Keeping healthy on your hols
Summer is well and truly here and unlike the last two summers, we are finally able to spread our wings a little further and flee to pastures new. Holiday season should be a time of rest and relaxation, so the last thing you need is to get ill or feel unwell on your holidays. There are a few conditions that are more commonly associated with holiday season and knowing how to recover from them, should you succumb, or avoid them in the first place, is vital if you want to keep healthy on your hols.
There is nothing that ruins a dream holiday faster than a bout of food poisoning and instead of seeing the local sights you are instead restricted to familiarising yourself with the hotel bathroom. Any food has the potential to cause food poisoning, but some are more common than others and unfortunately it is not possible to tell if foods are safe just by looking at them. The foods most at risk from contamination are raw meats, fish/shellfish and ready to eat foods such as pate, sliced meats and soft cheeses all of which can spoil quickly, especially in hot temperatures or upon exposure to contaminants. If you are holidaying in places where the tap water is not drinkable, be careful also of salad type produce that may have been washed in local tap water as opposed to bottled water and which therefore could be contaminated.
Squeezing lemon juice on foods before eating or drinking freshly made lemon juice drinks regularly or whilst on holiday can be helpful in protecting you against some of the bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Lemons have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects and the acid in lemons can help kill certain infection and bacteria in the gut that can cause the classic symptoms of food poisoning.
Holiday buffets can be notorious too for harbouring bugs and bacteria that can make you sick, especially if you don’t know how long foods have been left out and exposed to the ‘elements’. Ideally make food choices that you know have been freshly cooked and have been heated thoroughly before eating them. If you do become ill the most important thing is to remain hydrated as much as possible, having small but frequent sips of water.
If you are prone to travel sickness then holiday travel can be a nightmare so going prepared will help. Many research studies have shown ginger can be a very effective food that helps relieve both symptoms of motion sickness and, if taken before travel, can also help prevent it. Ginger’s anti-nausea activity is said to be mainly down to an active compound called Gingerol. One study showed ginger consumption reduced vomiting and cold sweats significantly better than placebo so taking some ginger tea with you to sip on regularly throughout your journey will therefore really help reduce motion sickness. This can be made easily with a 2cm square piece of fresh ginger root, cut finally and covered with hot water. This can be drunk warm or cold.
Even though you may not feel like it, you are better to not travel on a completely empty stomach as you will always feel better with a little something in your stomach. The best thing to eat and nibble on is plain dry crackers so don’t forget to pack some!
One study has shown that chewing on gum can help relieve visually induced motion sickness so if you plan to take a helicopter ride, or a long car journey this may be something to consider trying too.
It’s very normal to experience a change in bowel habits when we go on holiday, especially when abroad. Many people struggle with constipation and/or diarrhoea when away, and knowing how to recover quickly from this will help you get back to enjoying your holiday more quickly, as no one wants to spend their well-earned holiday on the loo!! A change in bowel habits, whether that be constipation or diarrhoea can be caused by a number of things such as a change in the foods we eat, food poisoning, the drinking water and even the heat.
For constipation, the best thing you can do is drink, and no that’s not an alcoholic beverage but just plain water. More water in the bowels means a softer and more passable stool can be formed. If there is no water spare in the body (for example if you have just not drunk enough and are dehydrated), that stool will become compacted in the intestines and make it very difficult and uncomfortable to pass, so keeping hydrated and taking sips of water very regularly, especially during a flight, will really help ensure you don’t suffer with constipation. Constipation can also occur after a bad bout of diarrhoea or sickness, as so much water can be lost from the body in this way. So if you experience either of these on holiday make sure you top your water levels up more frequently to help promote a faster recovery.
When it comes to diarrhoea and loose watery stools, there are a few foods that can help. Blackberry leaves and raspberry leaves are known to be astringents, which mean they help constrict and tighten tissues, including those of the digestive tract, which help reduce loss of fluid. This of course is needed in the case of diarrhoea. It is thought to be the tannins in these leaves, which gives them these astringent properties, so as many people don’t tend to pack a blackberry / raspberry bush in their suitcase, I suggest investing in these in tablet or dried form before your holiday, ready to take if needed.
