So you FINALLY made time to get away on vacation and travel a bit. Congratulations! It’s a wonderful time of year to visit family, see a new place, or just get away and unwind.
I don’t know about you but as soon as my bag is packed for a trip my digestion goes on vacation. It’s like it knows it will be pooping in a foreign place. LOL.
I have a history of not being able to go to the restroom (at all) when I travel, and I know I’m not the only one. Just something about it makes me shut down and end up miserable and constipated. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 2-hour drive to grandma’s or a 6-hour flight across the country. In every single case, I’m going to experience discomfort and irregularity.
This is incredibly frustrating for so many women. You’ve worked so hard to finally take that needed vacation, and now you have to deal with discomfort or pain? When our digestive health is off, so is our life. It can be so difficult to enjoy Christmas dinner or even a meal out with friends when your gut is in knots.
So how can you avoid the discomfort that always seems to follow travel? It’s time to take control of our gut health to ensure our holiday vacations are enjoyable and FUN, without the worry of constipation.
Why do we get constipated when we travel?
Schedule Disruption. Our bodies love a schedule, which is why you probably poop at the same time(s) every day! But travel is an inherent disruption of your normal, daily life. Anything that causes a change in your normal schedule can throw off your digestion for a few days.
Dehydration. Another HUGE cause of constipation while traveling is dehydration. We simply do not drink as much water on vacation as we normally do. We also tend to drink more alcohol, which further exacerbates the problem.
Low Fiber Intake. Vacation and the holiday’s means lots of delicious, likely processed foods. Food that has been highly processed, like potato chips, usually have a low fiber content. Fiber not only keeps us full, but it also keeps food moving through our intestines. Less fiber intake means a higher likelihood of constipation.
Stress. It is well known that stress and anxiety contribute to constipation. When you’re in a new or different place, many people (including myself) experience “bathroom anxiety”, or when you feel uncomfortable going #2. Not only that, but the generalized stress of traveling can also cause some people to become constipated even if they aren’t worried about it!
So yeah, travel can cause a slew of problems that directly impact how your gut feels. How can we best try to avoid those negative experiences? Here’s what has worked for me.
First off, It is so important to be intentional on preparing BEFORE you leave. How I eat, drink, and manage my stress on the days leading up to traveling has a direct impact on my digestive health during vacation. So to prepare, do the following:
1. Take a probiotic once/day at least 2 weeks before you leave. I love Culturelle, but anything you can find at your local grocery store or pharmacy should work well.
2. Drink at least 64 ounces of water every single day leading up to the trip.
3. Try to eat at least 25 grams of fiber every day. This is actually the recommended daily intake for women by the RDA, but Americans tend to not even reach half of that! My favorite fiber-rich foods include avocados, kale, beans, chia seeds, flax seeds, and almond butter.
4. Manage your stress leading up to the trip. If I am stressed going into vacation, I will be stressed AND constipated during vacation. I like to do some gentle yoga, walk my dog, or listen to 10-minute meditations each day to put my mind at ease.
5. Make exercise part of your daily routine before traveling. It doesn’t have to be a super sweaty workout every day, but simple movement such as a 30-minute walk or yoga class helps prevent constipation and get things moving.
6. Sleep lots. I find that sleeping well leads to healthy digestion. Take a melatonin the few nights before to ensure you get your 8 hours.
So the day of travel is finally here! Here's how to handle it:
1. Pack a stool softener. This is a great way to make sure you stay regular because they help bring water into your stools. Take the recommended serving the day you travel. You can usually buy these over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. I like the ones that come in powder form, especially Miralax because it's so gentle, but super effective.
2. Eat 2 tablespoons of chia seeds or flax seeds (ground) in the morning and in the evening. Mix the seeds with water and drink or have them over your favorite yogurt/smoothie. The extra fiber that day will help prevent constipation the next few days.
3. Pack lots of water and healthy, fiber-rich snacks (nuts, dried fruit, granola bars) to eat throughout the day. This will keep hunger at bay and your gut happy.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy your vacation!! Traveling is one of the best human experiences, so rest assured that you and your gut will have a wonderful holiday.