Can't Go When You're On the Go? Beat Travel Constipation

Travel constipation is a common occurrence among vacationers. It can happen whether you're traveling just down the road or worldwide. Constipation can make traveling uncomfortable and put a damper on your vacation fun.

Key takeaways:
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    Travel constipation is common and happens to many people every time they travel.
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    Changes in activity, diet and regular routines can cause constipation during your vacation.
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    Most travel constipation is quickly relieved with exercise, improved diet, over-the-counter medications, and other remedies.

Constipation occurs when you go three or more days without pooping or have hard, difficult-to-pass stools. It can hit at any time but frequently happens during travel.

Knowing why this happens can help you avoid this unpleasant situation and get you back to your vacation fun.

Signs and symptoms

Most people think of constipation as not being able to poop at all. But if bowel movements are painful, small, or difficult to pass, you also suffer from constipation.

Other signs of constipation include having less than three bowel movements in a week and straining to have a bowel movement. Feeling full even after pooping can be another sign that you may be constipated.

When constipation hits, you may have some mild nausea. The uncomfortable feeling that you have may cause you to have a poor appetite and skip meals.

Long-term constipation can cause hemorrhoids, obstruction, and sometimes bowel incontinence.

What causes travel constipation?

Travel constipation is more likely to occur on long trips but can happen on shorter trips too. Any change to your routine can also cause changes in your bathroom routine.

Common causes of travel constipation are:

  • Sleep disruptions
  • Sitting for long periods (like on a plane)
  • Dehydration
  • Changes in your diet
  • Ignoring the urge to poop

Diet

Dietary changes like not eating enough fiber (think fruits and vegetables) and eating different foods than you typically eat cause alterations in your digestion. Increased alcohol and caffeine intake can contribute to dehydration, which causes stools to be hard and difficult to pass.

Stress

Stress can contribute too. Stress hormones have a direct impact on the digestive system. Just like being nervous before a big event can cause nausea or diarrhea, stress during travel can cause your digestive system to slow down, making bowel movements difficult.

Lack of movement

While lying on the beach all day sounds ideal for many vacationers, lack of physical activity is a key contributor to travel constipation. Movement stimulates the digestive system and makes it work more effectively. Spending days traveling and relaxing can cause the digestive system to slow down, which results in constipation.

Avoiding travel constipation

No one wants to spend their vacation feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to avoid constipation on your next vacation. And you can start before you leave the house.

Maintaining a good healthy diet as part of your everyday routine can help ensure that your digestive system is working at its best. Appropriate fiber intake can help keep your digestive system healthy. Dietary guidelines recommend between 28-31 grams of fiber per day for most adults.

Millions of bacteria live in our digestive system. Studies have shown that a healthy gut microbiome can help prevent constipation. Start a probiotic to build and maintain healthy gut flora. Continuing these probiotics on your trip may also help avoid traveler's diarrhea.

There are other simple steps you can take while on vacation to prevent travel constipation from ruining your trip, such as:

  • Daily physical activity
  • Sticking to a mealtime routine
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Avoiding delaying a bowel movement

Travel constipation remedies

If you cannot avoid travel constipation, there are a few simple ways to treat it yourself.

A warm beverage when you wake up in the morning can help stimulate your digestive system. Coffee has been shown to stimulate the colon and work as an effective laxative for many.

Natural supplements like magnesium and senna can also be effective. Many commercially available senna-containing teas provide relief from occasional constipation. A nightly magnesium supplement or use of magnesium citrate has also been shown to provide effective constipation relief.

Exercise, including long walks and yoga, can stimulate the digestive tract effectively. Specific yoga poses like Cobra Pose, Reclined Twist, and Bow Pose can put pressure on the abdomen, stimulating your intestines' muscles. These muscle contractions help move the stool along, allowing easier passage.

Over-the-counter medication options include stool softeners and laxatives that you can find at any pharmacy.

Stimulant laxatives cause the muscles of the digestive tract to contract, causing the stool to be pushed through the intestines.

Stool softeners pull moisture into the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. The options are usually quick, effective, and inexpensive, making them a good choice for many travelers.

When to see a doctor

While travel constipation is usually easy to treat yourself, there are some signs and red flag symptoms that mean you should seek medical care. These include:

  • Blood in the stool.
  • Severe pain with bowel movements.
  • Constipation accompanied by severe nausea and vomiting.

Although many people expect constipation to be their forever travel companion, there are ways to prevent and treat it effectively. Don't let travel constipation ruin your next vacation. Plan, maintain good habits, and stay hydrated to avoid this uncomfortable situation and enjoy your time away.

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