One of the things we dread most when going on holiday is that we won’t feel well. Getting Delhi Belly or being chronically constipated are the two most common things that can ruin your holiday. Having the runs can leave us sitting in our hotel room feeling miserable watching everyone else dive bombing into the pool. However, we can get over this quite quickly whereas travel constipation can last for days and in some cases the whole holiday. It can be miserable leaving us feeling sluggish, unable to enjoy the food, and frustrated by a distended belly. However, do not despair, be aware of the potential for this and be prepared and you can at least reduce if not banish constipation from you holiday experience.
What causes travel constipation?
Routine - We like to think that just kids are obsessed with routine but actually adults are too! You probably don’t realise what a routine addict you actually are, and in fact your body is! We do have an internal clock which is what gets thrown completely when travelling. Our internal clock tells us when to wake up, sleep, eat and, yes, go to the toilet! Change in routine is a big reason for suddenly getting bunged up.
Privacy – We are a shy culture when it comes to going to the toilet. Even small children can have a tendency to be coy in that department! Airports, airplanes, hotel rooms, restaurants, all these places are not home, and are public and it can mean we ‘hold it in’ rather than being socially ‘unacceptable’. Holding in is the worst thing one can do if there is a tendency to become constipated. Stool then becomes hard and impacted and it becomes more difficult to go the next time.
Change in diet – This is the most obvious one! We are very used to the food we eat and it is easy to put our system out of sorts. We may be fibre junkies at home, used to our fruit and fibre in the morning, or endless kale and salads. We then go on holiday and where are the vegetables? I’ve noticed that when I go to Paris there appears to not be a vegetable in sight just gorgeous bread, cheese and meat to get stuck into! It doesn’t take long for the bowel to go on strike when it’s not getting what it’s used to. Rich food also causes indigestion which in turn can also mess up our whole system.
Dehydration –Going on holiday tends to be a passport to drink cocktails by the pool from 11am, or an espresso at every street corner. It may be hot too, and it’s easy to forget to drink water. All of these possibilities can lead to dehydration which in turn vastly increases the chances of becoming constipated. This can often be exacebated when travelling somewhere hot where you are not accustomed to the heat and may also be losing hydration due to sweating, the body's natural response to over heating. It's therefore even more important if you are somewhere hot or on an activity holiday, to drink more water than you usually do. This will also help you avoid becoming constipated.
Exercise - We may have gone on a health kick to get in shape before our holiday only to get there and slob out for days, not move at all, then wonder why we suddenly feel all out of sorts? Exercise plays many roles but one of them is stimulating our bowels and getting them moving. Ever gone out for an impromptu run and then had to peg it back to go to the toilet? It can be a magic remedy for constipation so being sedentary works the other way.
So how do I stop becoming constipated when on holiday?
There are plenty of things you can do but this mainly involves remembering to look after yourself and taking into consideration all the points above.
1) Try to reduce jet lag by gradually getting used to the time zone before you go by going to bed later or earlier, be careful with sleeping tablets as they can affect your digestive system, try to sleep on the plane and don’t get into bed too early when you get there. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol on the plane.
2) If you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. I know it’s embarrassing but think about how awful you will feel if you end up not going to the toilet for days. Try to remember also that it’s a natural bodily need and everyone has it. There is no glory in moaning about being bunged up and being grouchy all holiday just because you are embarrassed to fulfil the urge. Take some perfume in with you if you are feeling really shy! Carry wipes for the seat with you if you are using public toilets a lot.
3) Drink water. I can’t say this enough. If you are meant to drink 8 large glasses of water normally then when somewhere hot you need to be drinking a whole lot more. If you are hot or not drinking enough water, your body tends to use water for cooling down or vital metabolic reactions and its therefore diverted water away from your gut. As your gut normally absorbs water to make your stool soft, dehydration can lead to hard stools and trouble going to the toilet. Be aware of your drinking habits and have a glass of water after every coffee or glass of wine. Drink water before bed and a first thing in the morning
4) Be aware of your food. Enjoy what’s on offer but order a side salad, or buy fruit at the market. Literally administer your fibre – especially if that is what you are used to. As I mentioned everyone is different so consider your usual habits and try to stick to these. It can be really useful to pack your favourite snacks such as nuts or seeds. I never go anywhere without my oatcakes and whip them out instead of bread. It means that if you get hungry you can eat something you are used to rather than another snack that bungs you up. Check out what the locals are eating as well, as food provided for the British doesn’t always tend to be that digestion friendly!. In the Middle East for example they start the day with dates and fruit and yogurt – great for the digestion. In India ripe bananas may help (although frankly you are not likely to be constipated in India!), Greece will provide you with scrummy tomatoes everywhere you look, and Germany has a health food store on every street corner!
5) Take your trainers. Exercise is helpful for relieving constipation. Use your extra time to enjoy a jog, or walk, or get in that pool before or after everyone else and do some lengths. Yoga is great for constipation and bloating too, so maybe check out a few moves before you go and then fit those into your day. It will energise you as well. If really you are stuck as to what to do jog on the spot for ten minutes!! Remember sluggish day equals sluggish bowels.
6) Take a natural laxative with you. Just in case you do get a bit constipated, or are likely to get jet lagged, take a natural laxative with you to help you along. A bag of prunes in your suitcase is a good start but certain probiotics can also be of help. There is a product available with a perfect combination of fibre and Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® which research shows is particularly good at getting the bowel regular again. It comes in sachets, perfect to pop in your suitcase or handbag.
7) Pre-empt it! Beat your constipation to it, especially if you know you have a habit of getting bunged up when travelling. Use these tips before you even get to the point you feel uncomfortable. Prevention is easier than cure.
Read does aeroplane food make you constipated?
Have a lovely trip