Finally, you're headed out the door on that long-awaited vacation to a bucket-list destination. Plane tickets, wallet/purse, keys and phone in hand? Check. Rental car and hotel/cabana reservations? Check. Clothes, toiletries and phone charger are packed; mail delivery is on hold; several house lights are left on; and the security system is armed. Miraculously, everyone else is set and ready to go, too.
All is going well until you get a day or two into the trip and it dawns on you that you haven't, to put it delicately, been to the bathroom outside of No. 1 for a long time. You feel bloated, perhaps cramping around the waistline, generally feeling out of sorts. You realize you have constipation, and chances are you aren't alone.
Irregularity, or let's just come right out and say it - no bowel movements for a while - is fairly common for travelers.
"Changes in diet, the timing of meals and less-than-ideal access to restrooms can all play a role in traveler's constipation, as can the stress involved in making the adjustment," renowned holistic health doctor and author Dr. Andrew Weil writes at drweil.com. What would a vacation trip be without stress, right down to the gate agent who is a card-carrying member of MLC (Misery Loves Company) Unlimited? "For many people this stress causes their system to get completely out of whack," says poopdoc.com.
Out of whack? Start with your travel diet. Are you getting enough fiber? Not if your road-side pit stops means filling up on chips and candy bars, or waiting in line at the airport coffee bar for a grande cup of caffeinated human jet fuel, or bypassing the salad bar for the ease and comfort of woofing down a thick-crust pizza with a jumbo, salt-smothered pretzel chaser.
Health care experts say the best ways to deal with constipation are preventative measures. For one thing, focus on fiber; take some with you in the form of vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds to munch on enroute, and then watch your diet while eating out. Drink plenty of water before and during the trip to prevent dehydration and also to make stools softer and easier to pass, as webmd.com puts it.
Five constipation remedies offered by huffingtonpost.com, whether traveling or not: foods with fish oil containing Omega-3 fatty acids; castor oil, which works quickly to loosen bowels; the aforementioned fiber; certain herbal laxatives containing the likes of flaxseed or barley, and taken with water (but consult a physician first); and probiotics, which are available in supplement form. Magnesium, a mineral with muscle-relaxing properties, can also help maintain regular bowel function, according to bodyandsoul.com.au.
Also, cool it with the caffeine and alcohol. And stay active. If you're driving instead of flying, take a break here and stretch your legs (air travelers: those frantic, sweat-drenching dashes from gate to gate really don't count). Then work in some exercise daily while on the trip. And when your body is signaling an opportunity to go No. 2, but your only choice in sight is a road side pit stop presumably not cleaned since Presidents Day or a crowded public rest room, both of which you have an aversion for, well, get over it, and go. Take something to read or a Sudoku or crossword puzzle with you to take your mind off who or what's around you.
Webmd.com also suggests taking a "bulk-forming laxative" before you leave home to set things in motion and perhaps continue taking it while on vacation. But use laxatives wisely. Not only can your body become dependent on them, there's also the chance you will end up going too far in the opposite direction (so to speak, hint hint) and that can mess up vacation trips as well. That kind of misery is best left at home.