Unsolved Mysteries: Travel Constipation (Plus 7 Tips to Relieve It)

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Travel 2 Blog Feature1 1 | Unsolved Mysteries: Travel Constipation (Plus 7 Tips To Relieve It)

Ever go on a trip and discover you get a little more irregular–if you know what I mean? There’s a reason… If you are traveling this weekend or looking forward to summer travels, here’s how to steer clear of constipation (and keep it that way). 

Hate to break it to ya, but constipation is an annoying part of life—at some point or another (Yea. We are talking poop-talk today).

In fact, on the GI front, constipation is the most common digestive complaint in the United States.

In states of chronic constipation, sufferers present with at least 2 of the following symptoms:

  • Fewer than 3 bowel movements per week
  • Straining
  • Lumpy or hard stools
  • Sensation of anorectal obstruction
  • Sensation of incomplete defecation
  • Manual maneuvering required to defecate
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Pain on defecation
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Spurious diarrhea
  • Low back pain

What causes constipation?

A number of things, including:

  • Low water intake
  • Poor quality water intake
  • Lack of fiber in diet (veggies!)
  • Too many raw veggies
  • High amounts of protein (without enough veggies or water)
  • Sugar and refined foods
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Medications (Antacids, painkillers, antidepressants, diuretics)
  • Laxative abuse
  • Rushed (not taking time to eliminate)
  • Low stomach acid (inability to break down food properly)
  • High ratio of bad bacteria:good bacteria in the gut
  • Failing to chew food properly
  • Caffeine and alcohol (induce increased excretion and thus urination of water and dehydration)
  • And…travel

You know what I am talking about.

You go up in the air on the airplane—only to feel completely dry or stuck (on the inside) from the transit.

You visit a new place—thrown out of your usual routine, time schedule and usual food, requiring a few days to get adjusted.


There are a handful of reasons many folks experience “traveler’s constipation” (even if they are completely regular otherwise).

Check ‘em out:

  1. Out of routine. More than likely, you go about the same time every day (at least hopefully every day!) when you are at home—like clockwork. Travel throws a wrench into your schedule (bowels included)—different meal times, different sleep and wake times, different itineraries (sitting on a beach all morning, as opposed to at a desk.


  1. Change in diet. Less (or none) home-cooked meals; cosuming more ‘fun foods’ (i.e. ‘vacation foods’); drinking more alcohol; eating more funky oils in restaurants and poorer quality eggs, chicken, veggies, etc.


  1. Hold it. Sitting on planes. Using public restrooms more frequently. Very little solo down time. All these instances can lead us to clamming up. Like a toddler who wrinkles up her nose and refuses to go while potty training—suppressing the urge—we do the same thing amidst a slew of uncomfortable bathroom atmospheres and decreased opportunities to “try.”
  1. All dried out. Dehydration can be caused by several factors including: High altitude (during flight); not drinking enough water before departure; more refined foods and sugar in the diet on vacation; and lack of fiber in diet (veggies).


  1. Jet lag. Your interior body clock doesn’t always catch up immediately to local time when flying long distances.


  1. Pre-disposed. Chances are, if you already have pretty bad digestion, it’s only going to be escalated on your new ventures. How to improve it? A few ways to start today: Chew your food. Drink half your bodyweight in ounces per day. Eat to be satisfied—not stuffed. Drink Ginger tea before bed.


  1. Many people take some much-needed time off their usual rat-race routine—exercise included. However, the adjustment to a temporary sedentary lifestyle prevents your intestines from getting their usual workout too.

Not a fully extensive list—but enough to get those wheels in your mind turning. What are the culprits for you?

Before your next travels, consider taking a few proactive steps to fight the stop-up.

1. Drink up. Three days before the big flight, begin making sure you are consciously consuming at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water. The day of the trip, before stepping foot on a plane, drink, drink, drink (not overboard here—just make sure you are drinking up). On the plane, request water from your stewardess, and on the open road, don’t be afraid to drink out of fear of having to stop every 60-minutes at the next gas station (so be it if so). On the trip, drink at least about 8 glasses of water per day.


2. Mind-body connection. Think about eliminating. Seriously this visualization can work if you focus on ‘just doing it’—instead of struggling to pass it at a time out of your usual routine. Additionally, by relaxing and breathing, you allow your large intestines to also relax, leading to better elimination.


3. Fiber up. Consider taking a high-quality fiber supplement like Gastrofiber by Standard Process and MediBulk by Thorne—consume 1 pill with each meal.


4. Even if it’s not your usual ‘hard core’ routine—move a little bit every day: be it pushups, situps and squats in your hotel room, a drop-in to a local fitness glass or a visit to a local area gym to get your pump on.


5. Just do it. When you gotta go, you gotta go—so just go (no holding!).


6. Eat a few ‘trigger’ foods. Sauerkraut, chia seeds, flax, coconut oil (by the spoon), lemon juice in warm water, Ginger tea. If you can get your hand on any of these, try adding them in to get your own juices flowing.


7. Magnesium citrate. Take some travel packets of CALM (magnesium supplement) along for the ride. Drink mixed in water at night to relax the bowels and once more, get things flowing.


Do you experience constipation when you travel?

Any home remedies you’ve tried yourself that are effective?

I’m all ears!

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