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Dirty Dishing: Digestive Problems When You Travel? – Pantry Doctor, LLC

Dirty Dishing: Digestive Problems When You Travel?

It is now officially Fall, and I love writing posts from one of my favorite coffee shops here in Greenville while thinking about what a perfect time of the year it is for travel. Greenville is becoming quite the destination spot in South Carolina, especially this time of the year when the weather starts to get crisp and cool as the leaves start to change. Fall for Greenville is our next big outdoor food and music festival and one of my favorite events to attend all year!

That being said, if you have plans to travel this Fall, whether it be to the mountains, a last-minute trip to the beach or a plane ride across the country or world, I’m sure you’re dreading the digestive problems we’ve all encountered during travel. I am going to embrace my biggest nutrition nerd here and break this problem down for you in this month’s Dirty Dishing. So lets get to the point! 

Healthy Gut. Will Travel. 

Traveling.  Sometimes it’s hard.

Why do you get digestive problems when you travel?? Does traveling cause you major delays? Let’s take a minute for a gut check and dish about this. Poop is something we all hate talking about. It is like the elephant in the room, but in my practice, it must be done. I talk with clients all day long about poo-poo patterns, because what goes in, must come out. I actually spend a lot of time talking about this because it gives me a lot of insight as to what is going on inside your body. When someone asks me about blood or a saliva test, scans, etc., I turn to this topic.  Checking what comes out is much easier than paying to run a bunch of lab tests. Isn’t it?

Vacation constipation. Do you suffer from digestive problems when you travel? If you are not going at least once a day, then the answer is YES.  Many women I see find this extremely uncomfortable, not only physically but emotionally and mentally. How many of us want to get in a bikini if we haven’t pooped in 3 to 5 days? It’s extremely uncomfortable and leaves us feeling sluggish and lethargic.
digestive problems when we travel
When we are constipated, food sits around in our bowel (AKA colon or lower intestine) too long. This slows down gastric emptying rates and can cause things like acid reflux. Your body works hard to remove toxins and form waste. When that waste sits there in your lower GI tract, your body will start to reabsorb those toxins. Lastly, chronic constipation can be a sign of larger health problems and could signal more is going on with your body.

Why does traveling make our bowel habits turn to sh*t?

Our gut is finally having its day in the sun. For many years, the gut has been swept under the rug in the medical world, but more and more research is coming into play because our gut health is largely responsible for our immune system.

Diarrhea is caused by an inflammatory response in our GI tract. It can be caused by a bacteria, virus, or another type of insult that would trigger an inflammatory response in our body. Changes in our gut flora (the bacteria that reside in our gut) are closely related to the way that we eat — and that often changes BIG TIME when we travel.  Lots of dietary patterns can affect the flora of our gut: glycemic load (sugars), fiber, fats, pH balance, macronutrient and micronutrients.

Bloating can make your tummy feel swollen, tight and full, maybe even preggo. Thoughts of your waistband digging into you or carrying a muffin-top around is not exciting, nor is it sexy. This can be terrible, exhausting and tiring. It is due to excess gas buildup in your small intestines.

What causes these digestive problems when you travel?

Change in routine. If you have a sudden shift in your diet and nutrition patterns, this can really throw off your GI tract. Maybe you usually have oatmeal, and you find yourself having huge lavish brunches filled with Belgian waffles and Bloody Mary’s. Your system won’t take too kindly to the lack of fiber. It might even just shut down and refuse to “move.”  Read on. I won’t be recommending any laxatives.

Jetlag. When you move across too many time zones, your body stops wanting to count sheep and starts wanting to find a toilet. It is hard for our body to just suddenly shift from one time zone to the next. As the body tries to cope with the change, you might experience diarrhea or constipation.

Hydration. Stopping at convenience stores on road trips or in the airport makes it easy to grab coffee, tea or sodas instead of water. Once you arrive at your destination or get caught in a layover, it is not easy to pass on the booze.

Access to restrooms. Our bodies are used to a certain pattern. Most of us “go” at least once a day and at the same time. It’s like clockwork — until we travel.  Sometimes we are on a plane or in the car and hold our stools for longer than we should.

How can I prevent digestive problems when I travel?

  • Resist buying foods off the street
  • Stick to bottled water
  • Avoid greasy foods that are high in fat
  • Pass on caffeine
  • Stay away from packaged products and products high in sugar
  • Avoid medication that can trigger digestive problems: diuretics, iron supplements, antacids, calcium supplements.

What are some Digestive Tips?

Hydration. Did I mention hydration? This needs to be first and foremost. It is imperative, not only for your body and digestive tract, but also for your skin! Keep a water bottle full at all times.

Booze. For every alcoholic beverage, have one glass of water.

Pack your own snacks. Dried beef, chicken or salmon from Trader Joe’s works well for protein.  I also love Epic Bars.

Easy healthy fats to take are nuts, seeds and nut butter packets.

For carbs, fruit comes in its own, very convenient packaging. Throw an orange, banana or other fruit that won’t spoil into your bag. Dried fruit works well too. Just make sure it does not contain sulphur and does not contain any extra sugars.

Lara Bars are good to have on hand, as well.

Coconut oil. If you can’t bring it, then buy it upon arrival, because you can use this in coffee, to slather on toast, as a moisturizer, as aloe for sunburn, and even as shaving cream!

Supplements. Since the gut is always more sensitive during travel, I always bring my probiotic and a fish oil supplement.

The fish oil tablet helps with inflammation because we all know we don’t eat or drink like we do at home while on vacation.


I also take a Vitamin D supplement everyday, so this is never left behind.

If possible, stay at a place with a kitchen and a hot tub! My priorities have changed as I have gotten… well, older and wiser. The kitchen allows me to save money and enjoy some sort of stability while traveling, at least for breakfast and lunches. The hot tub — even better! Most GI issues come on because of stress, and the constant running here and there. Taking the time to relax signals to us that we are able to digest our food and POOP!

Check menus online before going out. For those that know me well, you know this girl LOVES to try new restaurants. Use Yelp to scout out top-rated restaurants or those that fit into your lifestyle. For me, that is searching local spots that use produce from local suppliers and farms.

Keep moving! Have you ever taken too many days off your exercise routine? Ever start to feel sluggish and lethargic? You know what I mean! To keep energy levels up and feel great inside and out on vacation, move a little every single day!

Enjoy your time. Traveling can be stressful. The last thing you want to do is worry about food when you are gone. Just shoot for a healthy balance. I always think greens, high-quality proteins, healthy carbs from fruit, and healthy fats. I do my best to avoid packaged, sugary, convenience foods. I love enjoying new restaurants, relaxing in the sun and hot tub, shopping, and enjoying a cocktail. Incorporate all of this within reason — keep it balanced. Nobody loves a hangover, bloated gut, lack of sleep, etc. Your vacation should be relaxing, just do your best to prepare and pack ahead of time so you aren’t running around to emergency clinics or restrooms.

What are your best travel strategies? [sc:apple]

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  1. Ugh, this was an issue for me before, but now that I’m pregnany, SO much worse. I take meds for it every day, that helps. And yes, major amounts of water! #thestruggleisreal

    the cuteness

  2. Great tips! I often have that problem when I travel, and never really thought about why. For me, I think stress is a big factor and dehydration for sure. Thank you for sharing all this information. Now, I can be more prepared next time I travel.

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