female tourist with long brown hair in a blue denim jacket with camera hanging from strap around her neck; boat dock in the background; the woman’s hand on her stomach and cheeks filled with air to show an ill feeling


Travel constipation causes, prevention and relief

  • Fewer than three bowel movements a week is a sign of constipation.
  • Changes in your routine, surroundings and diet can cause constipation.
  • Simple constipation can lead to more serious medical conditions.

You finally go on vacation, and now you can’t … “go.”

You’re not alone. Constipation while traveling is as common as flight delays, misplaced luggage and sunburn. Even in their day-to-day routines, many people get “irregular.” About 2 in 10 adults deal with constipation. That number jumps to 3 in 10 for older adults, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What causes travel constipation?

Lots of change all at once can throw off your body’s rhythm and “stop the presses,” as you might say in polite company. A different routine, an unfamiliar environment and a few days of indulging int treats may all contribute to constipation.

Some travelers may be more predisposed to the issue, including women, older adults and people of color. You may be more likely to deal with constipation if you take medications or deal with a gastrointestinal disorder.

How can you protect against constipation?

The reasons behind travel constipation can vary depending on who you are and how you’re traveling. Luckily, there are simple ways to help “keep things moving” while on a road trip, a long flight, or at a vacation rental. The bonus is that these all contribute to healthy living before and after your vacation.

  • Stay hydrated: Drink six and eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Water adds moisture to stools, which makes them easier to pass. Pay attention to your intake of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. Both can rob your body of water.
  • Eat healthy foods: Include helpings of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and other fiber-rich foods — all helpful for regulating the bowels. While you’ll likely want to enjoy some treats on vacation, stay alert to eating patterns generally low in fiber and high in processed foods.
  • Keep moving: Be as active as you can each day. When you slow down, so does your body — and so might your digestive system. While avoiding a long flight or car ride may be difficult, you can make a point of moving around when you arrive at your destination. A brisk walk may be all it takes to “get things moving again.”
  • Use the bathroom when you feel the urge: Whatever the reason you hold in a bowel movement, you may be inviting a bout with constipation. If you’re worried about being busy “when nature calls,” try scheduling free time after meals to allow time for bathroom breaks.

A final thought

If you’re worried about constipation, be proactive. A registered dietitian or licensed nutritionist can arm you with personalized diet and lifestyle recommendations to prevent constipation, whether you're at home or on the go.

If your constipation doesn’t go away with self-care, speak with a doctor who may prescribe a laxative or stool softener. If you have constipation and continual pain in your abdomen, bleeding from your rectum or blood in your stool, see a doctor immediately.


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