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How to keep your gut healthy while traveling abroad

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Nothing refreshes the mental landscape better than an exciting trip to a foreign land. However, nothing can have you regretting that adventure more than being glued to the toilet with traveler's diarrhea or vomiting instead of traipsing through temples and markets.

With some advance planning and knowledge about gut health, stomach bugs, and supplements that can protect your gut, you may be able to breeze through your trip without days-long sessions in the hotel bathroom.

Nix stomach bugs with hydrochloric acid

Hydrochloric acid Ā (HCl) is the acid in the stomach. You can also obtain it in a supplement. Why would you want to take an acid when it seems everyone is taking antacids? Because it's our first line of defense against stomach bugs and can help prevent traveler's diarrhea.

It may surprise you to know that many adults are deficient in HCl, especially the ones who suffer from acid reflux and pop antacids. This is because if stomach acid is low, food in the stomach is improperly digested. This lack of acidity also fails to trigger the valves that usher the food into the intestines. As a result, it ferments in the stomach, causing that burning feeling, and then shoots back up into the esophagus, scalding its delicate tissue. Although antacids bring relief, they fail to address the problem of low stomach acid.

HCl is vital to not only digest food, but also to kill bacteria, yeast, and other harmful pathogens. When stomach acid is low, you are more vulnerable to stomach bugs. Throw in strange, new cuisine of questionable hygiene in a developing country and you've got yourself an impending date with the porcelain god. Or the hole in the bathroom floor.

The best way to avoid this is to take HCl supplements with your meals. It's best to begin this regimen before your trip so you can acclimate your digestive system to the change in chemistry and dial in your dose. Keep upping the dose with each meal until you feel burning. Then go back to the previous dose. As your natural acidity improves, you may find you need less over time. However, while traveling, it's a good idea to take HCl prophylactically to lower the risk of traveler's diarrhea.

Probiotics outwit bad bugs by beefing up the good bugs

Another great digestive force to support is your own colony of beneficial gut bacteria. Recent research has established how vital the three to four pounds of gut bacteria in our intestines are to our mental, immune, and digestive health.

It's hard to say whether popping Ā probiotics Ā only during your travels will prevent traveler's diarrhea. But if you start beefing up the good bugs several months prior, you'll head into uncharted culinary territory better fortified.

One of the best ways to nourish your good bacteria is to make vegetables a primary part of every meal, even breakfast. Add cultured foods and drinks to your diet (such as kefir and kimchi), and supplement with probiotics. You may also need an herbal Ā cleanse Ā of the harmful bacteria to "weed the inner garden." Ask my office for advice.

Best prevention to traveler's diarrhea is a healthy gut

The best way to lower your risk of traveler's diarrhea is to start your travels with a healthy intestinal environment. This includes making sure you have sufficient stomach acid, repairing leaky gut, cleansing out overgrowths of bad bacteria and yeasts, and eating a whole foods diet that is primarily vegetables while avoiding sweets, processed foods, and restaurant foods. Ask my office for more info on preventing traveler's diarrhea.

Meet the Author

Dr. Matz DC

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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