Ah, vacation, what could go wrong?
Imagine this (and you probably already have): You’re headed to your favorite little beach town for a getaway from the city. Everything is great, but one, two, three days pass and you STILL haven’t gone to the bathroom, not to mention your stomach feels like it’s about double its normal size. Now your stress-free vacay has turned into an all-out panic over pooping! You are a victim of travel constipation my friend.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! This conundrum is fairly common, and happens to many people who are taken out of their normal routines. The issue is NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT! So, why is vacation-induced constipation so common, and what can you do about it on your next trip?
Reason #1: Changes in Routine
When your schedule becomes irregular, so can your body. The change of times zones, and change of eating, sleeping and waking habits while on a trip can have a tremendous impact on our bodies; and our pooping, relies heavily on routine.
Reason #2: An Unfamiliar Potty
It also seems to be true that people tend to feel more comfortable using a familiar bathroom (ever feel a sudden urge to go as soon as you open your front door?). Our bodies react differently to various sensory stimuli, causing it to release inhibitions or tense up and wait for comfortable surroundings.
Reason #3: STRESS!
Our bodies are also tremendously impacted by stress. Whether it is anxiety induced by flying, or the hassle of packing, and planning, stress may effect the central nervous system causing it to signal the gut affecting regularity of bowel movements , and possible bloating.
Reason #4: Your Internal Clock is No Longer On Time
When you travel, your body’s internal clock can be totally thrown out of wack, especially if you aren’t getting enough rest. These changes to your natural circadian rhythm can have a profound effect on your body, and especially on your bathroom schedule.
Reason #5: Changes in Food and Fluid Intake
One of the most common reasons we have changes in the frequency of our bowel movements is because our eating patterns change when we travel. This can happen due to a few reasons- like eating more or less (yes, more) fiber-dense foods when traveling. Eat too much fiber and don’t drink enough water- you could get backed up; eat too little fiber you could be backed up too. Also, plane snacks and travel foods tend to be not-so-great. For many reasons, you may see a change in the amount you poop, and on the way you’re stomach feels (gas, bloating, the whole shebang!).
Reason #6 (and perhaps the most important): Less Fluid
When we fly, sit in the car for a long period of time, or change our eating routine- we tend to be less-properly hydrated. And dehydration and lack of proper fluid intake can also have an impact on the amount we poop. Adding alcoholic or caffeinated beverages may cause further dehydration, leading to a whole host of possible issues including constipation.
What Can You Do About It?
Now we understand a little more about why travel constipation may happen, it’s time to learn what we can do to help ease our digestive tracks, and feel better!
Drink More Water
Drinking water is key to about everything! Make sure you stay hydrated on vacation and aim to have 64-80 oz daily. A good tip is to bring and empty water bottle with you on vacation, and make sure to fill it throughout the day.
Try Fasting Before an Early AM Flight
The pressure up there can really affect the movements down there- and many people experience IBS-like symptoms from traveling. If you’ve got an early morning flight, you might want to stick to your fluids and skip the food until you arrive at your destination (if you can!).
Bring Your Own Foods
Finding healthy snacks on the road can be pretty tough. Instead of wasting precious vacation time searching local grocery stores for healthy treats, be sure to pack gut-healthy snacks for your trip.
Don’t know what to pack? You can find our favorite summer travel snack recommendations HERE!
Eat Foods with Soluble Fiber
Fiber refers to the non-digestible carbohydrates found in fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. There are two types of fiber: insoluble, and soluble. Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that dissolves in water, and is generally found in things like the flesh of fruits, root vegetables, oats and cooked grains. For more fiber you can try adding chia seeds, chickpeas, nuts and beans to your meals and snacks.
Avoid Processed Foods
It’s really really hard to eat healthy while traveling, but to keep you regular it’s important to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Processed foods like white bread, potato chips, most desserts and fried foods wreak havoc on your gut and digestion. Try avoiding these triggers, and add more healthy fruits, veggies, and whole grains instead.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Lack of sleep can really mess with your body. When you get enough sleep, your body will be better able to regulate other functions (like digestion, and other GI tract processes). It’s also really important to try to stick to your usual sleep schedule if you can. Remember routine is important to our bodies and shifts in circadian rhythm can throw off your ability to poop regularly.
Listen to Your Body
Have you ever felt like you had to go, but let the feeling pass. DON’T DO THAT! When nature calls, you answer. Listen to your body’s signals, ignoring them can worsen constipation and cause further disruptions to your digestion.
Try These Natural Pooping Aids
Luckily there are some natural remedies that may work for constipation. Here are some of my favorite pooping aids that could help relieve travel constipation symptoms.
- Aloe: 1-2 oz in 8 oz water
- Smooth Move Tea: 1 tea bag steeped before bed. Try this first if you need two, add two
- Psyllium husk