Wed, Nov 20, 19
Vacation. Ahhh! Spahhh! Yeehaaa! But have you noticed that when you’re on vacation, perhaps even for brief weekend respite, you feel BLAHHH?! Traffic was flowing smoothly until you packed your bags and headed for the airport. Now you have gridlock of the gut. The poop train is frozen to the tracks and nothing you do can coax it to leave the station. What the filibuster?!
Pooping away from home can be a huge challenge due to numerous factors, including dietary changes, dehydration, stress, or even an irrational reluctance to use deplorable public restrooms or a bathroom that simply doesn’t feel right to you. We discuss the role anxiety plays in negatively impacting the elimination process in a previous post, “Don’t Get Your Colon in a Knot: The Anxiety-Pooping Connection.” In that post, we cover two common elimination issues triggered by anxiety — diarrhea and constipation. Here, we focus on constipation, specifically traveler’s constipation.
Pack Your Gut before Your Bags
A key to winning the battle of the bowels, especially when you’re on vacation or away from home, is to take preemptive and unrelenting action. It’s much harder to restore the flow than to maintain it, so don’t wait till you’re backed up. Consider packing your gut before your bags, and by this we don’t mean over-packing; you may even want to lighten the load by eating a little less. What we do suggest is that you pay at least as much attention to what you eat before a trip as you do when deciding what to pack.
Here are a few specific suggestions regarding food and beverages to consume before you travel:
Maintain Your Poop Schedule . . . as Much as Humanly Possible
When you’re on the road, your biological clock gets all out of whack (especially if you cross time zones), and your normal rhythms and routines are disrupted. Make a mental note of when you usually eat, drink, sleep, and poop, and when you travel, either try to maintain your schedule or ease into a new daily routine. Your body will adapt, but it takes time.
Tip: According to the National Sleep Foundation (see “Jet Lag and Sleep“), you can minimize the side effects of jet lag and reset your biological clock by doing the following:
- Select a flight that arrives early in the evening, and the night you arrive stay up until 10pm local time.
- A few days prior to departure, go to bed and get up earlier when traveling eastward or later when traveling westward.
- When you depart, set your watch (and smartphone) for the destination time zone.
- Get plenty of natural light when you reach your destination; that is, get out and about during the day.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid heavy meals. That’s heavy meals, not heavy metals, but you should avoid those, too.
- Avoid strenuous exercise near bedtime.
- Use earplugs and a blindfold to block out sensory stimulation when trying to sleep.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Although time away from home is supposed to be relaxing and restorative, it also has a tendency to crank up the stress, which can contribute to constipation. As you plan and prepare for your trip and throughout the course of your travels, take 10 to 15 minutes a couple times a day to really relax. All you need to do is sit still, go limp, close your eyes, clear your mind, and remain in that state of relaxation for 10 to 15 minutes.
Pack the Big Guns
Hopefully, you’ll follow our suggestions and experience no log jams, so to speak. Just in case, pack the big guns — a fiber supplement, a laxative, and your foldable, portable Porta-Squatty. Just be sure not to overdo it with the fiber supplement and laxative. One extreme can be just as bad, or worse, than the other. In addition, taking supplements and laxatives when you don’t really need them can trigger a cycle of constipation and diarrhea, making it difficult to restore regularity. Pack the big guns but use them only when absolutely necessary. You’re usually better off just eating less or fasting for several hours and letting your gut adapt to the situation.
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Disclaimer: This blog post on traveler’s constipation provides general information and discussion about medical issues and health-related subject matter. The words and other content provided in this post, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If you or any other person has a medical concern, consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care professional immediately and do not rely on the information presented in this post. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog post or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.