Okay, I don’t want you to think I talk about this with all of my friends, but I rarely come across another female who is a daily pooper, let alone one who is ~regular~ while they are traveling. Most of us resign ourselves to knowing that the toilet will not be our friend when we go on a vacation or travel for work.
What are some things we can do to help improve our odds? I spoke with Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD, author of The Flexitarian Diet and The Superfood Swap, and the Chicago CUBS Nutritionist. She’s also on the SHAPE Magazine Advisory Board, is a PEOPLE Magazine Celebrity Diet Consultant, won the ABC Reality Show My Diet Is Better Than Yours, and hosts S.E.E. Chicago on WGN.
Blatner explained, “The more you stick with your usual diet and exercise, the more regular you will be. So if you’re traveling and you want pizza for lunch, but usually have a salad, you don’t have to skip the pizza, just have a little and pair it with a salad.”
Increase your fiber and water intake
As a general rule for getting or staying regular, fiber and water are your best bets. Blatner recommends fiber-packed meals and snacks that include fruits, veggies, whole grain, nuts/seeds, and bean/lentils. She advises packing fiber-rich snacks with you such as nuts and nut butter packets, apples, and roasted garbanzo beans.
As for water, drink lots of it. “Travel with your largest water bottle and make sure to fill it up consistently. I love to keep a daily tally to make sure I’m getting at least half my body weight in ounces of water each day, and even more while traveling,” Blatner revealed.
You’ll be happy to hear that a few cocktails will not affect your regularity; and know that hot beverages and those with caffeine, i.e., hot lemon water, hot coffee, hot matcha will help stimulate regularity. But bottom line, fiber and water are really the keys.
How do prebiotics and probiotics affect your regularity while traveling?
If, like me, you are a bit confused about what prebiotics and probiotics are and what they do, Blatner broke it down.
“Prebiotics and probiotics promote gut health both while traveling and not. Think of prebiotics as “food/fuel” for probiotics. Probiotics are the actual good bacteria that line your intestine and act like gut soldiers to help with regularity, digestion, and immunity. Some brands combine the two, but if you only take one, it should probably be a probiotic (the good bacteria).”
She continues, “[Probiotics] don’t necessarily get things moving, but they can keep things healthy and you’ll be more likely to stay regular while traveling and eating different things if you take probiotics (or prebiotics + probiotics) regularly.”
Feeling backed up? Exercise, supplements, and massage can help.
Other than what we eat and drink, what else can help to keep us regular while traveling? Fitting in exercise while we are away is the best thing to get bowels moving. Blatner stressed that sprints with running, biking or swimming are great at waking up your body’s muscles. She said any activity that you can alternate between super fast and normal intensity is helpful.
“AND…manual belly massage can also be super helpful!” Blatner explained, “Massaging your stomach & intestine area with deep but gentle pressure, in a clockwise motion, for 10-20 minutes may manually help get things moving.”
Some supplements that may help deal with foods that are new to our bodies are: a digestive enzyme for bloating, and, traveling with a few charcoal supplement capsules in case we encounter food poisoning or eating something else that does not agree with you.
If all else fails, you can stop at a health food store to get natural stool softeners or gentle laxatives such as prune juice, aloe vera juice, “Smooth Moves” tea, or magnesium citrate powder.
But, how long is it okay to be constipated?
“Everybody is different. But a good rule of thumb is if constipation become beyond uncomfortable to actually painful, and you’ve tried 1) lots of water, 2) fiber, 3) exercise, 4) massage, and 5) stool softener/gentle laxative, it may be time to call a doctor to see if you have impaction. That’s rare, but something to be aware of,” Blatner clarified.