Basil is also a helpful herb for many stomach related issues and can be helpful in cases of diarrhoea. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it can be effective in helping alleviate diarrhoea, as well as being helpful at alleviating stomach spasms, which may occur if food poisoning is the cause of your diarrhoea. More research is needed on basil though to confirm the exact potential benefit it may offer in helping digestive symptoms.
If you fall victim to diarrhoea, then there are also some foods and drinks that you shouldn’t be consuming and may make your symptoms worse. Caffeine is one of these things, as it is a stimulant and can stimulate your intestines, causing bowels to empty more quickly. Caffeine is found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks and tea, so these should be avoided when stools are loose. Sugar and sugary foods and drinks should also be avoided when you have diarrhoea because excess sugar can increase gut motility and draws fluid into the large intestines causing a looser and more watery stool. It can also lead to feelings of bloating and heaviness in the gut. There is also a common sugar substitute found in many foods and drinks called Sorbitol, this is also best avoided when diarrhoea strikes because it is actually a laxative, which is definitely not something you want when you are already having to stay within a metre of the bathroom!
Sun burn is very preventable, but we can all get caught out now and again and mistakenly have too much sun exposure. At best this can lead to a bit of pinkness and at worst you could end up in hospital with burns. Neither is a good option for long term skin health, so keeping yourself well covered and lathered in sun cream is certainly a good preventative action. There are actually some fruits that have been shown to help protect against sun damage, which include, tomatoes. Tomatoes contain the compound called Lycopene, which have found to have some fantastic skin benefits including helping protect it from sun damage. One study showed that people who regularly consumed lycopene over a three-month period were 33% more protected from the sun than those who didn’t consume, or infrequently consumed tomatoes. Lycopene content in tomatoes increases on cooking them so don’t just eat them raw.
Strawberries have also been shown to help protect the skin from the sun’s rays and this is likely down to their high anthocyanin and antioxidant content. These combined have shown to result in a protective effect on skin cells against UVA induced damage, which is why you will now see some skin care products, including some sun cream, containing strawberry extract. Always a good idea to eat strawberries too to get the full nutritional benefits they offer (as if you need another excuse to eat strawberries in the summer!!).
Now carrots are also crucial in the helpful protection against UV skin damage and that’s thanks to the beta carotene (a type of carotenoid) contained within them that give carrots their distinct orange colour. These carotenoids have been shown to accumulate in the outer layer of the skin to form a protective barrier against environmental factors including UV rays. Research has shown that consuming beta-carotenes in the diet helps protect the skin from UV damage, premature aging and reduces age related skin spots. So make sure carrots as well as sweet potatoes are on your holiday menu to help build up the skin’s protective barrier.
If you do get caught out and you end up glowing a dark shade of red, then drinking plenty of water will help you heal fastest. Applying aloe vera gel provides a great cooling effect, especially if applied straight from the fridge. Now although we would usually only recommend our Delamere Dairy plain goats’ yogurt to be enjoyed via mouth, when it comes to sun burn, we make an exception, and we can highly recommend its use when applied topically to sun burn. Delamere Dairy’s plain goats’ yogurt contains live cultures (probiotics), and these are beneficial the skin and its healing and also have anti-inflammatory action, which is very helpful for sunburn. The yogurt itself will also provide a cooling and soothing effect. We don’t however recommend reusing the topically applied yogurt on your strawberries after application though!
Wherever you are heading on your holidays this year we wish you a great time and safe travels. We hope you won’t need to utilise any of the advice above, but as they old saying goes, better to know and not need it than need it and not know it! Happy Holidays.
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• Antimicrobial Activity of Olive Oil, Vinegar, and Various Beverages against Foodborne Pathogens, 2007. Journal of Food Pathology
• Chronic diarrhoea, 2005. Current treatment options in gastroenterology
• Clinical evidence of benefits of a dietary supplement containing probiotic and carotenoids on ul-traviolet-induced skin damage, 2010. British Journal of Dermatology
• Strawberry-Based Cosmetic Formulations Protect Human Dermal Fibroblasts against UVA-Induced Damage, 2017. Nutrients
• Berry Leaves: An Alternative Source of Bioactive Natural Products of Nutritional and Medicinal Value, 2017. Anthocyanins
• Protective Effects of Lycopene Against Ultraviolet B-Induced Photodamage, 2009. Nutrition & Cancer