Travel Tips to Prevent Digestive Distress

Hello all! Sorry for the late post – I started writing this entry from my motel room in Ohio on Sunday, and we were traveling all day yesterday. The BF and I are on a road trip to meet with friends in Ohio and Minnesota this week. It’s a twenty hour drive, so I’m glad I knew how to best prepare my system for the change in routine. The last thing anyone wants on a road trip is digestive distress…the uncomfortable feeling of needing an immediate bathroom, or going days feeling like there’s a rock in your gut…it’s not fun, especially on vacation! (Yes, I’m talking about diarrhea and constipation – just to be clear.) Here are my top five tips to prevent digestive distress while traveling on the road.

1. Try to eat the same (or similar) foods you eat at home.

As tempting as it might be to indulge at rest stop eateries, your digestive system may not be happy with this choice. By being on the road, your body is already in a different environment, so you’ll want to avoid any unnecessary stressors to your system – unless you’re fine with stopping at multiple rest stops due to poor food choices. If your body is not used to eating chocolate at 10 am, for example, don’t buy that candy bar just because it’s available.

Once you’ve reached your destination, continue to respect your system by easing into trying new foods. I know that eggs are a safe bet for me, so I had that at the diner Sunday morning. I wisely chose not to have a milkshake – even though it looked delicious – because I just didn’t know how I would react to it, since I don’t have milkshakes at home. When you do decide to eat away from your norm, make sure you are near a bathroom for 30 minutes after your meal – just in case.

2. Bring your own food.

Not only will this save you money, you’ll have control over the ingredients, and you’ll avoid any negative consequences of being hungry but unable to stop because the next rest stop is 40 miles away. I made a huge chicken salad that the BF and I shared for lunch, and we brought string cheese, tankabars and epic bars, and I brought cans of sardines for myself so I can get a good source of healthy fat. I wish I had thought to also pack grapes and carrots for that first day’s drive – the food I brought definitely lacked crunch – so I made sure to get some for the next leg of the trip. But refer back to the first tip – if you don’t usually eat 1/2 a pound of grapes in one day, for example, and you do that on the road, don’t be surprised if your digestive system becomes unhappy.

3. Watch your fiber intake. 

Buying grapes, carrots, and Terra chips was a huge help for the 2nd leg of the trip – it felt great to have real food to eat on the road, and fiber definitely can help you stay regular. But I neglected to remember what eating A LOT of fiber-rich foods can cause: flatulence. The fix? Make sure you also add some protein and healthy fats to your snacks. The balance of macro-nutrients will help ease any flatulence issues, and it will also keep you satiated and focused for your drive.

4. Supplements

One thing that made a huge difference for me was to continue to take probiotics. I have found the probiotics keep my digestive system consistent. Full disclosure: I often become constipated on road trips that last for more than a few hours. There’s something about sitting in a car for numerous hours that my digestive system just doesn’t like. But on this road trip, I increased my probiotic intake, and that, along with the first two tips, has helped keep me regular. So, if you aren’t taking a probiotic yet, go start – but make sure you begin at least a few weeks before your trip so your system can acclimate.

5. Stay hydrated – drink water.

It can be tempting to drink coffee, soda, or energy drinks while on the road, but it definitely won’t be kind to your digestive system! Hydration is crucial to preventing constipation, so bring that water bottle! Caffeinated drinks often cause dehydration, so try to limit your intake to one cup in the morning if you must have a little caffeine to avoid withdrawal.

Bonus tip: Already constipated? Try walking around.

Sitting for long periods of time can affect the flow of the digestive system. Moving the body, such as exercising regularly, also keeps the digestive system regular. But it’s quite difficult to exercise when spending the day in the car. The fix: when taking breaks at rest stops, devote some extra time to walking around. Even a 10 minute walk every 2-3 hours can help relieve constipation.

Got a travel digestion tip? Leave a comment to share!

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Top Tips for Cleaning Up Your Health

Hello! Today’s topic is an answer to one of the most popular health-related questions:

I want to get healthier, but where do I start?

It can be daunting to figure out how to eat better, especially when there is quite a bit of conflicting information out there. Here are my top five tips for cleaning up your health – it’s what worked for me!

1) Ditch the vegetable/seed oil and the margarine.

Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower seed oil, vegetable shortening…unfortunately, these oils are not the health food those commercials lead you to believe they are. They are highly processed through chemical extraction methods, and they easily oxidize and become rancid – sometimes they are like that before you use it! When a food becomes oxidized, the body doesn’t recognize it as food, and it becomes a toxin, leading to inflammation. Inflammation is a large factor in many diseases and in weight gain or weight loss resistance.

Instead use: butter (the real deal!), coconut oil, olive oil when cooking over low heat (otherwise it can also go rancid), and animal fat from properly raised and treated animals. I’ve tried duck fat, and to me it has a pretty bland taste, so it won’t change the flavor of your food much. I’ll save the fat when I cook high quality bacon, because that stuff makes everything taste delicious!

2) Add more fat to each meal.

Contrary to popular belief, eating fat will not make you fat. Your body needs fat to function, and quite often your body won’t want to let go of its own fat stores when it doesn’t get enough from food. Fat is what is needed to digest those fat-soluble vitamins that are so important to our health: Vitamins A, D, E, and K. (Why are these vitamins important? That blog entry is coming up soon!) Ever eat a satisfying meal, yet feel starving a few hours later? Most often that’s due to lack of fat. Seriously, quality fat is amazing – yes, even saturated fat!

