Congrats, you have Vacation Constipation (VC). Your stools are painful to pass, your belly is bloated, and you feel a headache coming on. Now what?
There are various solutions to travel constipation. The cure you pursue depends on your attitude towards your health.
Conventional treatments: Typically, these treatments involve the use of laxatives. While laxatives are okay for the occasional bout of VC, they certainly should not be viewed as a cure. Laxitives may make the bowels less efficient over time. Having frequent diarrhea can lead to malabsorption of food and nutritional deficiencies.
Nutritional approaches: Adding fiber to your diet in the form of complex, unrefined carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables will keep the digestive tract running smoothly. It is essential to include fluids whenever ingesting fiber, since fiber (without adequate fluid) is a bulking compound that can create constipation on its own.
Ensure a healthy supply of liquids by opting for water, hot drinks and small amounts freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices. Prune juice has an enzyme that produces a natural laxative effect. Coffee and prunes have the reputation for stimulating a bowel movement. Avoid products made from refined white flour, white rice, cheese, meat (high amounts of iron can constipate) and convenience foods.
Western herbalism: This approach involves drinking or eating a specialized product before or after meals. Some examples include psyllium seeds, Metamucil, and milk of magnesia. These compounds are meant to distend the bowel, stimulating the nerves inside of the colon wall. This induces peristalsis (involuntary contraction of smooth muscle in walls of digestive tract), which will result in elimination of colon contents and relief. (Note: because of drug interactions, if you are taking antibiotics, consult a physician before ingesting milk of magnesia.)
Naturopathy: Any naturopathic remedy will rely on a combination of diet, exercise and massage. Drugs or nutritional supplements are never part of this remedy. Those who follow this method must have a daily intake of high fiber foods, such as fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grain products.
In addition to the bulking effect of high fiber foods, exercise stimulates the colon, especially jumping movements such as jogging or aerobics. Massage in the lower abdomen and back is thought to stimulate colon movement.
Colonics: Naturopathic remedies may also involve the use of colonics (also known as “colon cleansing” or “colonic irrigation”). The idea behind a colonic is that, since your body can’t eliminate the bowel contents on its own, you need something (or someone!) to do it for you. How lovely.
During a colonic, warm water is infused into the rectum so that the muscles in the colon contract. As noted before, this contraction is called peristalsis, which is supposed to be involuntary. By inducing peristalsis, you are disrupting the body’s natural ability to eliminate waste. As a result, many people become dependent on colonics since they lose that natural ability to remove waste on their own. The FDA does not support the use of colonics, since the claims being made by providers are unsubstantiated. That said, if you choose to get a colonic on vacation, it should be your last resort (at the resort).
Complementary treatments: These treatments involve any combination of aromatherapy and homeopathy. Aromatherapy uses plant materials, known as essential oils (EOs), to affect mood and health. Although evidence is scarce, some people have reported that fennel (when infused in tea) helps with constipation.
Relax: Since constipation can also be a result of feeling tense or stressed, any measure to sooth the body can help relax the colon. Take extra time in the morning to sit before starting the activities of the day. Sit with your fennel tea, put some George Wiston on, and take some deep breaths.
If you enjoy partying on vacation, you might be at risk for constipation. An excess of alcohol, cigarettes, unhealthy foods and too little sleep can disrupt your body’s normal routine and bowel movements.