We’re all connected to the world around us in a very real way. Our local environment, and the way we interact with it, can influence the balance of bacteria in our microbiomes. We’re shaped by where we live and what we eat.
But what happens when we visit other countries? They say that travel broadens the mind, but what does it do to our gut bacteria?
When in (microbial) Rome...
Part of the joy of travel is immersing ourselves in other cultures and customs and trying exotic cuisines. In doing so, we're engaging with a range of new and unfamiliar microbiota, particularly when travelling to the developing world where sanitation isn't always as established.
But microbial changes are also happening on a more subtle level when you travel, even when healthy. Two of the most common bacterial families in the gut - Bacteroidetes, which help to break down complex molecules into simpler ones, and Firmicutes, which help to process energy - can significantly alter their balance. Some travellers have experienced a nearly two-fold increase in their Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes ratio during travel to the developing world, which then reversed upon their return.
There's no need to be afraid of these changes to the microbiome, particularly in the gut. It's a common and expected part of the travel experience.
Lost in transit
Changes occur to our bacterial flora during overseas travel, but it's not always easy to pinpoint the cause.
Putting aside the environmental differences that greet us, the very act of getting there often puts strain on the microbiome. Travel can disrupt our diet and exercise patterns, and jet lag plays around with our circadian rhythm, which has been linked to an imbalance in intestinal microbiota.
Some travellers have experienced a nearly two-fold increase in their Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes ratio during travel to the developing world, which then reversed upon their return.
Travel affects our animal friends too. Horses undergo changes in microbial diversity when on the road, and the stress of air travel can even sometimes lead to an alteration in canine gut microbiota.
And if you're planning to spend your holiday on a space station, that too will modify your microbiome. NASA found that after nearly a year in space, astronaut Scott Kelly displayed a pronounced shift in the ratio between his Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes.
Supporting the travelling microbiome
Space travel is probably a little way off for most of us, but there are plenty of more down-to-earth ways to support our microbiome while travelling.
See if you can fit in some vigorous exercise after you've spent hours cooped in a plane. This can help with jet lag too.
Don't be afraid to dig into the local cuisine either to give yourself and your microbes a taste of something new, but find out if the water's safe and try to avoid undercooked meat.
For some additional support, if you’re considering probiotics as a travel companion to help increase your beneficial gut bacteria, Premedy™ High Strength Probiotic is one option as it doesn’t require refrigeration, so can be left in your bag*. It contains 15 naturally sourced bacterial strains to support a healthy digestive system and bowel function.
Bon voyage and happy travels!
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. *Check label for storage conditions.