The simple fact is that when we travel, our bowels often rebel, becoming sluggish and constipated. I used to experience this too, until I developed a travel tool kit to prevent constipation from taking hold.
I have a few theories on why we fail to poop like champions when away from home:
We are usually seated for hours while in transit, and exercise routines often become infrequent. Lack of movement slows the metabolic and digestive processes down.
Preparation and cooking of the food we eat while away is generally out of our control. This means less fresh, fibrous vegetables and lots of overcooked food.
In addition to this, there may be more exposure to inflammatory vegetable oils and grain-fed meats, which burden the liver, gallbladder, and gut lining and therefore affect digestion and elimination of foods.
Sometimes water consumption takes a nosedive. Have you seen the size of the water bottles they give out on planes? They're toddler-size. People also become dehydrated through excessive alcohol consumption and sunbathing. A dehydrated body does not eliminate poop well.
Sleep and jet lag
Times zone changes, foreign beds, hotel rooms, and a different climate can disrupt sleep, which means the body’s circadian rhythms (24-hour sleep-wake cycle) are toyed with.
In the case of time-zone change, your body may want to move its bowels while you sleep. We often suppress this urge, which dehydrates, hardens, and affects the poop, eventually leading to constipation.
Sleep disruption can affect the gut microbiome (flora) and amplify stress, all of which contribute to poor digestion and removal of waste from the colon.
Suppressing the urge to poop
Some people don't like going number two outside of their own home and instead neglect the urge to go.
Constipation after traveler's diarrhea
Constipation normally follows a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. Traveler’s diarrhea can be contracted from contaminated food or water or eating at the wrong time, such as when crossing time zones.
Occasionally people pick up a bacteria or parasite when traveling, which can disturb gut function in many ways, including diarrhea or constipation.
In a nutshell, our normal routines, cycles, and habits are challenged when traveling. You can support the body while it adapts to the changes or, better yet, prevent constipation from taking place with the simple tips below.
My travel tool kit:
I always pack a blend of organic tea, which contains four herbs and spices (licorice root, ginger root, aniseed, and cayenne pepper). These promote better breakdown of foods, calm bloating and excessive wind, and act as a gentle, yet safe natural laxative.
I bring my favorite blend of superfood vegan fiber, which has ground nuts, seeds, chia, psyllium, and coconut flour, all highly nutritious forms of healthy fiber, which help bulk and move poop through the colon easily.
I use this blend as a meal replacement to avoid any unhealthy food choices or plane food because it also contains quality pea protein, which helps keep me full and satisfied until my next meal.
My go-to travel smoothie is a Green Energy Smoothie.
I never leave home without my magnesium bisglycinate formula. Magnesium has a two-pronged approach: It helps calm the nervous system and reduces any stress causing the pipes to clog and hold on to poop. Magnesium is also a muscle relaxant, which means it helps relax the intestinal muscles and help poop move through the intestines easily.
When eating out, I choose dishes that are rich in herbs and spices. Herbs and spices nourish the organs of digestion and elimination such as the liver, kidneys, stomach, and spleen and help promote healthy bowel movements.
My favorites are chilli, cayenne, cumin, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, ginger, turmeric, and rosemary.
I bring healthy fats with me or buy them when I arrive at my destination, to make sure I keep up my daily intake. Healthy fats lubricate the intestines and allow for an easier removal of waste from the body.
They also provide much-needed energy for my jet-lagged mind and body and will keep me full so that I do not make unhealthy choices due to hunger.
My preferred fats are coconut, olive or macadamia oil, avocado, ghee, or organic butter. I use these in my smoothies, on my hotel room salads and vegetables, or as a cooking fat if making breakfast in my apartment.
I avoid gluten, dairy, and refined sugar as best I can. These foods are renowned for disrupting digestion and elimination.
They can cause inflammation, feed unfriendly gut bacteria, and disrupt the health of the gut microbiome. Avoiding these foods while the belly is acting up gives the digestive system a fighting chance to function well.
I always bring a 1-liter BPA-free water bottle with me and drink lots of these during the day. I’ll often pack a small sachet of Himalayan salt so that I can pop a pinch into the bottle for enhanced absorption and a dose of minerals. A dehydrated body does not remove poop from the colon well.
I bring a travel yoga mat so that I can stretch, twist, squeeze, and open the body and digestive system daily. My favorite yin yoga postures to promote healthy, regular poops are called seal, snail, and shoelace. These postures nourish and improve the health of the stomach, spleen, and intestines—our organs of digestion and elimination.
I move throughout the day. Whether it's walking, squatting, or using a makeshift standing desk in my room while working.
Lack of movement slows the metabolic and digestive processes down, which slows movement of poop through the intestines. Being seated for extended periods also disturbs the gut microbiome.
An unhappy, unbalanced microbiome does not maketh for good digestion.
Now it’s your turn: What do you have in your travel tool kit to help you avoid the dreaded no-poop syndrome while traveling?