How many of us get bound up (literally) when traveling? This time of year we're all running around and traveling to see our loved ones; we often get so caught up in the moment that we forget our own health, and then what happens? We get the famous holiday constipation and bloat. You know what I'm talking about.
A big part of the problem is that stress levels run a bit higher during this time of year. And then, when all the gifts are purchased and wrapped and travel plans are finalized, you get in an airplane, car, or train and you travel long distances. These can be dehydrating and stressful experiences—and we all know that we're probably not eating that organic kale salad on our cross-country treks (well, most of us, at least).
So, what do you do to prevent that holiday bloat or to address the constipation you experience when you finally get to your destination? There are a lot of different ways to address constipation, depending on your particular health issues and symptoms. Keep in mind that if you are experiencing a change in bowel habits, seeing blood in your stool, losing weight, or having other concerning symptoms, you need to consult your doctor. Outside of that, here are some quick tips to get things moving!
How to relieve constipation as quickly as possible.
When you haven't been able to use the restroom, you want things moving right away. Based on your preferences, there are a few things you could consider. The golden rule is that you should try these remedies out before you travel because everyone reacts differently and you don't want to be running to the bathroom if you're experimenting for the first time. You may also want to consult with your doctor before taking anything because they will understand what might work best for you based on your specific health issues. That said, here are a few simple tips to get things moving—STAT:
1. Consider using a magnesium supplement.
2. Make some flaxseed tea.
Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of crushed flaxseeds and steep them in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Then strain it and drink it throughout the day. It's a nice, mild stool softener.
3. Try triphala.
Triphala capsules can act as a nice "bowel tonic" if you take it one to two times daily before eating. It is an ayurvedic herb that has been used for ages to help with digestion.
4. Turn to ginger tea or an herbal tincture.
5. Try one of these over-the-counter remedies.
Established and well-known laxatives such as senna, senna tea, and PEG-3350 (Miralax) can also be useful when you are traveling and need to get things moving. A stool softener like bisacodyl can also be used. If all else fails and you really just have to get things moving right away, there is no shame in using an enema or suppository to help you get the momentum going. Sometimes we have to "get you there before we can keep you there." That's one of my favorite mantras. Once you get the momentum going, you can use strategies one through four to keep it going.
How to prevent constipation in the first place.
Hopefully, these tips can help keep you "moving along" during the holidays! Remember, though, one of the best ways to treat a problem is by preventing it from happening in the first place, which brings me to my second set of tips, focused around prevention strategies. Sometimes we still face the problem, and that's OK. But if you know your body tends to get backed up, try your best to prevent it with these tips:
1. Stay hydrated.
When you are underhydrated and losing more fluid than you're putting back into your body (from running around and traveling), you can easily get constipated. Make sure you drink plenty of water when traveling to keep your hydration status up.
2. Take a probiotic.
Taking a probiotic can potentially help bolster your immune system when traveling but could also help keep your bowels moving properly. A recent study from 2016 showed how taking a multispecies probiotic could be effective in treating those with constipation predominant IBS.
3. Plan your travel meals.
It can be hard to plan and coordinate your meals when traveling. I've been there myself. However, there are certain things you can do to reduce the intake of junk while traveling. You can bring snacks from home (nuts and seeds are a personal favorite of mine). You can also purchase food from the airport or along the way (if traveling by ground) that is healthier for you. You can pretty much find a salad at any restaurant these days. If you're traveling by car, you can scope out your travel path and plan when you are going to stop based on where certain restaurants or grocery stores are so that you have the ability to make healthier decisions for yourself while traveling.
I know it's hard, but you have to relax. The whole point of your trip is to have fun anyway, isn't it? When we are stressed out, we are telling our gastrointestinal tracts to slow down. Even if you aren't overtly stressed and pulling your hair out every minute, when there is a low level of stress, your body senses that and the motility, or way the gut squeezes and moves, slows down in anticipation of some major event that is going to happen (but there is no major event; you are just getting ready for a flight at 5 a.m.). It's a great time to take some deep breaths, do some yoga, or listen to some binaural beats!
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