Travel entails moving rapidly, via plane, train, boat, or automobile to another environment. This movement stirs up Vata (energies of Air and Ether elements). Even though it is Pitta (Fire element) season, if we are traveling we need to focus not only on balancing Pitta, but also on balancing Vata.
We have to eat. Eating and drinking can often be a wonderful part of exploring the world beyond home. Yet amidst the excitement of new places and adventures, many people struggle with gas and bloating, constipation, or simply not knowing how to make good food choices when traveling.
On my recent travels to Spain, I had some interesting meal moments, especially while hiking the Camino as a gluten-free eater in the land of bread and baked goods. My hiking companion, my twin sister Molly, was also in the same boat. In a country that eats dinner at 10pm, delights in consuming profuse amounts of meat, cheese, bread and wine (none of which either of us partake of often), we were a bit at a loss for eating on our journey. Luckily, we found some provisions in the grocery and prepared some food ahead of time. We adjusted and managed to create a balance with rice cakes covered in ghee and almond butter, hard boiled eggs, oranges, and miso soup which we made by getting hot water from a cafe. I also was so grateful to have Triphala with me on my trip. For the first time in my life, an international trip was a digestive breeze.
Whatever plans you may have this summer, here are some guidelines to help you navigate food while traveling to avoid dealing with Vata imbalance in the digestive system (gas, bloating, nausea, constipation, etc).
- Stay hydrated. Travel dries out the body and if we change time zones, hydrating can help us roll with the shifts. Drinking cold beverages or carbonated beverages on the plane is a huge dis-service to your digestive strength and immunity as it makes your body have to work harder to heat up what you are putting in it before it can be digested and absorbed.
- Drink Hot Ginger Tea - this keeps you hydrated, warm, and your digestive fire strong. For plane travel, bring ginger tea bags and an aluminium insulated water bottle and ask a restaurant in the airport to fill it up with hot water before your flight. If you are traveling in a car, train or boat, drinking ginger tea will help too, but if it's hot outside, no need to make the tea hot. Room temperature tea will do the trick. It will also help with relieving motion sickness/nausea.
- Pack Your Own Food. The quality of the food will be better and your digestion will be happier. Ideally, eating out should is special treat, not how you get most of your nutrition. The quality of the food will be better and your digestion will be happier. When you do eat out, choose foods that are easy to digest: cooked, mostly vegetables, minimal number of ingredients, and freshly prepared.
- Avoid Dry, Rough or Cold Foods. This makes a BIG difference if you tend toward constipation when traveling. It best to steer toward cooked foods that are warm and have some juice to them. Not only can these foods affect the digestion in unwanted ways, but they can also affect your state of mind and lead you to feel more anxious, scattered or overwhelmed. If you do end up having dry foods, like rice cakes, make sure you combine them with healthy fats, like ghee.
- Focus on Eating Actual Meals, not snacking. Sticking to routine really helps the body stay in rhythm with digestion and elimination. Most snacks fall into the dry and rough category as well (chips, pretzels, popcorn, granola bars, nuts and seeds, etc.). Three meals a day, with lunch being the largest meal, works best for most people.
- Eat fruits first. Fruit digests more quickly than other foods, so eating it before other foods creates more digestive ease, whereas eating fruit after other foods creates a fermentation situation in the stomach. If you like melons, they should be eaten away from other foods because they digest super quickly and don't combine well with other foods at all. Eat melons at least 30 minutes before other foods.
- If Constipation is a Problem, travel with Triphala and take 2-4 tablets before bed each night (more if you ate challenging things to digest that day). When you wake up the next morning drink up to 4 cups of hot water. Add lemon if you like.
- Minimize Sugar, Alcohol and Caffeine. All of those things simply decrease your immunity, stress the body and disrupt digestion.
These tips, along with those that I'll share over the next two weeks, will support you and your fellow travelers on your summer adventures. I would love to hear how this information makes a difference for you!
Safe travels and happy bellies!