Gut health and travel do mix well!
As a foodie at heart, I’m willing to travel anywhere for a good meal. True story: I traveled to Paris just to get the TikTok-viral Carette hot chocolate and whipped cream (it was so worth it). As much as I love traveling for a bite as the next foodie traveler, it can be a stressful experience on my body. It’s like my gut has a GPS of its own, tracking my every location and delaying my bowel movements for days whenever I’m not home (TMI—but it’s true!). Even a couple of sips of my morning coffee won’t do the trick—I still find myself sitting on the toilet for minutes on end, doing deep breathing exercises so that I can finally do my business.
The reason our digestion can get so messed up from travel is because our normal routines get thrown off. “Often on vacation, people may not follow the same routines they do at home. They may not take the same supplements, drink the same warm beverages, or sit for 15 minutes scrolling on their phone as they sip tea or coffee. These seemingly insignificant patterns set the body up on a schedule for consistent bowel movements,” Caroline Cederquist, MD, a board certified physician, previously told Well+Good.
And since “travel, whether it be airlines or via car/train where we are sitting down more and moving less tends to cause more digestive stagnancy, it leads to trapped gas, bloating, and constipation,” says Megan Gerber, RD, LD, IFNCP, CGN, a certified gastroenterology nutritionist and functional registered dietitian.
It’s rare to find a spot on the map that has a variety of good dining options, let alone restaurants that have gut-friendly foods. So when I got the opportunity to stay at the Sandals Royal Curaçao Resort last month to learn about their off-site restaurant dining program, I was over the moon.
About Sandals Royal Curaçao Resort
Opening its doors last June 2022, Sandals Royal Curaçao is an all-inclusive resort that’s nestled on 44 acres of land along the Spanish Water Bay with rooms averaging between $3,300 and $4,500 for a five-day stay for most rooms (this depends on time of year you visit). For suite and bungalow pricing, you can visit the site here. This bay-side resort has a whopping 350 rooms and suites—all of which overlook luscious palm trees, a two-level infinity pool, and views of the bay’s turquoise blue waters. While Sandals Royal Curaçao is a romantic paradise, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s a food lover’s destination, too.
Perhaps my favorite part of the resort is its new off-site restaurant program, which takes guests off of the property to explore and support local restaurants on the island (a $250 voucher is available for guests who book for seven or more nights in a butler suite or diamond level category and roundtrip transfers are included). I was lucky to dine at one of the eight partner restaurants, Nultwintig, which serves up contemporary Asian cuisine, but there are seven other eateries, from Kome’s wood-fired meats to Mosa Cana Bar and Kitchen, serving up Latin and Caribbean fare.
The resort also boasts a whopping eight gourmet restaurants where you’ll find everything from sushi rolls (made from fresh tuna, eel, and other sources of fish) at Gatsu Gatsu, the resort’s Japanese restaurant, to seafood paella at one of the three beachside food trucks. Brought to you by culinary-trained master chefs, each dish is crafted using fresh and locally-sourced ingredients. It really is food heaven!
What I ate
The resort kept me well-fed, and I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to dine in at seven of the eight on-site restaurants: Butch’s (steak and seafood), Kanaal (cafe), Aolos (Mediterranean), Gatsu Gatsu (sushi), Pietra (Italian), and Vincent (modern European). A tip: some restaurants require reservations, so it’s a good idea to book early to reserve the one you want. While most of the breakfast spots reflected traditional American breakfast (think: eggs, bacon, and hash browns), I appreciated the variety of lunch and dinner options of Asian fusion, Caribbean delights, Italian, Mediterranean, and more.
At Nultwintig, the off-site restaurant, I was served a three-course meal, all of which was filled with RD-approved and gut-enriching ingredients. For starters, I ordered a shrimp carpaccio appetizer topped with coconut puree, cilantro, Spanish peppers, and mandarins. “Mandarins offer a rich source of vitamin C and fiber (both soluble and insoluble), both of which are gut-supportive,” says Samantha Schleiger, MS, RDN, CD, CLT, ITNCP, an integrative and functional medicine dietitian based in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The soluble fiber forms of the mandarin “forms a gel in the digestive tract, then draws water into the gut to help soften stool, helping to ease bowel movements.”
I was also able to snack off of my plus one’s appetizer: ceviche marinated in citrus juices, lychee, coriander, and topped with plantain chips. Plantains are a great source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin A and C and support healthy digestion, according to Schleiger. On the other hand, coriander is a carminative herb that “helps with bloating and gas by helping to ‘move things along’ and promoting regular bowel movements,” says Gerber. For the entree, I tried wild rice and tuna yellow curry infused with fried okra—containing polyphenols, which have been shown to support commensal bacteria in the gut—and mushrooms to fuel the good bacteria.
Of course, I had to order yuca fries. Made from cassava, these crispy sticks offer a rich-source of fiber, “which is well known to support overall gut health,” says Schleiger. On occasion, I’d have a glass of red wine. Studies show that little to moderate red wine consumption can improve levels of beneficial gut bacteria, delivering more favorable gut microbiomes (it really gets things moving).
What I noticed after my meals
This might be TMI, but after all of the meals I had on- and off-site, I was able to use the bathroom with ease, noticing softer stools and my bowel movements working just as effectively, if not faster, as if I were at home. Not only did I leave the island more relaxed, I developed a newfound appreciation for herbs, spices like coriander, and how to better utilize ingredients like okra and mandarins in my main meals. Albeit small, these garnishes and toppings had a mighty impact on my GI health. Now, I’m a firm believer that travel and gut health can work in tandem. What probably also helped? The level of relaxation I was able to achieve at the resort (now that’s a no-brainer).
For more information about Sandals Royal Curaçao’s accommodations and pricing, visit their website here.
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