Travel constipation and how to keep your bowels regular while travelling
Travel tips for IBS and sensitive digestive systems
Travelling, whether for work or pleasure, adds a little variety to our life. It can also wreak havoc on your bowels. Travel constipation and other uncomfortable digestion issues are certainly common.
Whether your bowels usually run like clockwork or you struggle with a sensitive digestive system, travelling can throw your bowels off.
There are, however, some things that you can do to keep some regularity in your life while on the road.
Maintain meal routine
Your bowels like routine (I’m going to repeat this several times during this post!).
Missing meals, whether because of oddly scheduled flights or because you’re out and about trying to see as much as you can on vacation, can throw your bowels off.
As much as possible, try to eat regularly (every 3-5 hours). If you know you’re going to miss a meal or will have a long time between meals, pack a snack so you can at least have something so keep a somewhat regular meal routine.
Don’t forget hydration
Staying adequately hydrated is important for everyone, whether on the road or at home.
Just as travelling can throw our meal schedule off, it can also get us out of the habit of staying properly hydrated. Those prone to constipation should pay particular attention to hydration in order to prevent triggering, or worsening, constipation.
So remember to drink (mostly water) – order an extra glass of water with meals, bring a reusable water bottle or make a point to stop and buy a bottle of water when convenient.
Keep up with your fiber intake
Unless you’ve outfitted yourself with a kitchenette on your travels, I think it’s fair to say that most meals will be eaten in restaurants.
While I’m all for eating out while travelling, it also means your meals are likely lower in fiber. This seemingly abrupt change in fiber can truly affect the regularity of your bowels.
We know that our bowels like (and need) fiber and depending on what you struggle with the most – diarrhea or constipation, there are different types of fiber you can choose that benefit your specific needs (more on this here in my previous post: How to Get Your Bowels Back on Track).
There are a few things you can do to ensure that you are getting the fiber you need while on the road, including:
- Make sure at least one of your meals is loaded with veggies. If you know you’re going to a killer BBQ restaurant for dinner, where vegetables are likely to be scarce, have a veggie packed lunch. Ideally having vegetables at both lunch and dinner but I know that sometimes isn’t realistic while on the road.
- Make sure your breakfasts contain some fiber – either whole grains like a hearty bread or oatmeal (perhaps topped with nuts/seeds/bran, if available) or some fruit.
- If you’re near a grocery store, buy a few pieces of fruit or some nuts to have on hand as snacks throughout the day. If your hotel has a complimentary fruit bowl, take one or two pieces for while you go out exploring.
- Some people also have success with bringing their own fiber or fiber mix with them (mixture of ground flax, chia seeds and hemp seeds) to add to their hot cereal or yogurt.
Don’t ignore the urge to go
Our bowels like routine – as with meal routine, keeping on a somewhat regular toileting routine is helpful in maintaining regular bowels.
If you tend to ‘go’ at a certain time of day (for example, right after breakfast), give yourself that same time to visit the toilet. Try not to pack your schedule so full that you don’t give yourself time to take care of this very important need, especially if you know that your bowels get thrown off easily.
On a related noted, if you are out and about and feel the urge to go, don’t ignore it. Ignoring urges to have bowel movements make constipation worse. While having a bowel movement in a public washroom isn’t comfortable for everyone, the discomfort of being badly constipated I dare say is worse.
Some vacations are more active than others.
If your idea of a vacation is to be active and explore your new surroundings by foot, your activity level is probably good. However, your ideal vacation is relaxing on a beach without too much movement during the day (or you’re travelling for work and stuck in an office or conference all day), it’s probably a good idea to find some time to include some movement during the day.
We know that bowels, especially those prone to constipation, do better with physical activity. So finding some time to move your body will be in your favour. This doesn’t mean you have to hit the hotel gym, if that’s not your jam. You can take a walk, explore a local park or splash around in a pool.
Do some research
For those with known food intolerances that cause changes in bowel habits – do some research about local cuisine and try to identify foods that will likely be easy on your digestive tract, and those that may be wise to avoid.
If there are particular restaurants you’d like to visit, you can contact them to see if they can accommodate your needs. If language is a barrier to communicating your needs, write out your specific food intolerances on a card with translations into the local language to show your server.
Looking for more information on digestive health? Check out these articles:
For more information on dietitian nutrition counseling for digestion issues and our Calgary IBS dietitian services for support on what to eat for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), the low FODMAP diet, constipation, diarrhea, celiac disease, crohn’s disease, colitis and other digestive health concerns CONTACT US. As one of the specialized IBS dietitians of Canada, Kate Chury can see you in our local Calgary nutritionist office or by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling.
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