You’re a few days into vacation soaking up the sun, delicious new foods, and enjoying some well overdue R&R. And then…you start to feel bloated and heavy around your stomach, to the point where every meal feels less and less enjoyable. Was it something you ate? Maybe. Do you have a stomach bug? Hopefully not! Have you gone to the bathroom lately? Bingo – nope!
Constipation is very common when traveling. Why? For one, travel puts our bodies on a different schedule. This can alter when we have bowel movements (if at all). Especially if you’re traveling to a different time zone, that can totally throw your body out of whack! Add on hours of sitting still on a plane, eating new foods, and a disrupted circadian rhythm and you’ve set your digestion up for a perfect storm.
This is something I’ve dealt with personally, feeling awful discomfort just a few days into a trip I should be enjoying. But I refused to accept it as something that just happened to me when I traveled. So, I began learning and implementing some easy things to keep constipation at bay no matter where I was traveling or for how long. These are the same strategies I’ve studied over the years throughout my functional digestive health training.
Try one or a few of these constipation tips during your next trip — your whole body will thank you!
Just as exercise helps our fitness, weight, and mental health, movement also plays a big role in digestion. A stagnant body creates stagnant digestion, but a moving body moves digestion forward. That’s why my first tip, especially if you’re going on a long road trip or plane/bus/boat ride is to get movement in every hour. The longer you sit, the more constipated you could get. Aim to stand up (and walk around if you can) for a few minutes every hour. This will not only help digestion but also blood flow and detoxification (because you’re inhaling a LOT of nasty chemicals during transit!).
If your vacation primarily involves laying around the beach or pool, it’s important you schedule in 20-30 minutes of movement each day. Whether you stop at the hotel gym before laying seaside, go for a brisk morning walk, or take a beach yoga class, make this a daily activity.
If your trip is going to be quite active (like most of mine are) then you’re already covered!
Pictured above is me standing on a beautiful lookout point on the island of Mallorca in Spain.
Just like your mouth gets dry when you are dehydrated, your colon can get dry, too. Picture trying to slide down a dry water slide. You won’t get too far and it’ll be pretty painful along the way, right? The same happens in the colon. Water not only helps hydrate the colon and speed up elimination, it’s also a key nutrient for the mucosal lining, supporting proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.
That’s why you should always, always, always carry a water bottle around with you when traveling. Especially if you’re hiking or walking around all day, you’re burning off a lot of liquid, so it’s important not only to the rest of your body but to your digestion, too. How much water is enough? Take your weight and divide it in half and that’s how many ounces you should drink per day (on average, it’s 70oz/day – about 8 glasses)
Pictured above is a filtering water bottle I carry around during international trips. It can be found here on Amazon.
Often with vacation comes indulgence and trying a variety of new foods your body may not be used to. While I’m all for letting go and having some fun on vacation, one nutrient you shouldn’t forget about is fiber. Fiber acts like a broom in your digestive tract, sweeping debris and toxins out which can also create constipation. Foods like leafy greens, almonds, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, chia, and flax seeds are all high in fiber and should be relatively easy to still eat daily. Opt for a green salad once a day, or a green smoothie. Bring almonds or seeds with you as a snack and have a handful once or twice a day. Easy as that!
Pictured above is my daily breakfast while we were on the beautiful island of Capri, Italy.
Other foods with fiber in them include peas, acorn squash, lentils, black beans, figs, chickpeas, avocados, artichokes, and Brussel sprouts. Your digestion will thank you for keeping these in your diet while traveling!
The tiny beneficial bacteria located all along your digestive tract do more than just fend off the bad guys: they also regulate motility to fend off constipation. If your levels are already out of whack (due to a poor diet, antibiotics, birth control, stress, etc.) matters will only multiply as you add travel to the mix. That’s why taking a good quality probiotic can be helpful not only when traveling but every day.
Pro Tip: It can be extremely helpful to have your beneficial bacteria levels tested to see which ones need more support so you can fine-tune your probiotic regimen.
The probiotic I bring with me when vacationing, and rotate in several times a year, is Megasporebiotic. This is a practitioner-only sold brand so it can’t be bought in stores, but you can order it through me by signing up for an account with them here and using patient direct code: thrivebyfood.
If you don’t want to bring a supplement with you when you travel, then try to get probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, fermented veggies, or kefir daily. This may be harder to do, so choose whichever option is easiest.
