Does travel upset your stomach? Maybe it is changes in your gut microbiota.


Slide from webinar. Dr. Hannah Holcher

Written by Kristen DiFilippo MS, RDN, LDN, Doctoral Candidate

I paid way too much in a cute Italian café to eat Greek yogurt for breakfast.  I would do it again without hesitating.  After 4 days away from home for a conference, I needed “normal” food.  Maybe I should back up.  I love new food and flavors.  I love new places, and I most especially love to eat new food in new places.  My stomach does not always appreciate my adventures, and always ends up feeling a little off when I travel.  After an informal poll (full disclosure: I just talked to some friends and family), I find I am not alone.  I also found varying theories for the upset tummies that come with travel.  One says it’s the change in water.  Another suggested the extended sitting that comes with long distance trips.  I think it might have something to do with the changes in food intake.  Even as an adventurous eater, when I am at home, my diet maintains a relatively predictable pattern.  That pattern includes Greek yogurt for breakfast.  With fruit.  And granola.  It’s my go to.  Not that I don’t enjoy a good crepe, omelet, or waffle, but these tend to be more for special occasions or dinner.  Weekday breakfasts are a quick meal for me.  So I turn to yogurt to satisfy my needs for fast, flavorful, filling breakfasts.  I hadn’t had my yogurt for 4 days.  All my meals have been in restaurants or in the conference hotel.  My stomach finally told my brain that enough was enough.  So I paid what it would typically cost for 2 weeks of my yogurt-granola-fruit combo at home.  It was glorious.  So was the latte, but that’s another story.

My adventures (and misadventures) with travel food made me think about our upcoming webinar on the Gut-Microbiome-Brain Axis.  Hannah Holscher, Ph.D., RD an assistant professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois, will be talking about the connections between the bacteria that live in our gut and signals to our brain, along with the role diet plays in supporting those bacteria to maintain optimal physical and mental health.   One of the studies she will talk about showed that diet can change our resident bacteria rapidly (David et al., 2014).  The study fed participants diets of entirely plant or entirely animal products for 5 days.  Obviously, my diet changes were not this extreme, but I can’t help but wonder if this is my answer to why travel upsets my stomach.   When my diet changes, maybe my microbiome changes too. While this is purely speculative, it makes sense that when I cut out a meal containing both probiotic bacteria and the prebiotics that support those bacteria, my microbiome would change.  Regardless, I am excited to learn more about the microbiome, how I can influence it with diet, and the impacts on mental and physical health.   But first, I need to figure out the fun new place I am going to go for dinner.

Does your stomach get upset when you travel?  What are your tips to avoid this from happening?

Tune into this times webinar and learn more about gut microbiota, July 27, 2917, 11:00 am ET.  Register at the event page.

This blog was posted by Robin Allen, a member of OneOp (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the OneOp Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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