It’s a topic nobody realllllllly talks about, right? As a nutritionist, I get to hear your deepest darkest digestion secrets though, and this is a problem that is surprisingly common. In fact, according to Connecticut-based gastroenterologist Ed Levine, MD, almost 40% of people experience constipation when traveling.
The problem with this is that your body is continuously reabsorbing the waste products that should be excreted. This can tax your liver, your main detox organ.
As I’m on a plane right now traveling back to Toronto, it seemed like an opportune time for this post.
Much of your body’s digestion works on a routine. Well, actually your entire body’s systems work on a routine. When you travel, many times you are changing time zones, missing meals or eating on an irregular schedule.
Another factor is unfamiliarity in the washrooms or not being in your comfort zone. You are subconsciously much more likely to not be able to go. For example, you may not want to use a plane bathroom, or may be sharing a small room with the bathroom next door or other factors.
First of all, check out my Tips For Staying Healthy While Traveling as that has some real goodies in there. Here are some more tips:
Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for constipation. Flying can be very drying, so add an extra litre or so of water for the flight. I try to remember to bring an empty water bottle so that I can get more than those dinky little plastic cups that hold one sip.
Magnesium works as a natural laxative as it is a muscle relaxant. Now, as long as you’re not taking way too much, it’s not the kind of laxative to have you running to the washroom, it just helps loosen your stools. I always use Natural Calm and would take 1 tsp in warm water. Generally, you take this before bed as it is a bit of a relaxant, but if traveling, you could certainly take it in the morning or before your flight. You can keep increasing the quantities until you reach bowel tolerance – loose stools. From there, just reduce back down to the amount you were taking pre-loose stools.
Vitamin C works similarly to Magnesium and you should use the bowel tolerance method mentioned above. The thing with Vitamin C is that since it’s a water soluble vitamin, it will be eliminated with your urine, so I recommend you take it every 3-4 hours. If you’ve never taken it, start with 1000mg, and work your way up, adding another 1000mg each day. You can do this in advance of travel so that things are nice and regular by the time you fly.
Light exercise is great for promoting a bowel movement, so especially on your first day, try to get up and exercise in the morning to get things moving.
The food that you buy in the airport or on a plane, just plain sucks. With me on this flight, I had made a quinoa salad with some salmon in it (leftovers from my meal prep Sunday). I also have a new snack that I’ve been loving called Ra Energy. I’ve got the Naturally Sweet kind and it’s an amazing pick me up.
In terms of snacking, it’s great to use foods that are naturally hydrating and anti-inflammatory. A great one is cucumber. A super easy way to do this is to chop some up and bring it with hummus.
Lastly, get that circulation going by getting up and walking around as much as you can. If it’s not a flight I want to sleep on, I usually ask for an aisle seat so that I can go to the bathroom as much as needed given how much water I’m drinking, but also so I can easily get up and walk around.
As much as you can, get back into a routine as soon as you land, or even plan out what your routine will be before you leave.