6 Surprising Reasons You Can’t Poop On Vacation
by JR Thorpe
Originally Published: 
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Vacations are meant to be a relaxing time where you recharge, unwind, and spend your time doing whatever you like. However, for some of us vacations, particularly if they involve long-distance travel, can also create digestive distress or constipation, and it can be difficult to figure out why. If you can't poop on vacation, gastroenterologists say that it could be down to a few different reasons.

"Oftentimes we attribute this to the food we eat when traveling," Dr. Niket Sonpal, a New York-based gastroenterologist and Adjunct Professor at Touro College, tells Bustle, but the causes are actually a lot more complex, and can involve many more factors.

Part of the issue is that vacations, even if they're stay-cations, can often involve changes in routine, diet, or exercise, and if you're focused on having fun you may not be paying attention to the signs you'd definitely notice on regular days. “I think a lot of people don’t even realize that they constipated on vacation," gastroenterologist Dr. Edwin Levine told Reader's Digest. If you have noticed that you tend to experience difficulties with your normal pooping schedule when you're on a holiday, however, there are likely several reasons for it — and there are a few


Your Vacation Diet Could Be Causing Issues

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Plan on doing some culinary experimentation while you're on vacation? That may be causing your issues, says Dr. Sonpal. "Many people while traveling forget to ask what ingredients are in a certain dish and consume foods from street vendors or restaurants without knowing how the food is being prepared and what is in the dish," he tells Bustle. "You can unknowingly be eating an ingredient you are allergic to, or have an intolerance to." This can cause everything from cramps to diarrhea and constipation.


Your Biological Clock Might Be Out Of Sync

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The human body has its own internal clock, which sends signals about when to sleep, when to wake, when to eat and yep, when to poop. "Depending on where you are heading to vacation, your routine will be different," Dr. Sonpal tells Bustle. "You may be jet-lagged, waking up later, staying up later and this may through your metabolism off." He notes that this is more likely if you keep to a routine at home where you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at roughly the same times every day. Your internal rhythms will be different to those you're actually experiencing on vacation, and problems like constipation can result.


Your Drinks Might Include New Ingredients

Drinking that tasty cocktail may be tempting, but in some cases it could be causing you issues, Dr. Sonpal says, as the processes by which beverages are made aren't the same worldwide. One big example is milk. "Here in the States, we are accustomed to drinking pasteurized milk, but in many destinations around the world, milk is not pasteurized," Dr. Sonpal explains. "Milk may also be coming from other animals like goats, not cows." Dairy products are known to cause constipation in some people in any case, but the Center for Disease Control & Prevention notes that raw milk may carry pathogens that cause intestinal distress.


You're Feeling Anxiety From Being In A New Place


Dr. Lawrence Brandt, professor of gastroenterology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, tells Bustle that one of the key causes of constipation for travelers isn't actually a physical issue; it's to do with the anxiety of toilets in unfamiliar places. "It becomes more a psychological issue than it does a physical issue," he says. Many of us have a bathroom routine, and vacations make us step outside of that into strange surroundings — which can make it trickier for us to perform on cue.


You Could Be Dehydrated


Dehydration is more common on vacation for multiple reasons, says Dr. Sonpal — and that's one of the swiftest ways to develop constipation. If you don't get up on a flight because you don't want to constantly use the lavatory, Dr. Sonpal tells Bustle, that's quite typical. However, it's important that you refuel when you land. "Depending on your travel plans you may partake in more alcohol than usual," he says. "You may walk around and explore a city or simply be too preoccupied to remember to hydrate until you become extremely thirsty, and by then dehydration will already have seeped in. This can cause constipation and a slowdown in the breakdown of foods."

Distraction, hotter weather, irregular meal times and increased alcohol intake can all make dehydration on vacation more likely. Higher altitudes also make human bodies more prone to dehydration and constipation, so if you're going to the mountains or a destination far above your normal altitude and haven't taken that into account, you're more likely to experience issues.


You're Feeling Stress & Anxiety Around Travel

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"While the word vacation and travel put a light in many people’s faces, and the thought of Instagram-worthy images at the top of a mountain makes you want to pack your bags today, some people may suffer from anxiety when traveling for a number of reasons," Dr. Sonpal tells Bustle. And that anxiety can lead to constipation and digestive difficulties. Logistical difficulties, difficult-to-wrangle travel companions, unexpected delays: they can all create upset stomachs and constipation. Anxiety is known to create constipation issues, and if you tend to experience stress while traveling, that will likely contribute to issues pooping.


To combat travel constipation, Dr. Sonpal recommends making plans before you leave. If you're prone to travel anxiety, he notes, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your plans. "Being organized might be useful when dealing with the anxiety that could cause you stomach trouble. I suggest getting acquainted with your travel itinerary and making sure you are in the airport on time and that you have receipts for all the plans you’ve booked," he says.

Once you arrive, stay hydrated, and if you start to feel blocked up, plan to keep your digestion moving. "Keep some healthy snacks on you in order to hold you over to your next meal if you feel a little constipated," he tells Bustle. People who are habitually prone to constipation while traveling might need to take medical aids with them to help. Constipation doesn't have to ruin your holiday — provided you do some preparation before take-off.

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