How to avoid ‘traveller’s constipation’ on your next holiday

This may be a case of TMI (too much information) but I find my digestion gets a little dinky on holiday.

That’s the PG way of putting it.

It all starts the morning of a flight. I get excited and seem to ‘seize up’. On a long flight, I then bloat and by the time I land it’s like a dam has been built in my bowel.

You get the picture.

It’s not an uncommon complaint, it seems. Studies show that ‘traveller’s constipation’ affects one in three people while on holiday.

Key points:

  • Factors such as dehydration, immobility, and changes in sleep routine contribute to constipation.
  • Prioritise hydration, fibre-rich foods, and a regular sleep routine to prevent traveller’s constipation.
  • Proactive measures include consuming enough fluids, eating fibre-rich foods, and avoiding excessive pushing or straining.
  • Over-the-counter laxatives and medical advice should be sought if constipation persists or worsens.

Who does traveller’s constipation affect?

Travelling should be a time for relaxation and exploration, but for many people it can bring about a surprising and uncomfortable issue: traveller’s constipation.

Dr Satish Rao, a professor of medicine at Augusta University, says that experiencing difficulties with bowel movements while on holiday is actually quite common, affecting perhaps one in three people.

How do I know if I have it?

Oh, you’ll know. But in case you need an explainer, constipation is usually defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week or experiencing lumpy and difficult-to-pass stools.

When it comes to travel, a combination of factors can contribute to digestive discomfort. Long flights can lead to dehydration and immobility. Dry air in planes can cause dehydration, and some travellers may avoid drinking fluids to reduce the need to use the restroom frequently (guilty).

When the body becomes dehydrated, it pulls more fluid from the colon, resulting in hard, lumpy stools that can be difficult to pass.

Sitting still for extended periods can slow down the muscle contractions that move food through your digestive system. Sleep disruption can also cause constipation.

Changing time zones can confuse your colon, as your internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, regulates both sleep and digestion. Even slight changes in your eating and sleeping routine can throw your innards out.

So, how can you prevent traveller’s constipation?

Be proactive with your diet, sleep, and hydration.

In the days leading up to your trip:

  • Make sure you’re getting enough fluids, especially if you’re travelling to high altitudes or hot climates.
  • Steer clear of too many bubbly drinks, as they may cause gas and bloating.
  • Prioritise fibre-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, along with other sources of fibre. Aim for at least 25 grams of fibre per day.

While on holiday:

  • Soluble fibre supplements like psyllium can help with constipation, but be sure to drink them with water to soften your stool (and always consult your doctor before taking any supplements).
  • Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, or yoghurt, can support a healthy gut microbiome, aiding digestion. Additionally, drinking coffee can stimulate bowel movements.

If you’re still experiencing constipation, over-the-counter laxatives can provide relief. However, not all laxatives are suitable for travel, so check with a healthcare professional before using them.

Remember, it’s crucial to stay calm, as it’s a myth that you need to have a bowel movement every day. If it has been three times longer than your normal pattern, you may wish to seek medical advice. And if you notice blood in your stool or severe pain, contact a doctor immediately.

Finally, if you don’t feel the urge to go, avoid pushing or straining excessively, as this can lead to further complications.

By being proactive and taking simple preventive measures, you can enjoy your holiday without the discomfort of traveller’s constipation. Prioritising hydration, fibre-rich foods, and a regular sleep routine can go a long way in keeping your digestive system healthy.

Do you suffer from traveller’s constipation? What do you do to fix the issue? Why not share your tips with our members in the comments section below?

Also read: Are you busting to travel?

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