Staying "regular" when traveling
November 20, 2008 3:48 PM   Subscribe

What is your recommendation for staying regular when traveling? I traveled internationally this past fall and on the last few days of the trip my digestion had really slowed. I was gone 8 days and was in a couple or three different time zones. I feel there is an emotional component to this too where I am worried that when sightseeing there won't be a toilet or something like that so maybe I slow the process because of fear? Have any of you perfected this for yourselves? Prune juice does not work for me but I do prefer tackling this naturally. Any insight is appreciated!
posted by seekingsimplicity to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've found that eating black licorice does the job...and it tastes good, too!
posted by Carol Anne at 3:55 PM on November 20, 2008

Ah, yes.

For me, the thought of having to poop when traveling was always an issue. Would there be a place to go? Will I have to go in a public restroom? What if it's dirty, crowded, or worse? I hesitated even going in Target.

Fortunately, I got over my anxiety by traveling to India. One case of Delhi Belly and the raunchiest bathroom you can ever imagine did it for me. I had no choice. I had to go. So I did. It was refreshing to know that, no matter what, I will never be in a worse situation. Things will always be better than that. So whenever I'm on the road now, I keep that horrible Indian bathroom in the back of my mind as a point of reference. Now, I no longer have that mental urge to purge just because I'm in a bathroom-less scenario.

So the moral of the story: get used to pooping in any situation.

As for staying regular, it's important to keep the same routines you keep at home (when you're most likely regular). For me, it's having plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day, and coffee in the morning. As a last resort, I've been known to smoke a cigarette with my cup of coffee. Works every time.
posted by nitsuj at 4:00 PM on November 20, 2008

Two or three tablespoons of psyllium husk mixed in water. I have IBS and this has kept me regular and virtually symptom-free for 2 years. I went on an international trip a year ago, brought a plastic container of it in my luggage and pooped every morning and didn't think about it the rest of the day. Available at Whole Foods and Trader Joes or your local health food store.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:04 PM on November 20, 2008

Seconding regular psyllium (I personally prefer the capsules to the powder-in-water), plus morning coffee (I usually only drink tea at home).
posted by scody at 4:09 PM on November 20, 2008

There is nothing in this world like the aptly-named Miralax. It doesn't do anything except solve the problem.
posted by HotToddy at 4:10 PM on November 20, 2008

I haven't had this particular issue while travelling.

But when I'm at home, candied ginger does the trick for me.
posted by jason's_planet at 4:10 PM on November 20, 2008

Not really an answer to your question but I feel like this is a benefit.

The exact same thing happens to me too. Regular for me is 2-3 times a day and I'm grateful that the urges subside while I'm traveling.

Count it as a blessing?
posted by simplethings at 4:29 PM on November 20, 2008

Since eating one tablespoon of LSA mix sprinkled on my cereal in the morning, I never have any problems staying regular. It stands for Linseed, Sunflower and Almond meal and you can get it at most health food stores. Also an excellent liver tonic!

If you're travelling to very hot climates however, it's best refrigerated, so in that case psyllium is probably better...
posted by Weng at 4:33 PM on November 20, 2008

I travel all the time, and used to REALLY struggle - to the point where I wouldn't go once over an entire week-long trip (it didn't help that my company insists we share rooms - who wants to poo in front of their boss?). I'd walk around dizzy and feverish the last couple days, yuck.

I carry psyllium husk with me now, and make a point to drink a glass every morning. Meal timing plays a role for me, too - I make sure to make dinner a late-ish big meal, and then I just need to go once in the morning within a 15 minutes or so of waking up. Exercise on a regular schedule helps regulate things, too - play around with meal size/frequency and exercise schedules until you've got a routine down. Your body will get used to it.

One other thing that really helps me - I try to make my mornings calm and non-rushed, so that I can relax enough to go before I head out. If I get stressed and need to rush out the door with barely time to shower, that's it for the day. It's worth getting up fifteen minutes early to make the rest of the day comfortable.
posted by peachfuzz at 4:33 PM on November 20, 2008

Response by poster: for those of you who recommend psyllium husks, do you like it better than flaxseed meal?
posted by seekingsimplicity at 4:48 PM on November 20, 2008

Make sure you drink enough water, to help all that fiber move through your system. Also, when you get the urge, go. If you hold it in, the urge can disappear for a couple hours, and your body will keep reabsorbing water while it's waiting. That makes it more difficult to go when you finally feel like it again.
posted by vytae at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2008

I travel a lot. I don't have any particular digestive troubles, can poop when someone is in the next room and don't have a particularly regular poop schedule that gets disrupted when I travel. That said, travel makes me all gunked up and I think there are a few things that contribute.

