Picture this: You’re away on vacation and you’re having a great time, but soon realize that you haven’t had a bowel movement in over 3 days! Yes, over 3 whole days. Keep in mind, constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements in a week. By now, you might be feeling the discomfort, bloating, and gas associated with constipation. And this might make you anxious because your bowel movements are usually regular when you’re back home, so why now?
Don’t worry, you are definitely not alone. In fact, many people, as much as 40% of travelers, can relate to this scenario. It’s called traveler’s constipation. The key to winning this stressful battle is knowing what it is and preparing ahead of time. To start your preparation, let’s review some reasons WHY we get traveler’s constipation
- Reason 1: There’s a sudden disruption to your usual meal times.
- Reason 2: Traveling can cause a shifted sleeping schedule, or jet lag kicks in and changes your body’s circadian rhythm and affect your digestive process.
- Reason 3: You experience anxiety of being in a new environment/bathroom or even being around new people and not being able to relax enough to relieve yourself.
- Reason 4: Common travel factors including dehydration and/or alcohol consumption can contribute to constipation.
Now that we understand why we get traveler’s constipation, for your future travels, follow these recommendations to keep you regular while traveling:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and clear liquids, even more than you usually would because traveling, especially on a plane, tends to dehydrate you. Try to keep a reusable bottle or stop for frequent water breaks every 30 minutes or so to keep the fluids flowing through your body. While all fluids count toward your fluid intake, water is your best choice. Pay attention to your urine, mouth, skin and lips. If your urine is dark colored, mouth is dry, skin is cracking and lips are chapped, it may indicate that you are already dehydrated.
- When you’re traveling on the road, it might be tempting to keep driving for long stretches without enough breaks so that you get to your next destination quicker, but this may be a factor contributing to constipation. It is important to stop and stretch because long periods of sitting can cause strain to your bowel. In addition, incorporate physical activity while traveling to keep your digestive system moving.
- Take in plenty of fiber. Pack convenient, fiber dense snacks or supplements for your travels. Examples are fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, chia seeds, low sugar granola bars, psyllium fiber, Metamucil, flaxseed, whole grain breads, dried fruits and beans.
- Add some probiotics into your diet. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can be added to your gastrointestinal tract and are essential in our digestive health and immune system. You can try probiotic supplements or eat/drink foods that contain probiotics such as yogurt with live strains or a fermented beverage such as kombucha. Remember to carefully review the instructions for care as some products will require refrigeration.
- Get plenty of rest. Traveling can be a strain on our sleeping schedule, so make sure you schedule at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. You can also take mini power naps while you travel. And don’t forget to pack ear plugs and an eye mask if you are sensitive to noise or light.
- If you find that you continue to have a long, difficult battle with constipation even after trying several relieving techniques, consider packing some laxatives, but I would suggest checking with your primary provider before use. Make sure to use them wisely, as directed and only for a short period of time. Keep in mind, certain foods can be natural laxatives so if you would rather stay away from medications, try prunes, prune juice or papaya.