How to Prevent Constipation When Travelling

What’s a post on constipation doing on a vegan blog? Yes, generally speaking, most vegans are not bothered by constipation. Their diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, is also high in fiber.

But even vegans can fall prey to traveler’s constipation. When you travel, your body’s circadian rhythm, the daily cycle that lasts just over 24 hours, gets mixed up. Most people travel to another time zone, so the times you eat, sleep, exercise, and normally go to the bathroom are changed.

Also, you don’t have your normal routine and places. Your subconscious mind doesn’t feel “at home,” and your body’s elimination is missing the normal cues that you have at home.

In addition, especially if you’re flying, dehydration can be an issue. Even if you have enough fiber, if you don’t have enough water, you can get clogged up.

So how can you prevent constipation when travelling? Here are some tips:

Fill up on fiber for two days before you leave.

That means lots of whole grains, and especially beans, raw fruits, and vegetables. The fiber is more difficult to compact, meaning easier to pass stools when you do get the urge to go, even if it’s delayed.

I try to be sure to have raw vegetables, too. They have lots of water already in them.

Stay hydrated.
All the fiber in the world won’t help you if it’s dry. It will just end up a clog if it’s not moist.

Think of a water hose. If there’s a clog, adding more dirt won’t get it unstuck. You need to add water to flush it out. Your colon works the same way.

So make sure you’re hydrated before you leave. Drink some water every time it’s offered on the flight. And drink rehydration fluids when you arrive at your destination, if necessary, in addition to lots of water.

Bring your own food.
The typical offerings on a flight these days are a box of cheese and crackers, usually with sausage, or nothing but junk food.

Instead, carry fiber-full dried fruits, trail mix, whole grain crackers, and be sure to drink liquids when you consume them. My go-to travel meal is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread. It doesn’t need refrigeration for a long time and is still edible when smashed, stale, or overheated. It’s saved my butt too often to count.

If you are allowed to carry raw fruits and vegetables with you, cut up vegetables, some whole grain crackers, and hummus or other bean dip works great. It needs to be eaten within a few hours, to prevent foodborne illness. You don’t want to make yourself sick with your own food!

Carry laxatives.
Glycerin suppositories are unpleasant but work very quickly. I always take some, after learning the hard way…

Also, fiber supplements do double duty. If you end up with a bought of traveler’s diarrhea, it can work to eliminate that, too, believe it or not. The fiber provides bulk and slows the passage of watery stools. I’ve tried it; it works!

You can take psyllium, but it’s not the most pleasant thing to drink, because it turns into a thick, mucilaginous goop that you have to swallow with a lot of water. I’m trying inulin for the first time this year. It’s clear and tasteless when mixed in water, and I think it may be the mystery remedy I was given years ago in Thailand, which worked like a miracle.

I’ll get back to you and let you know how it goes, if I end up needing to try it…

Get moving
Exercise compresses the abdomen, which helps to encourage elimination. Simple walking will do the trick.

Instead of sitting at the gate waiting for your flight to board, try walking around until boarding begins. Stick close to your gate–you don’t want to miss the flight! You’ll be sitting for the next several hours, so you might as well move while you can.

Use massage
If you cannot exercise, you can do some abdominal massage on yourself once you’re lying in bed at your destination. I often find myself doing this when I wake up at 2 am with jetlag and cannot get back to sleep.

Use small circular motions over your abdominal area, always moving in a clockwise motion. Start at your right hip. Make small circles as you move your hand up to just below your ribs, cross to the left side, go down your left side to your left hip, then across to just below your navel.

This is the path your stool takes through the large intestine. Always follow that direction, to “go with the flow,” so to speak.

Try these suggestions on your next trip and see if they help you. Just a few simple things can mean the difference between feeling sluggish, nauseated, and miserable for a few days, versus pretty darn okay.

Happy Travels!

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