Your vacation is approaching and you’re good to go. But will you be good to go when you get there? By one estimate, as many as 40 percent of people experience constipation while they’re away from home.
Vacation-induced constipation is real. The stress of travelling, jet lag, a disruption in the daily routine which throws off the porcelain throne schedule, exotic and not always healthy foods, overindulgence on alcohol and caffeine, lack of sleep—these and other hallmarks of travel can cause balky bowels.
Although not as traumatic as the other side of the gastrointestinal coin—the dreaded diarrhea that leaves you helplessly tied to the toiled on that $300 + per day getaway — not being able to void your bowels for a few days can put a real damper on your vacation.
Cranky, bloated, heavy and fatigued is not what you want to feel like on a beach in Barbados, or sightseeing in Paris. But there are things you can do to prevent the occurrence of this vacation party-pooper.
Chill out. You may be going away to do precisely that, but pre-travel prep and the journey itself are bonafide stressors, and stress causes constipation.
Bulk up. When your fiber-fortified morning cereal is replaced by fibre-free continental breakfast, the sudden withdrawal may cause constipation. Try to stick to your “at home” regular diet. Yes, this can be challenging since part of the fun of travelling is gorging at all-inclusives and devouring exotic dishes, but do your best. High-fibre foods like fruit and vegetables are helpful, as is choosing a salad over a pastry.
Drink up. Water that is, and not alcohol and caffeine – you need to hydrate not dehydrate. Water helps to loosen up the intestines and helps fibre to be more effective in normalizing your bowel movements, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.=
Move. Movement stimulates the gut. Walk about the airplane, make a few pit stops if driving, go for a walk after waking up, and get to know your hotel’s gym.
Snack on good bacteria. Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut or kombucha, for example, can help relieve intestinal problems.
Go with the flow. Withholding the “movement” makes stools dry out and jam up right before the narrowest juncture of your bowels. If this postponement is a frequent occurrence, you may end up with a plug that will require a pharmaceutical intervention.
Sleep. Getting enough sleep keeps you more regular. Make sure you get an adequate amount of sleep prior to travelling — not just during your trip. When you’ve arrived at your destination, try to sync up with the local time as quickly as you can.
If these travel-without-a-backup hacks don’t work, there are always over-the-counter drugstore helpers. Stool softeners and gentle laxatives can be helpful, especially in those first few days when you’re getting acclimatized to a new place abroad. But these, as all doctors will tell you, should be the recourse of last resort.