Poo troubles while on holiday?
Do you find yourself straining to have a bowel movement, having hard poops, or using the toilet infrequently while on holiday, despite being regular when in your normal routine? Here’s what you need to know!
You’ve booked the time off, you made the plans, and you’ve finally made it to your destination and you’re ready to relax and have fun – except that your digestive system doesn’t seem to enjoy your vacation as much as you do. For many people, it’s common to get backed up while away from home.
What causes traveller’s constipation?
There are many factors that influence our gut microbiota - such as our diet, mealtimes, exercise, sleep patterns, mental health, and environment – all of which can be disrupted when going on holiday and we find ourselves out of routine. These changes in routine can throw your gut microbiota off balance.
What you eat and when you eat can leave you feeling backed up. You may find that while on holiday you’re choosing more indulgent foods that are lower in fibre, drinking more alcohol, or having more ultra-processed foods. These dietary changes can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiota which maintains healthy digestion. You may also be less conscious of your water intake, leading to dehydration, which can result in more fluid removal and hardened stools, and slow down the movement of waste through your intestines.
Changes to your sleep routine may also disrupt the regularity of your bowel movements, such as changing time zones. When we sleep, the gut’s migrating motor complex helps to “sweep” out our colon, and this process is disrupted when we get inadequate sleep. Reduced movement can also have an impact, like travelling for long periods of time (such as sitting on a plane for hours). If you find yourself taking a break from the gym while on holiday as well, there may be a significant decline in movement which typically helps with muscle contractions that get things moving along.
Additionally, you may be someone who experiences high levels of stress while travelling or perhaps using a different toilet than you are used to is stressful for you. The brain and the gut are intimately connected, and high stress levels can also negatively impact your digestive system. In fact, even the fear of getting constipation can leave you unable to go.
What can you do about it?
Stay active while travelling
Schedule in stops if you’re in for a long drive or try to get up out of your seat regularly if you’re on a long haul flight. Try stretching when you can or trying seated workouts to get some movement in. When at your destination, try walking around as much as possible instead of relying on transportation (it’s also a great way to experience your new environment!).
Don’t ignore the urge to go
We get it – maybe the plane’s toilet isn’t the most private place for a number two, or perhaps the petrol station’s toilet isn’t the cleanest place to go. However, ignoring the urge to go can lead to constipation. Try to schedule in regular bathroom breaks and when you need to go, go!
You may not have as much control over your access to water compared to when you’re at home or in the office. Try carrying a water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day no matter what you’re doing!
Include high fibre foods
While there may be many delicious foods to try at your destination, you don’t need to miss out on these while also incorporating high fibre foods into your meals. If eating out, order a side of vegetables or salad to balance out your plate. You could also pack high fibre snacks to have on hand such as fruits or whole-grain packaged snacks. You may want to consider a fibre supplement, such as psyllium husk to help boost your fibre intake while away.
Maintain your schedule
Maintaining elements of your schedule may help to prevent constipation as well. Try going to bed at a similar time that you usually do and incorporating foods that you typically do to maintain some normalcy.
A final word
If you’re prone to constipation while travelling, you are certainly not alone! Travelling can disrupt many elements of our routine that can throw our gut microbiota out of balance, such as an irregular sleep schedule, dietary changes, and a change in environment. However, a high-fibre diet, adequate hydration, sleep and movement can help you prevent a blockage from slowing down your holiday!
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