Travel and your gut – how to keep things moving

by Monique Jhingon

One of the advantages of living in Asia is the ease with which you can travel to diverse and exotic locations. Within a couple of hours, you can be in tropical rainforests, on remote beaches, in the mountains or in a bustling city, ready to enjoy new cultures, food and outdoor adventures. The thing with travel is that while your mind is enjoying new experiences, your gut is busy adjusting to a different environment, routine, climate and often a whole different type of cuisine. And depending on your constitution, that digestive adjustment process can either be pretty uneventful or involve some irritating digestive hiccups. One common complaint is a complete halt in the bowel movement department. Which can be very annoying, especially when you’re trying to squeeze your ever-growing tummy into your best beachwear.

Jokes apart, constipation while travelling can throw a wrench into your travel enjoyment. It’s not just the realisation that you are quite literally full of [email protected]#t but also the bloating, feeling full and the general discomfort that affects your state of mind. What contributes to travel constipation are a number of different factors: a change in routine, time zone, a different eating pattern with often less fresh vegetables and fruits that usually provide the necessary fibre to move things along. Flying can be dehydrating and insufficient water intake while you are on the move may play a role too. If sunset cocktails by the beach is your thing: alcohol may add to dehydration too. Your microbiome (the 100 trillions microbes in your gut) adjust to different environmental factors too, which can result in a change in digestive patterns. Fortunately, there are a couple of things that you can put in place to support your gut and your regularity while travelling:

  1. Hydrate
    Start with a glass of warm water first thing when you get up (squeeze some lemon juice into it for an extra digestive kickstart) and continue to drink water throughout the day – somewhere around 8 glasses or more, depending on your activities and the climate.
  2. Fibre
    Find ways to include fibre. Granted, most hotel and restaurant menus lack variety in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables and you may want to be careful eating raw salads, depending on where you are. There are other ways to include fibre: choose wholegrain toast instead of a croissant (except of course when you are gluten-free) or eat some freshly cut fruit topped with nuts and seeds. Most buffets will have prunes too! I just came back from a trip to Oman where I enjoyed a daily serving of hummus (chickpeas are high in fibre) and fresh tabouleh. Work with what you have. To make things easy, consider bringing a greens powder (like Amazing Grass, which I usually carry) to get your daily quota of fruits, vegetables and fibre during a trip.
  3. Move
    Moving your body helps to move your bowels. Certain types of holidays involve a lot of movement, like sightseeing trips but if you’re parking your behind on the beach, you may need to make some extra effort to include exercise. Take a walk on the beach, or practice a few constipation busting yoga moves before you head for breakfast.
  4. Added support
    There are a couple of tricks that you can include in your travelling bowel toolbox:
    • Magnesium citrate can help relieve constipation by creating an osmotic effect and drawing water into the colon. Take 1 tablet at bedtime and bump that up to bowel tolerance.
    • Triphala is a wonderful Indian herbal digestive supplement that can help support regularity as well. Again, take 1-2 capsules at bedtime.
    • Psyllium husk adds bulk to your stool, which can help to stimulate intestinal peristalsis and move stool along more quickly. You want to take it with plenty of water or it may make matters worse.
    • Even though I am not a fan of using senna on a long-term basis for constipation, during a trip it may come in handy. I like the Smooth Move senna based tea for gentle constipation relief.

In general, it helps to have a healthy gut and so supporting your digestive system and microbiome on a consistent basis will set you up for success in the long run and even while travelling. You can find the steps involved in digestive health building on my website.
Be, and travel well.

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