One thing that most travel brochures fail to mention is just how common it is to get constipation while you’re away. A combination of irregular meals, unfamiliar toilets, tiredness and being on the move can play havoc with your digestive system and it can be annoying to find your longed-for holiday marred by feeling heavy, sluggish and uncomfortable in your tummy.
Our top tips for avoiding constipation on holiday could help to prevent this common complaint and ensure you can enjoy yourself to the full without worrying about your next toilet trip.
First things first, what is constipation and what causes it? Constipation is when you go for a poo infrequently (less than once every three days) or when you strain to go for a poo.
It is normally caused by not eating enough fibre, not drinking enough water or not getting enough exercise. However, constipation can also be caused by certain health conditions, medications or hormone imbalances.
Talk to your doctor before you leave
If you are prone to constipation it is a good idea to get it checked out before you go away as it can be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Even if there is nothing seriously wrong, discovering what is causing your symptoms can be the first step towards learning how to manage them more effectively. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to take while you are away and discuss lifestyle changes for when you get back.
Unfortunately, most people tend to be reluctant to visit their doctor about bowel-related problems and, as gastrointestinal specialists, it can be frustrating to know that people are suffering in silence when a trip to their doctor could put their mind at rest or help them to manage or alleviate their symptoms.
Not wanting constipation to ruin your holiday can be the catalyst to get yourself to the doctors to find out if there is an underlying cause.
Sometimes constipation is linked to irritable bowel syndrome which is a very common digestive disorder affecting between 10 and 20% of people. Although there is no cure for IBS, there are many different treatments that can help and your doctor might be able to recommend medication or lifestyle changes.
Drink plenty of water
Often constipation is linked to dehydration. It is important to drink plenty of water and if you are travelling to a hot county remember you will need more water than usual as your body loses moisture through sweat.
Most of us like to enjoy a glass or two of the local tipple when we’re away but that too can lead to dehydration so drink water alongside any alcoholic drinks to keep hydrated.
Eat enough fibre
The focus when we’re travelling tends to be on avoiding tummy bugs by making sensible food choices. But if you want to avoid constipation be sure to eat enough fibre as well.
Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain bread, brown rice, beans and pulses are all good sources of fibre. If you think you might struggle to eat this type of diet where you’re holidaying, you might want to take some soluble fibre with you. You can buy this over the counter before you go and you simply dilute it in water and drink it.
Not getting enough exercise can cause the digestive system to slow down which may lead to constipation. If you’re going on a hiking trip across Peru, you probably don’t need to worry too much about this one, but if your holiday involves lying on a beach for days or if you’re taking a long haul flight, it’s worth being mindful of this and getting up and moving around as much as you can.
If you are suffering from constipation or any other bowel-related problems, talk to us about diagnosis and possible treatments.
Have a great trip!