Vacation Constipation: Why Can’t I Poop When Traveling?

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Woman at airport with suitcase

Nothing beats returning home to your toilet after not pooping for four days during a vacation. AM I RIGHT?!? Constipation when traveling is the worst. However, we can link a few common causes to this uncomfortable phenomenon that we can explore to understand better why we can’t seem to go while on the go. Additionally, we have some tips to help keep your poops moving so you don’t feel like you are pooping a baseball when you get back. 

Why Can’t I Poop on Vacation?

When we travel, normal schedules and routines go out the window. This spontaneity and change can make trips exciting, but it can wreak havoc on our plumbing. Depending on your travel plans, that comfortable and familiar morning poop may fall (or not) in the middle of the day or at 3 AM in your new destination. Recognizing how changes to your schedule and normal activities affect your bowel movements can help bring peace of mind. 

Following schedule changes, our eating habits often look very different when taking a load off. Don’t worry – we are not going to recommend that you swap out a vacation piña colada for your typical Tuesday salad. It is just important to recognize that different intakes can cause different outcomes. 

Another culprit of action constipation is dehydration. Regardless of whether the lack of water intake is intentional, this can be a critical factor in stopping the number two train. Thankfully, you can try a few easy tricks to feel some relief on your next getaway.

Hydrate

Dehydration is one of the biggest reasons for constipation. Dehydration is especially a definite factor when flying. While the thought of an airplane bathroom might initiate your gag reflex, staying hydrated is essential. To keep regular while traveling, drink plenty of water. If water isn’t your preferred beverage, try sipping tea, coffee, or warm water with each meal and snack. This is especially important if you are switching time zones or on a long flight. 

Prunes and Probiotics

Prunes, prunes, the magical fruit! Did you know that prunes have a natural stool-softening and laxative effect? They travel well and offer constipation relief! Do your future self a favor and pack a few at the ready. Probiotics also help aid digestion and keep your gut healthy. If you still need to take a probiotic, consider starting before you embark on your next adventure. I consume these daily, and I even travel with them. 

Proper Pooping Position

You all know I am a Squatty Potty evangelist. Unfortunately, when traveling, you may not have access to your everyday Squatty Potty, so here are a few alternative options to consider:

  • First, Squatty Potty makes a lightweight travel stool that folds up! If you can’t add one to your luggage, no worries, keep reading.
  • Try sideways placing a bathroom trash can to elevate your feet into the squatting position.
  • You can also use your suitcase!

This squatting position helps relax your pelvic floor muscles to empty the tank. If you are new here, check out this article to learn more about proper pooping techniques. Make sure to avoid straining or holding your breath and exhale like you are blowing out A LOT of birthday candles. 

Packing list for constipation relief

If you’re worried you might get backed up on your next adventure, keep this list handy for things to pack! 

  • A refillable water bottle 
  • A portable squatty potty 
  • Prunes 
  • Probiotics 
  • Your workout clothes (exercise helps fight constipation!) 
  • Stool softener or magnesium 
  • Your snacks, such as bananas 

What to eat to help avoid constipation

A high-fiber diet full of fruits and veggies will help you avoid constipation. Fiber foods to consider eating are whole grains and snacks like bananas. Bananas are a great snack option to bring along or snag at the airport. A high-fiber diet will help you avoid long periods of constipation and make your bowel movements easier to pass. Also, avoid fatty, processed foods such as fast food and red meats. Did you know you can pack healthy snacks and take them through TSA when traveling? 

How to avoid constipation

  • Exercise and Walk – Stay active, or even some simple stretches and exercises can get your bowels moving. 
  • Colon Massage – You can do an abdominal massage clockwise around your belly, especially the Left lower side, where the bowel movement can get backed up. 
  • A stool softener or magnesium. If you must because you are super constipated, try a gentle stool softener or magnesium. Stool softeners should be used as needed.  This stuff is magic pixie dust. It helps with constipation by keeping your poops soft. Also great to help with sleep and anxiety. Safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding but of course, check with your doctor. My fave brand is Natural Calm. They have a powder mix or convenient gummies for travel or on the go. Available at Whole Foods or on Amazon Prime (obvi)! Some of my other travel recommendations:
  • Consume Prunes and Probiotics – The number two reasons for constipation are not enough fluids and not enough fiber. So I pack my prunes in a zip lock bag, start each day with a cup of warm water, add in a daily probiotic, and you are in business. Of course, exercise, healthy eating, and browsing the internet can help too. 
  • Stay hydrated – Drink water- try warm water in AM

What to do while in the air

Road trips and air travel are synonymous with long bouts of sitting. It can be challenging, but be proactive and walk or stretch as much as possible. Movement is key both in transit and at your destination to keep poop moving through your colon. Exercise also helps to bring blood flow to support your pelvic floor muscles relax. Here are a few travel-friendly exercises to consider:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Lunges
  • Deep squat holds
  • Dancing

Choose an aisle seat. I recommend standing and walking around once an hour during flights, so an aisle seat makes that much easier. In addition, you may have to frequent the bathroom to tinkle a time or two. Don’t delay the urge to go. When the urge to poop arrives, get to the bathroom. If you wait for the urge, that poop will hang out in your body longer, making it harder to empty later. So get to it!

Straining while pooping can weaken your pelvic floor muscles and lead to leaking urine and your organs falling out of your vagina. Pushing with pooping can lead to pelvic floor muscle weakness, urinary leakage, and even cause your organs to start to fall out of your vagina. 

We hope these tips ease your mind and body so you can enjoy your next vacation!

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Interested in more tips on how to prevent or overcome Pelvic Floor Problems?
Download this free guide for some simple, do-able, totally-not-weird tips to take better care of your down there.
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Sara Reardon PT, DPT, WCS is the owner of NOLA Pelvic Health and founder of The Vagina Whisperer, a resource for online pelvic health education and therapy to help women worldwide with pelvic health conditions. She is a board certified women’s health physical therapist with a special interest in treating pelvic pain and pregnancy and postpartum conditions. She is a mom, wife, Saints fan and wanna be yogi.

 

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Meet Dr. Sara

Sara Reardon PT, DPT, WCS is the owner of NOLA Pelvic Health and founder of The Vagina Whisperer.

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