When we travel, our bodies are put under a unique set of factors which creates the perfect formula for getting sick. Traveling to a new place introduces new microbes that our bodies are not used to. On top of this, our bodies undergo several modifications throughout travel such as change in time zones, altered sleep schedule, different foods and drink, air travel, and an overall new or changed environment that has huge impacts on our immune system. Whether traveling for work or pleasure, getting sick is never fun- luckily there is a simple preventative measure you can pack in your suitcase to boost overall immunity and decrease digestive problems. Behold, the probiotic!
Probiotics are ‘good bacteria’ which line your digestive tract and play several roles in our health, some of which we are still discovering. These bacteria help us absorb nutrients, increase immune health, and protect us from ‘bad bacteria’. Therefore, probiotics have been proven effective in several gut health illnesses as well as skin, oral health and overall immunity.
In a 2016 study, the bacterial composition of the microbiota in travelers vs. non-travelers was assessed and the authors concluded that travel itself changes the make-up of the gut bacteria to a lower ratio of the good-to-bad bacteria, regardless if the traveler got sick or not. This change in microflora lasted for several weeks after return and may be a reason why people also get sick upon return form their trips. By improving the ratio of ‘good bacteria’ in our gut when traveling, we can prevent several illnesses which arise under the set of conditions travellers endure.
Okay so, probiotics are a must leading up to, during, and post-travel, but which ones are the best?! There are several probiotics to choose from and this can be an overwhelming decision. Obviously, it is best to see a health care professional who can give specific advice on which probiotic is best for your individual health. However, at the very least I would recommend a probiotic with multiple strains including Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces, which have been proven effective for traveller’s diarrhea. I would also choose a formula which is shelf stable and does not need to be refrigerated (unlike most probiotics) as this will be unfeasible while traveling. The probiotic should also have at least 30 billion species and it is helpful to have a dairy and gluten-free capsule as these are common intestinal triggers which can be extenuated during times of immune or gut stress.
So, whether traveling for work or to get away from it, make sure to add probiotics to your packing list so you can spend time on the beach rather than the bathroom!
· Riddle, M. S., & Connor, B. A. (2016). The Traveling Microbiome. Current Infectious Disease Reports, 18(9). doi:10.1007/s11908-016-0536-7
· Sylvia, K. E., & Demas, G. E. (2018). A gut feeling: Microbiome-brain-immune interactions modulate social and affective behaviors. Hormones and Behavior,99, 41-49. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2018.02.001t