4 things that can cause constipation during the holidays – and how to get relief

It's time to relax and unwind, but make sure your bowels don't take a break as well.
It's time to relax and unwind, but make sure your bowels don't take a break as well.

It might be the holiday season, but there is nothing jolly about constipation – it can leave you feeling bloated, achy and miserable.

Unfortunately there are a lot of factors over the festive season that can cause constipation – like eating foods devoid of fibre, or simply not drinking enough fluids.

You might also be traveling abroad or to a different place in South Africa, which can also throw your eating habits (and gut) off kilter.

However, just because you're not following your regular routine over the holidays doesn’t mean your bowels should follow suit! 

Here are the main things that can cause constipation – with a couple of tips to keep things running smoothly over the festive season:

1. Foods devoid of fibre

Holiday snacks like potato chips and pastries and copious amounts of meat and fats are devoid of essential fibre, which is necessary to avoid constipation. You might not be getting your regular amount of fibre through fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

Fight the constipation: Indulge and enjoy your favourite festive treats in moderation by all means, but keep things balanced by including fibre in your diet. If you're eating out and have a buffet option, include fruit and veg on your plate. Include wholegrain options in your breakfast or brunch and don't skimp on your water consumption, especially not when it's hot.

people enjoying a big meal

2. A different destination

Your gut is extremely sensitive, and any change can affect it, especially while you're travelling. If you're anxious about flying or traveling to a new place, this may also have an effect on your gut. And people who are prone to constipation may be twice as likely to suffer when they leave the comfort of their home and regular routine behind. Crossing time zones when traveling abroad can also take its toll on the bowel.

Fight the constipation: Keep your toilet routine as close to regular as possible by trying to go at the same time you usually go (even when it means waking up earlier). If you usually take a fibre supplement, you might need to increase your dose. If you're on an outing, don’t fight the urge to “go” when you are out exploring – holding it in might shock your gut further into submission. You can also talk to your doctor or pharmacist about using a mild laxative if constipation gets out of hand. 

Girl at airport

3. Inactivity

An inactive body can lead to an inactive bowel. We tend to slack off from our regular workout routines while on vacation or while traveling, but this can cause constipation as exercise is vital for a healthy digestive system. According to the Manhattan Gastroenterology practice in New York City, USA, exercise and digestion are interconnected. Inactivity slows down your digestion as your blood flow isn’t stimulated.

Fight the constipation: The solution is pretty simple – keep moving, no matter what. You don’t have to find the nearest gym at your destination if you don't want to, but incorporate other forms of physical activity that might not even make you feel like you are working out. Take walks, play in the garden with your children and pets, park a bit further at your nearest mall, explore your holiday destination on foot, make an effort to swim a couple of laps every day, do a quick workout in your hotel room – the list is endless.

couple on couch

4. Dehydration

Water is essential for a healthy, regular digestion. Fluid loss is one of the most common causes of constipation and a holiday, especially during summer, can cause dehydration. Think about it – you are out and about in the sun, you might drink more alcoholic beverages than usual, you are not at your desk where you can make a point of drinking lots of water every day, or you skimp on your water intake because you are travelling and you don’t want to go to the loo so often. But dehydration can slow down your bowel movement significantly and you may end up being constipated.

Fight the constipation: Make a point of drinking even more water than usual – drink a glass of water between every alcoholic beverage you consume, and flavour your water with lemon slices and sprigs of mint. To ensure that you get a decent amount of water before a busy day traveling, drink some water as soon as you wake up in the morning.

Water bottle on beach

Image credit: iStock

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