Whether we travel for work or pleasure, we should not need to be in the position of discomfort and ill health that many people find themselves in but few talk about – constipation. Instead, with a little knowledge and pre-planning, we can enjoy our journey and feel at our best at all times.
The situation arises because when we travel we are suddenly in a different daily routine of mealtimes or even time zones. Add to that different food choices, being immobile for long periods either in transit or in meetings, dehydration and possibly dodgy bathrooms or restroom facilities that could be on trains, boats and planes. All these can throw our bodies out of their usual rhythms and cause constipation. Here are some simple tips to help us to keep regular and comfortable wherever we find ourselves:
- Drink plenty of fluids because lots of liquids help to make stools softer and easier to pass. Alcohol, coffee and a hot dry climate are dehydrating and harsh on skin, beauty and the tummy. It’s a good idea to carry a water bottle, drink from it regularly and keep it topped up.
- Consciously choose healthier meals that provide high fibre foods like vegetables and fruit (the recommendation is two cups of each a day). Nuts, seeds, whole grain breads, cereals and beans are also high in fibre, something which helps to add bulk to the stool and move things along. Any foods that are greasy or fried take a while to digest and slow down normal digestive tract movement and can therefore bind us up. Popular fast foods like chips, pizza, cookies, cakes and pastries are very low in fibre and can make constipation worse. So do dairy foods like cheese and ice cream – rather choose a frozen lolly than ice cream if you are having a problem.
- Never ignore the urge to use the bathroom. Withholding stools even once makes them dry out and impact at the narrowest part of the bowel. Do it a few times and a struggle is guaranteed. For comfort’s sake you may suppress the urge until you feel circumstances are right but by then it may be too late. Rather adopt the rule that “nothing is more important” and allow yourself the time to have a full and relaxed movement. Scheduling regular bathroom breaks is always a good idea, and drinking a lot of water is doubly helpful as it raises the issue every couple of hours.
- Get moving. Exercise stimulates the motility of the digestive tract while immobility does the opposite. Walk around whenever possible and try to fit in a walk before or after meetings. During long periods of sitting try to stretch your legs and use the bathroom regularly.