- getting up and running out the door in the morning - usually my morning is leisurely and I'm up and noodling around with coffee
- BIG meals - I eat differently when I'm out, more meat, less fruit, no special twig cereal in the morning. I try to skip lunches if at all possible and grab an apple and a handful of nuts. If I'm really having trouble, I skip to nothing but salads.
- less water. I tend to only drink at meals or I drink alcohol which is great but NOT hydrating. Meetings all have coffee/sodas. I try to bring a water bottle or a mug and fill it up a lot.

So basically I think just a little more about fruits/veg, hydrating, not overeating, making sure I have some fiber and EXERCISE which is the thing that I think changes the most when I travel. As much as I enjoy the satisfying poop I'll take when I get home, I'd much rather be regular on the road and I'm better at it than I used to be.
posted by jessamyn at 5:05 PM on November 20, 2008

Benefiber. It seems that no matter where I travel, whether to the next state or half way around the world, my bowels seize up and have no interest in moving. So I started taking Benefiber in my morning water, and that does the trick. (My longest recorded problem lasted 8 days ... I can't say it's unpleasant because I didn't feel any different, but it just can't be healthy.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:04 PM on November 20, 2008

I don't love the taste, nor the brand, but metamucil wafers consumed with lots of water always work for me. And I am a chronic consti-traveler.
posted by Morpeth at 6:51 PM on November 20, 2008

My S.O. bought a bunch of metamucil cookies before traveling to Africa, and forgot them. They're delicious.

Fiber and a good amount of hydration is key. Don't do crazy, but a high source of fiber (like metamucil or oatmeal) and a few glasses of hot water in the morning, will do wonders. It's great for lowering cholesterol, too.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:53 PM on November 20, 2008

You can also get Metamucil in capsule form - much more compact and works just as well.
posted by awfurby at 9:42 PM on November 20, 2008

posted by docpops at 9:49 PM on November 20, 2008

also, otc magnesium pills will help a ton.
posted by docpops at 9:49 PM on November 20, 2008

the last long overseas/away-from-home travel i did i brought with me my yoga mat. doing a minimum of 10 minutes a day (and a have a recorded session on my ipod shuffle which allowed me to do a one-hour session once a week) kept me not only regular but sane. i know this isn't a direct response to the bowel issue, but health being an overall kinda thing i though it might be helpful to add.
i'm a big weirdo sometimes, and being away from home is hard. i was, oddly, better able to keep to my morning yoga schedule while away than i am able to at home. i knew i had to give myself as many tools and legs-up as possible to have a happy trip, so i think that concern alone whipped me into shape - and this really did the trick for me. i was able to wake up earlier than most of the people i stayed with and get my morning yoga stuff done. i ended up having a great trip (in all sense, but health-wise as well) and being able to stay out late and party like it was 1999 (?!).
so yeah, eat well definitely. but if you can take a little morning activity routine with you, i will stake it will do wonders for the bowels and everything else.
posted by tamarack at 10:16 PM on November 20, 2008

Wasa crackers (the big rye crisps) + drink extra water = more poo, less pain.

Also, shifting time zones plays hell with your internal clocks. Yes, clocks, plural. In really simplistic terms, the big brain clock runs a lot of peripheral tissue clocks, and shifting times throws them all out of whack. They all resynchronize at different rates. Just because your brain knows it's time to eat doesn't mean your liver is ready to help you break down that fatty airport food you just picked up. Help yourself out by trying to eat as normally as possible, find fruits when you can, take the extra fiber and get more water than you think you need. Your clocks might be screwed up, but your bowels will be less uncomfortable.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:54 AM on November 21, 2008

My dad, for all his adult life, has always had problems staying regular.

For more than 20 years he has relied on prune juice and prunes but in the last year his doctor advised him to start drinking Yakult, a probiotic milk-type drink. This has really worked for him. Yakult is distributed mainly in Asia, I think, but in North America any probiotic drink should Canada he drinks Danone's DanActive.
posted by BubbleWrap at 4:23 PM on November 21, 2008

I've been practicing geriatric medicine for 14 years, and have several conversations per day on the subject of pooping. Stool softener (docusate) capsules are completely safe and easier to carry around than fiber products. Take one immediately after each meal. Drink plenty of water.
posted by neuron at 7:47 PM on November 21, 2008

Someone should make a list of countries with probiotic milks and other fermented dairy products. When traveling in many parts of Europe, they are a great resource. Filmjölk is my favorite in Sweden, piimä in Finland, skyr in Iceland. Many countries in Europe simply sell it as Kefir.

Aha, here is a list.
posted by melissam at 7:35 AM on November 22, 2008

Pineapple, I've always heard.
posted by paulg at 8:54 PM on November 23, 2008

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