How to Manage Food Sensitivities while Traveling
As excited as you might be to finally travel again, it’s also essential to keep your health in check. For those with food sensitivities, travel can exacerbate symptoms, adding unnecessary stress and discomfort to your long-awaited trips.
According to Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D., a lot depends on the way you travel. In a place where there are a lot of foreign ingredients and foods your body isn’t used to, he says, it’s important to keep it as simple as possible.
“If you’ve been stringent on your diet, go for whole foods and avoid processed foods so that you know what you’re eating,” he says.
While eating fresh, raw ingredients is extremely helpful, it’s not always possible to avoid allergens completely. Below are a few pieces of advice to keep inflammation at bay and play a more active role in your health as you travel:
Eat lots of antioxidants.
Since travel can be stressful, Meletis says consuming antioxidant-rich ingredients supports your immune system while also reducing oxidative stress. Blueberries, strawberries, pecans and spinach are a few simple, antioxidant-rich foods that you can find in most places. Consider packing some trail mix full of goji berries, dark chocolate and various nuts if you know you’re going to be on-the-go.
Long flights, coffee and alcohol all play a role in dehydrating your body, Meletis says, which ultimately influence your food sensitivity symptoms. Whether you’re traveling internationally or simply drinking more than usual, make sure to have a water bottle (or water filter and purifier) with you wherever you go.
“Hydration dilutes toxins and inflammatory markers,” he says. “It’s important for those with sensitivities to stay hydrated so that your body has less histamines to deal with.”
Space out your “cheat” days.
Let’s be honest – you're not going to maintain a “perfect” diet while traveling. Whether it’s an accident or intentional, at some point you’ll likely end up eating a food you’re sensitive to. What’s most important is to try to space out those meals as much as possible, Meletis says.
“Don’t stack your mistakes or they’ll catch up to you,” he says. By provoking an already irritated gut, he says, you’re ultimately doing more harm than good.
Pack snacks that your body is adjusted to.
No matter what precautions you take, Meletis says, you’re naturally going to be exposed to foreign microbiomes when you travel, whether it be through food, water or airborne pollutants. By packing familiar snacks, such as dried fruit or protein bars, you’re minimizing some of the “shock” that your body is likely to experience when visiting a new place.
Take vitamins and probiotics.
Your bowels naturally slow down when you travel, Meletis says, so consuming fiber, magnesium and other essential vitamins help keep your digestive system on its usual course.
“Vitamin C is crucial to keep your bowels moving while also supporting your immune system,” he says. “It’s also worth taking some probiotics or activated charcoal early on to reinforce your digestive tract.”
In summary, travel can really mess with our bodies...but nine times out of ten, it’s worth it for the experience. Make sure to chat with your doctor about any diet-specific precautions you should take and keep an eye on the CDC’s COVID-19 updates for traveling internationally.