Why Constipation Happens More on Long Flights
There are a few key reasons why constipation seems to occur more often when traveling long distances by plane:
- Lack of movement and exercise - On flights over 4+ hours, you are sitting for extended periods with very little ability to walk around or move. This decrease in physical activity can slow down the digestive process.
- Dehydration - The dry, pressurized cabin air causes most people to become dehydrated on flights. Staying hydrated is key for maintaining regular bowel movements.
- Diet changes - Eating airline food and snacks instead of your regular diet can affect your digestive rhythm. Things like excess salt, sugar, starch, and processed foods commonly served on flights are constipating.
- Disrupted sleep schedule - Jet lag and overnight red-eye flights disrupt your body's natural circadian rhythms, including digestion.
- Stress - The stress of travel and flying can negatively impact gut function. Things like anxiety, excitement, and general travel stress affect the gut-brain connection.
Preventing Constipation in the Days Before Your Flight
The best way to avoid travel constipation is to take proactive steps in the days leading up to your flight:
- Exercise more - Squeeze in some extra time for walking, jogging, yoga, or other physical activity in the 2-3 days pre-flight. Moving your body helps get things flowing digestively.
- Drink more water - Hydrate well in advance by drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily. Being well hydrated before flying is preventative.
- Eat high fiber foods - Focus on getting 25-30g fiber daily from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Fiber keeps your digestive system regular.
- Limit constipating foods - Avoid fatty, greasy, salty, sugary, and processed foods which are harder to digest. Stick to fresh, whole food choices.
- Take a probiotic - Start taking a Travel-eeze probiotic supplement 2-3 days before to boost digestive regularity.
- Try magnesium - Magnesium helps draw water into the intestines to keep stool soft. Take 250-500mg daily leading up to travel.
With some prep in the days before, you can help set your digestive system up for success before boarding your flight.
In-Flight Tips to Avoid and Relieve Constipation
Once you're in the air, there are some practical things you can do during the flight to minimize the chances of constipation:
- Drink 8 oz of water for every hour you are on the plane. Dehydration makes constipation worse.
- Frequently ask the flight attendant for water. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages which are dehydrating.
- Consider bringing an empty water bottle through security to refill post-screening so you have it onboard.
- If the cabin air is very dry, use a nasal spray or hydrating lip balm.
- Take advantage of any opportunities to walk the aisles and stretch your legs.
- While seated, do ankle rolls, leg lifts, toe points, and other subtle exercises.
- When standing, do calf raises, mini-squats, lunges or leg swings to stimulate circulation.
- Bring your own healthy snacks like fresh fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers.
- Avoid gassy foods like soda, beans, dairy, onions, broccoli.
- Say no to salty foods that cause water retention like chips, pretzels, sandwiches.
- Stay away from sweets, desserts, and processed carbs which are binding.
Use Other Constipation Aids
- Keep hydrating with electrolyte drinks like coconut water, milk, or juice.
- Take a probiotic like Travel-eeze and magnesium supplement.
- Use a squatty potty or inflatable footstool to optimize bathroom posture.
- Do abdominal massage or yoga poses that encourage bowel movement.
Being proactive about hydration, movement, diet, and natural aids can help significantly in preventing travel constipation mid-flight.
Finding Relief When Constipation Strikes
If you do find yourself experiencing constipation after several hours in transit, there are some in-flight remedies to try for finding relief:
- Keep drinking fluids - Water, herbal tea, broths, juices - stay very hydrated. Electrolyte drinks like coconut water or sports drinks can help.
- Walk - Take every chance possible to get up and walk the aisles. Even short distances stimulate circulation.
- Stretch and massage - Twists, folds, knee to chest, cat-cow stretches. Abdominal massage in clockwise direction.
- Use the bathroom - Try sitting on the toilet to see if bowel movement occurs naturally. Relax and give it time.
- Try natural laxatives - Take an oral osmotic like magnesium citrate or stimulant like senna. Both draw water to the intestines.
- Take a probiotic - A supplement like Travel-eeze can help restore digestive balance.
- Stay calm - Stress and anxiety make constipation worse. Try meditation, deep breathing, listening to music.
With a little diligence, you can often find in-flight relief from travel constipation through natural interventions.
When to Seek Medical Care for Travel Constipation
In most cases, making dietary adjustments and using gentle natural laxatives is sufficient for getting bowel movements back on track while traveling. However, there are certain scenarios in which you should seek medical assistance:
- No bowel movement for 3-4 days and unable to pass gas
- Severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
- Blood in stool
- Persistent diarrhea followed by constipation
- Fever over 101 F
Prolonged constipation can sometimes lead to impaction or bowel obstruction, which requires immediate medical attention. If you experience any of the above symptoms, promptly inform your flight crew or seek care upon landing. It's always better to be safe when it comes to significant digestive issues while traveling.
Optimizing Digestive Health for Future Travels
Once you get through an episode of travel constipation, it's worthwhile to take steps after your trip to optimize your gut health, especially if frequent flying is in your future:
- Rehydrate - Drink plenty of fluids when you return to replace depleted levels from air travel. Broths and electrolyte drinks help replenish.
- Eat high fiber - Get your fiber from whole food sources like fruits, vegetables, beans, bran cereal. This gets your GI tract back on track.
- Take probiotics - Restore healthy gut flora with a daily probiotic supplement like Travel-eeze.
- Reduce stress - Make relaxation, meditation, yoga, or mindfulness part of your self-care routine. Managing stress improves digestion.
- Exercise regularly - Maintain a routine of daily physical activity, especially abdominal and core exercises.
- Get checked by a doctor - If problems persist, consult your healthcare provider to rule out underlying issues.
Being proactive about gut health between trips can help minimize constipation issues for future travels. With some diligent preparation and smart in-flight habits, travel constipation doesn't have to ground your plans.
Key Takeaways on Preventing and Relieving Travel Constipation
- Stay well hydrated, eat fiber-rich foods, exercise, and take probiotics before flying
- Walk, stretch, and stay hydrated as much as possible during the flight
- Use natural laxatives, probiotics, and relaxation techniques for relief in-flight
- Seek medical care if no bowel movement for 3-4+ days or experiencing concerning symptoms
- Focus on overall gut health between trips through diet, lifestyle, and stress reduction
With the right combination of pre-trip prep, diligent in-flight habits, and self-care between travels, managing travel constipation is very possible. Be proactive and you can avoid letting it ground you on your next long haul flight.