Travel Constipation Is the Worst. Here’s How to Avoid It, According to an RD

Ever wonder why you get constipated when you travel? Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, outlines some of the leading causes of travel constipation with accompanying tips on how to avoid it.

Whether you’re hopping on a plane or taking a road trip, digestive issues can put a damper on your travel plans. (Seriously, is anything worse than not being able to poop while you’re on vacation?) Although travel constipation is all too common, some of the reasons for why it happens may surprise you. Fortunately, avoiding travel constipation isn’t as complex as you might think.

Keep reading for helpful insights on travel constipation, including key causes and tips to help prevent it from spoiling your travels.

4 Causes of Travel Constipation

1. You’ve Been Sitting for Too Long

Physical activity, among other factors, helps keep things moving along your digestive tract. Even low intensity activities, such as walking around your home or office, can help stimulate a bowel movement.

But as we know, movement is typically limited while traveling. Consequently, sitting still during longer trips—including during flights and for ground travel that lasts more than a couple of hours—may negatively impact your digestive regularity.

Digestive symptoms can also worsen when you couple sitting down for too long with in-flight “jet belly.” Jet belly is caused by gas that becomes trapped in your gut during a flight. While jet belly isn’t the same as constipation, it can amplify feelings of distention or bloat in your stomach.

How to avoid it: If you’re traveling by car, add movement breaks into your itinerary. This can be as simple as planning five minute stops every hour or two to walk around a rest stop, or doing some light stretching by your car. 

If you’re traveling by air, set reminders to stand up and walk down the aisle. This can help keep your digestive tract from becoming stagnant and may help ease jet belly. 

You can also give your digestive system some extra love by taking a digestive enzyme supplement with meals. I recommend HUM’s Flatter Me, which can help break down food and reduce bloating.

Once you’re at your destination, try to stay active whenever possible to encourage normal digestive function.

2. You “Held It in” While En Route to Your Destination

For a variety of reasons, many people try to limit their bathroom breaks while in transit to their final destination. Some might be grossed out by airplane restrooms, while others may try to take as few rest stops as possible during their drive. Others may even avoid drinking water to, again, limit how many times they need to use the restroom.

In any case, waiting too long to use the restroom and not drinking enough water can cause your digestive tract to become backed up. Additionally, holding it in and dehydration can harden your stools, making them uncomfortable to pass. On a similar note, holding in your pee for an extended period may increase your risk for urinary tract issues.

How to avoid it: The obvious solution here is to avoid waiting too long to use the restroom. Since everyone’s bathroom frequency is different, simply try to stick to your normal routine as much as you can.

In regards to hydration, we are not saying that you should chug a lot of water right before embarking on a long road trip. Instead, be mindful of how much (or how little) you are drinking. It can be beneficial to strategically plan your water intake. For example, you may want to take occasional sips from your water bottle during travel and then be more intentional about drinking greater amounts once you arrive at your destination.

Woman dining out while traveling

3. You’re Dining Out or Snacking More than Usual

Trying new foods, dining out, and road trip snacks are arguably some of the best parts about traveling. But when those foods are lacking in fiber, they can seriously disrupt your digestion.

Fiber helps add bulk to your stool, allowing for easier passage through the digestive tract. Dietary fiber is typically found in the likes of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you’re not eating enough fiber, it can slow down your bowel movements—and in some cases, make them hard and uncomfortable to pass.

How to avoid it: Naturally, what and how you eat will have an effect on your digestive system. So whether you are traveling by ground or air, set yourself up for success by packing snacks that will boost your fiber intake.

Travel-friendly snack options that pack fiber include:

  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Fiber bars

When dining out, making an effort to include a serving of fruits and vegetables can also help you get more fiber at meal times.

Packing a fiber supplement can also help you stay on track. I recommend taking HUM’s Beauty zzZz Gummies before bed, as it delivers 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving. As an added perk, these melatonin gummies can help regulate your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is a huge plus if jet lag sets in during your travels.

4. You Get Stressed Out While Traveling

It’s no secret that traveling can be stressful. But what may be surprising is that stress may be one of the underlying causes of travel constipation.

The brain and gut are in constant communication. In fact, researchers have discovered that the emotional centers of the brain have a bi-directional relationship with the digestive tract. In other words, a stressed mind can result in a stressed gut—and vice versa. A stressed gut can lead to an array of digestive issues, including constipation.

How to avoid it: While anticipating and planning for what can potentially go wrong during travel can be helpful, it is difficult to predict every stress-inducing situation. If you find yourself easily becoming stressed out while traveling, keep an ashwagandha supplement on hand. Made with a clinically tested dose of patented ashwagandha (Sensoril®) and L-theanine, HUM’s Ashwagandha Calm Gummies can help promote relaxation and healthy stress management.

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