If you’re on vacation already and are feeling constipated, there are a few things you can do to relieve constipation. One of my favorites is to do a yogic twist. It’s as simple as laying on the floor, pulling your knees towards your chest, twisting the knees to the right side and turning your head to the left. Sit in that position for as long as feels good and then reverse:
This can help to stimulate muscle contractions and loosen up the bowels. Focus on your breath while in this position to promote even more relaxation (remember: a relaxed mind equals relaxed digestion).
A big contributor to constipation that has nothing and everything to do with your GI tract is your mental and emotional health. More and more research continues to come out on the mind-gut connection, but it’s something I realized many years ago in myself and my clients. If you’re angry or upset about something and hold it in, that can manifest itself in the form of constipation.
Put simply when your negative thoughts are held captive, your poop is, too. That’s why it’s important to release your emotions by talking it out, journaling, or even just screaming into a pillow. Any of these can eventually stimulate a release of your bowels, too.
As much as you can, avoid indulging too much or eating too late at night (too close to bedtime). The more food you fill your digestive tract with, the more work it has to do. Especially if you have low stomach acid or digestive enzyme levels, it’ll take even longer to digest all that food. And since most of us don’t chew food as well as we should, your digestion has its work cut out. If you overeat, food can sit stagnant in your intestines for too long and begins to ferment, which causes gas and bloat.
To avoid this, eat only what you know your body will feel comfortable with. Chew your food really well (it’s recommended to chew 30 times per bite). And don’t eat within two hours of going to bed. The sooner you lay down after eating a meal, the slower your digestion will be. This is why it’s important to give it ample time to process before getting some zzz’s.
Pictured above is me at dinner at a cute restaurant in Alcudia Old Town, which is a small town on the island of Mallorca, Spain.
Another way to relieve constipation in the moment is by giving yourself an abdominal massage. With your forefinger and middle finger, massage your abdominal area in a clockwise motion.
This stimulates muscle contractions and breaks up fecal matter that is stuck in the intestines. It’s also helpful to take a few deep breaths during this process to relax. The more relaxed you are, the more effective this will be!
Especially if you’re traveling somewhere with different cuisine than you’re used to, your digestion may need a little help adjusting. Digestive enzymes are a great way to assist. They provide a boost of enzymes to break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in your meals.
This is another reason why I love running the GI-MAP stool test — it actually tests for how well your pancreas is producing enzymes to break down your foods, as well as how well your body can break down fats. Knowing this, you can get hyper-specific about what type of digestive enzymes you need. HCL (hydrochloric acid) can be another great way to boost the breakdown of food, but only if you have confirmed you do NOT have the nasty stomach bacteria, h.pylori, which flourishes in acidic environments. The GI-MAP is excellent at detecting h.pylori, and those of my clients with it are put on enzymes without HCL until the h.pylori is eradicated.
Many of my clients have found relief from constipation overall just by adding enzymes to their daily routine. Taking enzymes with meals can help your body adjust to new foods and keep things moving along.
In need of a stronger recommendation? There many herbs and other fiber blends that may be appropriate for constipation. However, I take recommending supplements very seriously as some can cause more damage than good in the body. That’s why I first run functional lab tests with clients to get a better history of their health. From there, I can offer more precise recommendations. However, two safer supplements I can recommend here are high-dose vitamin C and magnesium.
An easy way to figure out how high of a dose you need is to gradually increase the dose of one of them (don’t do both at once unless you’ve run a micronutrient test — another test I run with my clients — and confirmed you are deficient in both) until you experience a bowel movement.
Feeling bloated, gassy, or blocked up when traveling is no fun — especially if it interferes with your bikini status! I recommend choosing 1-3 of these tips and implement them during your next trip. Eating well, reducing stress, and staying hydrated are some of the best ways to keep constipation at bay.
If you’d like to talk through more travel-specific strategies and/or run the GI-MAP stool test to discover what’s going on down there and get a custom plan forward, start by requesting a free 20-minute consult with me and we’ll discuss if we’re a fit to work together and how it all works!
Good luck and let me know in the comments which of these tips worked for you!
Kristin Thomas is a health coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner specialized in helping women with hormone, digestion, and autoimmune health concerns. Having gone through these health challenges herself, she now helps clients find their own path to complete wellness through practical and natural diet and lifestyle changes.
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