Travel Constipation : 10 Tips To Keep It From Ruining Your Trip

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By Yulli Agnes, MD, MBiomed (AAM)

After all the planning and excitement about your great vacations to some exotic place, now that you're actually on your trip, you should be feeling great—yet something is just a little off. Maybe you feel bloated, gassy, or even have some stomach pain. And now that you think about it, it has been a few days since you've gone number two.

What's going on? It's called travel constipation, and it is super common, even if you're the type who never has trouble pooping. So why does it strike when you travel?

A lot of times it's the change in routine, different meal times, change of diet, a shifted sleeping schedule, coupled with the extra stress of traveling and jet lag, can throw off your body’s circadian rhythm and affect your digestive process. Another factor is what called “safe toilet syndrome”— not being able to relax enough to use an unfamiliar bathroom. Another hazards of traveling, such as dehydration from too much fun under the sun, or drug and alcohol abuse contribute to constipation.

While travel constipation isn't the worst thing that can happen when you're away from home, it's not exactly fun. Depending the severity of symptoms and the length of your trip, travel constipation can simply be annoying or extremely uncomfortable. Use these natural constipation relief tips to get back on track.                                                                          

1) Stay Active

Traveling often means sitting -- in a car, train, boat, or plane. Unfortunately, when you stop moving, so may your bowels. If you’re sitting for long periods of time, take frequent breaks to move around. If you're flying, get up and walk the aisles to keep the blood flowing in your legs and well as in your gut. If you're traveling by car, take frequent breaks to stretch your legs for a few minutes and give yourself time to use the bathroom if you need it. And once you reach your destination, schedule physical activities -- like long walks, bike rides or yoga class -- to get your body moving.

2) Find a routine

Try to preserve as much of your regular routine of meal & sleep time as possible. Drastic change in your eating routine can throw off your usual bowel movement schedule. Going to bed and waking up as close to the times you do at home as you can will also help maintain your circadian rhythm, which helps regulate the hormones that play a role in digestion.

3) Try relaxation techniques to deal with stress.

Relaxing essential oils, having a massage, breathing exercises or yoga can help you manage stress, which can interfere with relaxation of the whole body, including the bowels.

4) Don't Ignore Your Body

Ignoring the urge to go—say, because you’re waiting in line, too busy sightseeing to find a place to go or you feel uncomfortable using a strange toilet—can lead to constipation. Instead of putting it off, use the restroom when you feel the need to.

5) Plan for bathroom breaks

If you usually use the restroom at a certain time of day, try to plan ahead to be near a place where you feel more comfortable making a pit stop. 

6) Consume enough fiber

Fiber helps fight constipation by bulking up stool, making it easier to move through your digestive tract. If you're facing decadent vacation meals or you want to indulge and sample local delicacies, it’s easy to forget to include it. But try to incorporate fiber-rich foods and commit to eating produce at every meal, to keep your fiber intake adequate. Meanwhile, avoid the urge to nibble on junky airport snacks like potato chips and chocolate bars; your bowel will be happier if you munch on high-fiber fare like dried fruit and nuts, pack some for you trip.

7) Prepare your bowel for travel.

If you can’t get enough fiber from your diet, consider powdered psyllium available at health food stores, as a supplemental source. Or if you are prone to constipation while traveling, try taking triphala, an ayurvedic remedy for regulating the bowels and tone the muscles in the large intestine, before and during traveling. Ideally triphala should be used on a regular basis, however, and not just when temporary constipation occurs.

8) Drink Plenty of Fluids

Being dehydrated is a risk factor for constipation, so be sure to take in more water than usual, especially if you’re traveling somewhere hotter or drier than the conditions at home. Water also helps fiber to be more effective in normalizing your bowel movements.

9) Limit alcohol & caffeine

Drinking a cold beer by the poolside may sound heavenly, but it could add to your constipation problems. Alcohol and caffeine can cause dehydration. If you’re prone to constipation while traveling, try to limit alcohol and drinks with caffeine.

10) Take Natural Laxatives

If all else fails, and you feel uncomfortably plugged up you can try taking some natural laxatives. Especially if you know you are prone to travel constipation.

Being prepared to enjoy a pleasant trip is much better than get stuck in a foreign toilet and crying your eyes out while squeezing out hardened up, intercontinental poo …