How to Keep Your Gut Happy When Crossing Time Zones

Photo: Getty Images/Vladimir Vladimirov
In the hours leading up to a long flight, most people inevitably start freaking out over when to eat. (Being stranded mid-flight with only a tiny bag of pretzels is def a nightmare scenario.) Do you raid the airport kiosk for all its healthy-ish snacks and eat on the plane? Grab dinner before you board even though it's not dinner time yet? Just skip it entirely?

Then there's the question of what to do when you land. Not only is your meal sched all messed up, but now you don't know when to take your probiotic and daily vitamins. Crossing timezones can totally throw your body off. (Umm, traveler's constipation, anyone?) Fortunately, certified nutritionist, The Archetype Diet author, and frequent traveler Dana James has figured it all out. Here, she shares her top tips on how to keep your gut happy while traveling, including answering the mother of all questions, when should I eat?

Keep reading for nutritionist-vetted tips on when to eat when crossing timezones.

eating for long trips
Photo: Stocksy/GIC

Factor in travel time not spent flying, too

A lot of people remember to stash a snack in their purse for the flight, but James says many forget about all the extra travel time too, like the car ride from the airport to your hotel. Her pro tip: Pack a snack for that leg of the trip as well; otherwise, you're going to de-board the plane simultaneously starving but wanting to get to your hotel ASAP because you're also tired and sick of traveling. In other words, a hangry disaster. "Look at the total travel time from when you leave your home to when you get to the hotel," she says.

Get your fiber fix before you fly

Chances are, you aren't going to be getting your regular amount of greens when you're trapped in a middle seat for hours on end. That's why James recommends getting some fiber before you fly, if possible. "I often will grab a green juice to drink in the taxi on the way to the airport so that I'm getting a lot of antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients before I fly," she says. The green juice is also easy to digest so you won't be sitting there with your stomach churning.

eating on plane
Photo: Getty Images/Michael H

Bring meals on the flight that synch up with your original timezone

Even though there's a temptation to get on your new destination's timezone before you're even there, James says to resist it. While you're on the flight, eat whatever meal you'd be eating normally. This is where listening to your body comes in big time: if you're hungry, eat! As far as what to pack, James says to aim for a balance of protein, veggies, and healthy fats. "I'll pick up a spinach salad with avocado and organic chicken at the airport," she says.

Save the drinks for the destination, not the journey

Airports and planes seem to come with a "it's 5 'o clock somewhere" mentality since wherever someone is flying from, it very may well be. But James's advice is to save that cocktail for when you land. “The lack of oxygen in the air when you are flying makes you drunker faster and you will wake up feeling not as bright as you otherwise would, and you are adding to the jet lag,” she says. 

eating tips while traveling
Photo: Stocksy/Mosuno

Adjust slowly when you arrive

“The first day, keep it fairly consistent with your regular time zone," James says. Then, adjust slowly as your body will naturally start to adapt. A sample schedule to work from: Keep the first day the same as your old time zone, make your second day a blend, and transition full-on to your new timezone on day three.

Pack a probiotic

Even if you don't normally take a probiotic, James says traveling is a good time to do it. And she isn't too tripped up on the the best time to take it. "Just take it when you normally do," she says. "If you often get diarrhea when you travel or you are going to a place where it is likely you will get diarrhea, look for one with a yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii, which is very good at binding up the stool.”

Another supplement to pack that will keep your gut happy (especially if constipation is more your problem): magnesium citrate. "It's very helpful for stimulating bowel movement," James says, recommending a 450 milligram dosage.

"If you fly a lot, I also suggest taking medicinal mushrooms for your immune system because you're exposed to more bacteria when you're traveling," she says. Keep your systems happy and then you can focus on all the amazing adventures that are ahead. That's what you're there for!

Here's your secret weapon to battle those never-ending lines at customs. Before you pack your carry-on, check out the travel essentials Lea Michelle can't live without.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Loading More Posts...