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That said, planning ahead isn’t always in the proverbial cards. Meaning if you just got back from vacation and are looking for ways to expedite the potty process, there are a few gastro-approved tips you can employ to get things moving and grooving ASAP.
Ahead, discover insights on avoiding and recovering from travel constipation, courtesy of Bharat Pothuri, MD, a gastroenterologist with Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas.
Why does travel constipation occur?
The standard causes of constipation—including but not limited to unfavorable dietary habits, dehydration, medical conditions, and even stress—apply, but traveling can double down on the (pardon the cascade of puns) party-pooping pain in the butt. To start, our dietary habits often take a hit when we’re in new surroundings and our usual routine is thrown off. “While on vacation, we tend to eat foods that are higher in fat and contain less fiber in general,” Dr. Pothuri explains. In addition, “We tend to eat at random, erratic times which are in distinction to the predictable, scheduled meals when at home.”
Some of us also drink more alcohol than usual. We may also try to adjust to a new time zone by perking up with an extra cup or two of coffee—both of which can amplify dehydration. “A lack of usual and regular exercise routines and increased stress and sleep disruptions can also contribute to constipation,” Dr. Pothuri adds.
The potential for travel constipation may be higher if you’re in transit for long and don’t get up to move around. All the while, we may forget to drink enough water, or even consciously decide not to sip as much to avoid using the airplane bathroom or making extra pit stops on a road trip.
3 tips to recover from travel constipation
“It can take a few days but up to weeks for the body to recover from travel constipation,” Dr. Pothuri shares. Your standard diet and lifestyle routine—including your H2O, caffeine, and fiber intake—will largely influence the time it’ll take to have regular BMs again. Moreover, your typical bowel patterns and frequency will inevitably factor into the equation.
“It can take a few days but up to weeks for the body to recover from travel constipation,” Dr. Pothuri shares.
What you eat, drink, and do while you’re away from home will also impact your post-travel constipation recovery time. While you should definitely relax and enjoy your travels, you may want to take greater care to avoid triggers and prioritize the following tips before heading home if you’re already prone to constipation.
1. Hydrate like you mean it
“We should aim to drink 100 ounces of water daily,” says Dr. Pothuri. Traveling can exacerbate dehydration and thus constipation—especially while flying, and if you’re doing intense physical activities, sweating profusely, or spending time in high altitudes. That said, you’ll want to be extra mindful about staying on top of your water (and electrolyte) intake.
2. Feast on fiber
“Eat a balanced, healthy, high-fiber diet with at least two to three servings of fruits and vegetables daily,” the gastro advises. Dr. Pothuri says we should aim for 25 to 30 grams day in and day out, ideally from food but also supplements as needed. Many produce items pack both soluble and insoluble fiber. Yet if you’re going for the supplement route, keep an eye out for the former (types of which include psyllium and pectin), as it can accelerate transit time and reduce symptoms of constipation.
P.S. As you increase your fiber intake, you’ll need to drink more water to help bulk up your stool and make it easier (and oh-so satisfying) to pass. The more readily you lean on this dynamic duo, the more likely your odds are of bouncing back from post-travel constipation in no time.
3. Move your body
To get *things* moving, get things moving. “I recommend patients live an active lifestyle, which includes 30 minutes of cardio activity at least three to four times a week,” Dr. Pothuri concludes.