Travel Tummy Trouble? Healthy Travel Eating Advice from Ashley Koff
Traveling can be both enjoyable and extremely wrecking to our digestion. What do we do to keep our tummy, and whole body, healthy while away from home? Join us in conversation with nutrition expert Ashley Koff RD, who is here to share her best tips. Enjoy the show!
My guest today is Ashley Koff. Ashley is a nutrition expert and registered dietarian. She has written a couple of books on healthy living and has a program called Road Trip to Better Health. Welcome to the show, Ashley.
Hi, Margaret. Thanks for having me.
I’m so happy to have you here because women in our community love to travel. I promised them that when I had the chance to chat with you I would ask you about staying healthy while traveling – whether via cruise or you simply hit the road.
To be honest, I’m obsessed with this topic because I travel a lot. I travel for work and for pleasure, so I’m super passionate about staying healthy.
There are two reasons why this is so important. One, you want to feel good when you arrive at your destination – especially if it’s a vacation to a place you’re visiting for the first time. We are going to have a much better experience if we feel good when we are there.
On the flipside, we also don’t want to get back home from an amazing trip, feeling like wrecks because of a terrible traveling experience. In such cases, it often happens that the memories of the trip almost get eroded because we don’t feel physically well.
One of the things I consider really important from a general health standpoint is to make sure your digestion works well before you decide to travel. That is going to be really helpful in preventing the negative impact of traveling.
Then, I go by the formula BYO Better, that is, bring your own tools. For instance, I’m a big fan of Nature’s Path organic oatmeal, and when I travel, I bring packs of it with me. At the end of the day, I just know that it is going to work for me digestively.
I’m a big fan of hemp seeds which provide me with omega fatty acids and protein, and I combine that with the oatmeal for a healthy meal. Then one of the tricks I do when I’m out on the road is, I will actually put a shot of espresso in the oatmeal, because I love the flavor in that.
Really? In the oatmeal?
Yes, in the oatmeal with the hemp seeds and I mix it together. When I first showed that on Dr. Oz, he said, “What are you talking about?” But he declared it delicious after he tasted it. We can usually find a coffee shop or a store that carries milk or nondairy milk, so preparing oatmeal is manageable anywhere.
Some other tools I like to bring while traveling are homeopathic remedies. I know homeopathy is widely used in Europe, unlike here in the States, but what’s great about homeopathy is what I call first-line prevention and first-line intervention.
Homeopathy doesn’t compete with medication, but if I’m starting to feel a sinus issue, instead of taking a sinus medication I will stick my homeopathic remedy under my tongue and it opens up my sinuses.
I use homeopathy if I feel a cold coming on, or something respiratory, or in case I’m getting a pain carrying things. It’s really a great traveling option.
Another area we have to focus on is getting enough vitamins. When we’re home we try to watch our diet and nutrient intake. When traveling though, we might not be able to have our spinach or blueberries – or we might not want to! – so I travel with a good quality organic multi vitamins.
When you are travelling, hydration is a little bit of a catch 22 because we know we need to drink water, but we don’t always want to run around finding a bathroom.
One of the things that people are less knowledgeable about is the role of potassium in the body. Potassium is a mineral that works against sodium and so keeps water inside the cells. Sodium keeps water outside our cells, that’s why even though sodium is very important, too much of it is an issue.
We want the water to come inside our cells and bring along those water soluble nutrients like vitamin B and C and other important compounds. Potassium helps bring them in. Potassium is found in avocado, potato or coconut water. Watermelon also has some potassium.
What about bananas?
Bananas have some potassium, but listen to this: A banana has somewhere between four and five hundred milligrams of potassium. We need 4700 milligrams of potassium in a day. That’s ten bananas, and they’re not healthy to consume in such quantities.
So it’s really important to use those other options. Also, don’t try to supplement potassium. Instead, try to lower your sodium intake while traveling. It’s easy to get in more sodium, especially if eating out or going by other countries’ food labels on packaged foods.
I always bring with me sources of potassium – dried bananas, coconut water, some avocado or guacamole – as a way to make sure I’m hydrated.
I am so glad you mentioned hydration because I think that is the number one challenge when you travel. You cut back on drinking water because you are maybe going to a place where sanitary conditions aren’t good or you’re not familiar with the place.
You don’t drink water on the plane either because you have to go to the loo and so on. But as a result, you get constipated when you arrive at your location. Many people have commented on that problem, so thank you for sharing your advice about potassium and keeping water in the cells.
Absolutely. Let me give you my insider tips. First of all, if you spread your water consumption out throughout the day, instead of chugging a liter of water all at once, you will do better in terms of not going to the bathroom.
If you are on a plane, the air in the plane is compressing on our digestive system. I make sure I don’t consume a high fiber meal or drink a lot of water at one time. I don’t swap it out for an alcoholic drink or coffee either, so be careful on that part.
I have two supplements that I travel with. I travel with my natural calm magnesium which I take every night at home.
Magnesium relaxes the digestive system to make sure I don’t get constipated, but it isn’t a laxative so it’s not going to send me to have to do number two on the plane. I take magnesium while I’m flying so it keeps me relaxed and helps me sleep on the plane.
The second supplement is a blend that gives me the different electrolytes. I also am happy now that they have the dehydrated powder of the coconut water. I’ll have both of those on the plane and the results are amazing.
You can totally go through a flight and not have to go to the bathroom. But when you get off the plane, you are able to go to the bathroom, and that’s really important.
That is such great information. There’s more great information like this on your website. What about cruising?
I travel with a hydro salve that I use for my skin. I also travel with my lowest toxin or toxin-free wipes that are still going to clean things down so that I can try and reduce my exposure to other people’s germs.
When cruising, magnesium and hydration are vitally important. When you’re on a boat for 16 days, food is available at all times, you might not feel like exercising much, and your alcohol consumption might spike.
So what you want to do is make sure you are spacing things out so that you are not overwhelming the digestive system all at once. Also, make sure that you are getting in your sleep. Whether you take in a nap, or go to bed early in the night, make sure you get enough rest.
I just got back from a cruise too, and there was wine served at every single meal. I would just have them put a little bit and fill the glass up with water. It didn’t matter to me to have the effect of the alcohol, but it was part of the fun, so I didn’t want to decline.
I think the goal of the trip is important. If, like me, you’re traveling all the time, I have gotten a routine that is normal for me. But if I’m traveling for pleasure, I want to enjoy it. So, some of these tips are just about making sure that you enjoy your trip.
Also, it’s important to enjoy the place you are visiting. So, don’t try to go find a Starbucks in the morning, but ask the locals about the best coffee house in town. Immerse yourself in the local culture and you might discover that you want to bring home something new.
I think that’s a great piece of advice. Travel is about exploration and enjoyment. You have given us some great information. I look forward to talking to you again. Thank you so much, Ashley.
What issues have you encountered while traveling? Have you found solutions that work for you? Please share your findings and experiences below. Join the conversation!