Maintaining Normal Bowel Movements Even While Travelling
Travelling is always an exciting affair, especially if you are travelling for a holiday. However, amidst the enjoyment comes moments of stress, such as finding your way to your accommodation, being stuck on a layover, or not being able to have normal bowel movements.
Yes. We said it. Bowel movements can affect our day, particularly if they become more irregular or do not happen at all. If you have noticed a complete change in your bowel movement whenever you travel, you are not the only one. In fact, it is more common than you think.
In this article, we will explore how travelling causes bowel movement changes, how to prevent or avoid them, and how you can treat them if you are currently halfway through your travel and suffering.
What actually is gut health?
Your gut system is home to trillions of both harmful and beneficial bacteria. Together, they form a gut microbiome that plays a vital role in maintaining the health of your gut system, helping you maintain a healthy bowel movement. When they become imbalanced, for a variety of reasons, you might experience physical signs, such as abdominal discomfort, constipation, and diarrhoea. Here are some signs of poor gut health that most overlook.
How does travelling affect your gut?
The reasons behind the change in bowel movement vary depending on the trip you are taking and what your body is used to. It can be a combination of changes to your diet, stress levels, environment, and routine. On top of that, travelling exposes you to new viruses and bacteria, which increases your risk of developing constipation and diarrhoea.
Additionally, travelling may also induce abdominal discomfort and dehydration by forcing you to restrict the amount of water you drink and the type of food you eat. Travel-related diarrhoea and constipation are highly common phenomena and can be caused by seven key factors.
1. Drinking unclean water or not drinking enough
Water plays a crucial role in your bowel movement. The chance of developing constipation increases when you are dehydrated. On the other hand, the place you are travelling to may not have an established water supply system, creating opportunities for water contamination. Drinking contaminated or unclean water causes diarrhoea.
2. Trying different or new food
When you travel, you may be exposed to a completely different cuisine than what you might normally eat at home, such as consuming significant amounts of alcohol or eating foods that are highly processed and low in fibre. In some countries, you might even come across food that has not been handled correctly, too.
All these factors can lead to the development of constipation or diarrhoea. The changes in the foods you consume may disrupt the balance of your gut microbiome, throwing your digestion off.
3. Change in routine
Being on a different schedule than usual is the biggest reason behind changes in bowel movement during travelling. Travelling disrupts your daily routine, such as your body’s internal clock, bathroom patterns, sleep patterns, and mealtimes.
Our body’s process runs on a bio-clock called the circadian rhythm. For example, when we sleep, certain processes, such as our digestive system, slow down because we are not actively drinking or eating. However, our digestive system still continues to operate, and that is why it is common to go to the toilet the first thing we wake up.
However, if your routine changes completely and you eat at different times, drink less water, sleep later or earlier than you normally would, or do not sleep less than you normally would, your digestive system is affected, causing irregular bowel movements.
4. Lack of movement
Whether you are flying or are travelling by bus, train, or car, you spend most of your time transiting from place to place. Just like how an overall sedentary lifestyle can lead to chronic constipation, it also leads to travel-related constipation!
Regular movement stimulates our intestinal muscles, promoting regular, healthy bowel movements. When we are sedentary, our digestive system slows down, leading to constipation.
5. Anxiety and stress
We have mentioned before the intimate relationship between our brain and gut. Hence, when you are anxious or stressed, it affects your digestive system adversely.
More often than not, we find ourselves holding it in because we either do not wish to clear our bowels in a public toilet or do not have access to a toilet. This causes us to feel stressed or anxious because it takes us out of our regular routine. And the longer we hold, the worse our bowel movement becomes.
If you need to take certain medications at a specific point of the day, your medication routine could get thrown out of place if you are travelling in a different time zone or become lax about your sleeping schedule. Such changes to your medication routine can lead to changes in bowel movements. Additionally, medications, such as opioids or antacids, can also cause constipation and dehydration.
7. Other gastrointestinal conditions
You are more susceptible to diarrhoea and constipation if you suffer from IBD or IBS symptoms. Individuals suffering from IBS can either alternate between constipation and diarrhoea or be severely constipated.
How do you maintain healthy bowel movements while travelling?
It is vital to remain healthy while travelling so that you are able to enjoy your visit. While most people have immediate solutions to their bowel issues, for some, it can be a chronic issue that can impact their travels.
However, you can easily maintain normal bowel movements by staying hydrated, ensuring you consume sufficient fibre, avoiding consuming too much fatty foods, incorporating probiotics, being active as much as possible, going to the toilet when you need to, using laxatives or stool softeners when necessary, trying to remain as relaxed as possible, sticking closely to your usual sleeping and eating routine, and giving your body sufficient time to get used to the new environment.
With that being said, travelling is not a bad thing for your gut health. In fact, travelling is known to benefit your gut system in several ways. Exposure to new environments and germs will help build up your immune system. Nevertheless, it is always safe to visit your nearest gastroenterology clinic before you travel to have your gut health checked out.
GUTCARE offers a wide range of services to keep your gut health optimal, from cancer screening to colonoscopy. Visit us to get comprehensive gut care to enjoy your holiday.
Click here to make an appointment with us today!