The Surprisingly Contradictory Ways Travel Can Affect Your Health

The Surprisingly Contradictory Ways Travel Can Affect Your Health

  • Gut Health

  • By Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietitian

    After an icy Canadian winter, pretty much anyone would be begging for a vacation. Warm sun, sand and relaxation…it has to be good for you, yes? Well, there are some ways in which a trip to the sunshine might end up leaving you less healthy than when you started. Read on for some surprisingly contradictory ways travel can affect your health – and how to keep it all fun in the sun.


    1. Travel can relax you but it might stress you out.

    Travel is all about a disruption of routine. Finding yourself at an all-inclusive beach resort means a break from deadlines, household chores and daily stress that brings relaxation and connection to family.

    However, last minute preparations, packing, crowded airports, lost luggage and jet lag can increase stress and diminish the stress-busting effects of a good vacation. In addition, anticipation of a work return can sour the last days of vacation.

    To keep vacations restful, make sure they are well planned. Know how you are getting from the airport to the hotel. Research restaurants so you aren’t left starving in front of a fast food joint. Grab maps and keep a list of fun activities (with addresses and opening hours) on your phone. Consider scheduling ‘highlight’ events for the end of your vacation so that you don’t feel like you are simply waiting for the vacation to end.


    1. Travel might keep you away from the toilet…or stuck there.

    The gut loves routine; a break from that routine in the form of different schedules, time zones and eating habits can lead to constipation. When you can, eat lightly during air travel and stay hydrated, as dehydration is a common constipation culprit. At your destination, try to establish a simple morning routine of drinking water, doing a few stretches and leaving time to eliminate before you leave for the day.

    On the flipside, many travellers have experienced tummy troubles that often caused by E.coli bacteria. In fact, 85% of traveller’s diarrhea is bacterial in origin. This is why a probiotic like Bio-K+ Travel Protection, started pre-trip, can help ensure that your gut loves your vacation as much as you do. In addition, ensure that you wash your hands frequently, especially before meals, and avoid raw produce in high-risk areas.


    1. Travel might make you healthier…or it might make you sick.

    While the research is far from conclusive, people who take regular vacations appear to be healthier than those who don’t. For example, vacationers report higher quality of life and those who skip vacations may be more at risk of heart disease or depression. Vacations may also give you the time to be more active as you explore a new destination or take advantage of the resort pool. However, vacations can also mean overindulgence in food or alcohol, leaving you feeling worse upon your return than when you left.


    The solution? Set some limits around a healthy amount of indulgence. For example, enjoy alcoholic beverages in the evening only…and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Plan and seek out one truly healthy meal a day. Buffets at resorts can be a surprisingly good place to find a healthy meal, as most will offer plenty of fruits and vegetables, in addition to lean proteins. Finally, make sure to move your body. Get out and explore your surroundings. If you are resort-bound, make the most of the sport activities on offer and stay energized!


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    Desiree Nielsen Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host of the vegetarian cooking sshow, The Urban Vegetarian. Desiree takes an evidence-based, integrative approach to her dietetics work, with a focus on anti-inflammatory, plant-centredcentered nutrition and digestive health.
    View all articles by Desiree Nielsen
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