Here’s Why Your Gut Gets All Messed Up When You Travel (& How To Sort It Out)

Is there anything more annoying than finally being on holidays but spending half your trip on the toilet with an upset tummy? Err, no.

Getting a dreaded case of the squirts can ruin a perfectly good holiday (and pair of pants if you’re THAT unlucky) but, thankfully, it doesn’t have to go down that way… With a bit of forward-planning and some key info at your disposal, you can avoid an extended detour to brown town and enjoy every moment of your next trip.

Traveller’s Diarrhoea 101

Sometimes, when you’re away from home and enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of another culture, random infections are easily picked up. When you do get hit with a sudden bout of gastro, your poor digestive system gets upset and goes into overdrive. With no time to absorb anything, your body’s intestines blast through all the nutrients and water you’ve ingested, which can lead to much… unpleasantness.

But wait, there’s more! If you’re really lucky, you’ll also get painful cramps, bloating and wind.

OMG, Why Is This Happening To Me?!

While an upset tummy can be caused by many things – stress, periods, booze, intolerances, and certain medications – the most common cause is a viral infection from contaminated food or water. It can also be caused by not washing your hands properly and exposing yourself to germs.

Viruses like norovirus or rotavirus are super contagious and one of the most common causes of gastro. Make sure you always wash your hands with water and soap, or at least use an alcohol-based anti-bacterial solution anytime you use the bathroom and before handling food. It’s the best way to prevent getting sick and to ensure you don’t spread your poop germs to anyone else.

Sweet Relief

If you find yourself unwell, there are plenty of things you can do to help your body heal. The first is to give yourself a break. Your body is fighting an infection, so be kind to yourself, put down that beer and have a rest.

The next is to grab a pack of Gastro-Stop PLUS for some much-needed relief. Meds like Gastro-Stop can actually shorten the instance of an upset tummy. Thankfully, it comes in chewable tablets (so you don’t have to worry about water if you’re feeling queasy). These tablets help restore the natural rhythm of your digestive system thanks to the effectiveness of  loperamide, which slows down the muscle contractions in the gut allowing more time for fluid and electrolytes to be absorbed.

The other ingredient in Gastro-Stop PLUS is Simethicone, which helps to break up the gas bubbles in the intestines to relieve symptoms such as cramps , bloating, and wind.

Once you’ve had your Gastro-Stop, you’ll also need to up your water intake. Keeping your hydration levels elevated is very important. To replace fluids and electrolytes and prevent dehydration try a specially formulated oral rehydration solution. Also try to add in some diluted lemonade or clear soups. But beware – not all beverages are safe. Stay away from coffee and tea as they’re stimulants and might make you poop more. You’ll also want to keep clear of sports drinks, because again, the sugar acts as a stimulant and has the opposite effect.

If after all of this you’re still suffering from an upset tummy or you’re struggling to keep liquids down, it might be time to see a doctor. The same applies if you start running a fever. Bacteria from certain foods, such as campylobacter (which you can get from undercooked chicken) might even need antibiotics.

Keep Your Strength Up

If you can eat and you’re hungry, you should eat. Don’t dive into pizza, burgers or anything too spicy, though – you’re going to want to introduce food to your bruised and battered gut gently. If you’re feeling peckish, try a light meal made from something starchy like rice or bread, or a banana. Just remember – no peel, no way. Fruits that have a peel or skin are much less likely to harbour any waterborne bacteria.

Plan for the best, prepare for the worst

OK, so anticipating an upset tummy might suck, but nearly pooping your pants sucks way more. To avoid this situation, be smart about contaminated food and water and check to see if your immunisations are up to date six to 12 months before you leave the country.

When it comes to gastro outbreaks, the countries with the most risk include Latin America, Asia and Africa. If you’re travelling to any of these destinations, try to only drink and brush your teeth with purified bottled water, avoid ice cubes and post-mix drinks, and don’t swallow the water when you’re taking a shower.

Last, but by no means least, do yourself a favour and invest in a packet of Gastro-Stop before you take off. That way, you’ve got help right by your side if you happen to need it in an emergency.

This article was originally published on junkee.com