveda proclaims the counter action of yogurt (cool food) on otherwise "tamsik" (hot and heavy) foods to improve digestion as it believes that all diseases stem from unhealthy digestion.
Other natural probiotics are Kambucha tea, sauerkraut (finely chopped cabbage in form of fermented side dish), fermented cheese and wines. Indian fermented foods like idli, dosa, dhokla make up for easy breakfast/snack options.
However, the loss of good bacteria during steaming of these dishes makes their probiotic quality debatable. If not for these, carry a probiotic drink (yakult or kefir) along or depend upon a supplement in the form of capsule/tablet.
Do what it takes but don't skip a probiotic.
3. Eat Local, eat low cal
Exploring a new place is incomplete without experimenting with local cuisine. It also gives food voyagers like me a chance to know about new ingredients and learn new recipes, which in turn opens up an opportunity to strike conversation with locals and know them better.
How insightful and exciting. So much can happen over food.
Local dishes made from local produce bring you in touch with seasonal cuisine that is at the peak of its taste, is abundantly available and therefore, is inexpensive. While it doesn't burn a hole in your pocket, it boosts the local economy.
As a nutritionist, I truly believe that seasonal produce empowers you with better immunity to fight seasonal bugs. Not only this, since local cuisine is staple for a large population, it is something which can be eaten routinely. It is often not too heavy and easily digestible. This doesn't make your diet go off gear while on a holiday. Despite all this, keeping an eye on dietary intake saves one from "weighing scale shock" when back to regular life.
4. Hydration and food hygiene
Dearth of proper toilets, low temperature of the place, going berserk over easily available beer/soft drinks often makes one forget about water intake. This is indeed an incorrect practice. Hydration is very important and even on a holiday, one must consume at least two litres of water daily.
Carry a water bottle with you everywhere you visit. Dehydration is the biggest culprit for overloading the body with toxins owing to dearth of a medium to flush them out.
Personally, I discourage drinking water from local, open sources of drinking water. Why ruin your holiday by inviting infections? Similarly, search, research for a hygienic place to eat at. Careless handling of food by cooks, bearers, keeping food items uncovered, roadside vendors selling uncovered food wrapped in old newspapers increases the chance of adding harmful bugs to even freshly prepared food.
The eatery you choose should definitely be free from any infestation by rats and cockroaches. Last but not the least, wash your hands with soap before eating and after using toilets. It is very important to practise this.
Make these four tips a regular part of your travel plan and enjoy the vacation to the fullest. Practising them takes care of motion sickness simultaneously.
Now you know how to prepare your "gut for the holiday". BTW, when is the next long weekend?