How to add more fat:

♥ Eat some fatty foods! And no, I don’t mean fatty foods from a fast food eatery. Eat eggs (yolk included!), avocados, nuts, olives, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. You’ll fill up and stay full for hours.

♥ Use healthy fats to cook with! (See #1)

♥ Add butter to your vegetables and your meat. If you can handle dairy, butter is such a wonderful flavor to add to the meal you are already eating. Already having steak? Add some butter! Did you microwave that package of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots? Go add some butter! If you’re not used to it, I’d start with a teaspoon of butter and build up to a tablespoon. A little goes a long way to satisfying your hunger and giving your body the nutrition it needs.

♥ Start eating full-fat versions of the food you already eat. No more skim milk or fat-free yogurt – to take out the fat, something had to be added in: sugar and/or chemicals. Neither one will fill you up.  And really, doesn’t full-fat sour cream just taste better?

3) Eat a balanced meal.

This means that for every meal or snack you eat, there should be fat, protein, and carbohydrate in that meal. This will help make sure that you are getting a variety of nutrients that your body needs to function. You’ll also feel satiated and stay that way. The need to snack every few hours will disappear. You’ll more easily avoid the sugar cravings that will get you in trouble. And a balanced meal just tastes good!

The easiest way I balance my meal is to have half the plate full of vegetables (carbohydrate), the other half with my protein of choice (meat, fish, or eggs). Then I’ll either add some butter or have an avocado. If I cooked with a lot of coconut oil, or I’m eating fish or meat that already contains a good amount of fat in it, then I might forgo the butter (although often I’ll still have the butter!).

Example:

♥ 6 – 8 oz burger (protein), pan fried zucchini in coconut oil (carbohydrate and fat), and a side of sweet potato with butter (carbohydrate and fat)

petespaleo

Duck tenderloin, roasted beets and acorn squash

♥ A dish from Pete’s Paleo: duck, roasted beets (this is my second time having beets EVER, and they are delicious!), and acorn squash

To be honest, I sometimes get bored with the food if I have to fill half a plate with the same vegetable/carbohydrate, so I try to mix it up and maybe make two veggies. Then I’ve got leftovers, which I love!

(You may have noticed I don’t have the “typical” carbohydrates that the Standard American Diet is based upon. See here for my reasons why I avoid them.)

I want to quickly mention something to those of you working out for an hour or more a day: PLEASE make sure you eat enough to fuel your workout. A common complaint I hear is, “I’m eating 1500-2000 calories a day and I’m exercising an hour a day yet I’m GAINING weight!” That is often the case when the body feels it’s being starved. I don’t look at calorie count since I stopped eating processed foods – I eat when I’m hungry, and I’m able to stop when I’m full because my body told me it had enough. A body that exercises at a high intensity often will need more fuel. But it’s not an excuse to go eat ice cream or whatever “treat” you want to give yourself “because I worked out today”. If your goal is to lose weight or to get stronger, then you need to give your body the tools it needs to accomplish those goals – eat real, nutrient dense food, and eat enough to that your workout is high quality.

4) Get enough sleep.

I wish I had learned this one LONG before I did. The length and quality of our sleep is just as important as what we eat and how we move when we’re awake. Food and exercise often go hand in hand, but sleep is ignored. Our bodies do so many important processes while we sleep, and so if we cut our sleep short, our bodies won’t work at an optimal level. So if the weight isn’t coming off, or you don’t recover from exercise as quickly as you’d like, it could be that you aren’t sleeping enough. I find it harder to deal with cravings when I haven’t gotten enough sleep. Eight hours of sleep is typically best, especially from 10pm-6am. Yes, it’s hard to go to bed at 10pm – there are so many distractions in the world today, and sometimes it just doesn’t fit into a person’s lifestyle. But if your diet is on track and you still aren’t seeing the results you want, try it for a week and see what happens.

5) Don’t forget to play outside.

Anyone who knows me in person might laugh at this tip. I’m a bookworm, and growing up there was nothing I liked better than to spend an entire Saturday in the summer, from sun up to sun down, reading a book INSIDE the air conditioned house. I didn’t even go read outside by the pool!

This tip is, in a way, two in one: play, and being outside. To balance our lives and our health, having fun needs to be a part of it. It’s what rejuvenates the body and, if you believe in it, the soul. Stress is a key factor in declining health, and I can tell you from experience that stress-related illnesses are no fun. Often I hear people say, “I don’t have time to take some time for myself.” But you need to take that time, especially if it will make your life and your interactions with your loved ones better. If you’re too stressed to sleep, then you’ll be too tired to workout, make smart food choices, and do fun things with your loved ones, which will make you stressed. You’ll get stuck in that cycle until you decide to break it, or until you get sick. You are worth putting yourself first in order to be healthy.

Just the thought of being outside relaxes me: the fresh air, the sun, and nature. You’ve got your Vitamin D from the sun, a chance to breathe in air that hasn’t been cooped up in a building (hopefully), and a chance to disconnect from our wired world. When’s the last time you took off your shoes, stood in the grass, and just took a deep breath? Or maybe you prefer to have your feet in the sand on a beach? Or in the water? It doesn’t matter how you decide to connect with the natural world, just as long as you do so. Go for a walk. Get on a bike. Throw a frisbee. Kayak. Look at the stars. Breathe. Take a moment to remember that you are part of this wonderfully magnificent world. And remember that you are wonderful, too.

 

So, dear readers, tell me: what’s YOUR favorite health tip? What’s worked for you? Did any of my tips surprise you? Do you have a health-related question for me?