In my years and years of traveling and unpacking only to repack, I’ve noticed that my digestion stops when I leave the comfort of home: I can’t poop.
Turns out, it’s not just me. Travel disturbs our natural rhythm, jet lag throws our whole body clock out of whack, and we’re also eating food that’s outside of the regular and the routine, perpetuating the problem.
I’ve seen a slew of healthcare professionals regarding this topic: classic MD doctors, naturopathic doctors, Ayurvedic doctors and even some sketchy Chinese pharmacists (I was desperate). They shared with me their wisdom on the topic, and then I tested it. There is no magic charm, but here’s my tried and true toolkit for keeping your digestive tract moving when you’re away from home:
1. Homemade granola bars
As a vegan/vegetarian or anyone who follows anything but the typical Western diet, airplane food and traveling means eating a lot of awful carbs and sugar because of a lack of other options. I’ve found the best way to combat this is to think ahead and make your own granola bars loaded with the right kind of oats, nuts and dried fruits. These will provide you with the right kind of protein and fiber that you need without overloading you with other crud, which is sure to cause a stop in digestive movement.
2. Hot water
According to many Ayurveda and yoga practitioners, the first thing we need to do when we wake up is relieve our bowels. In fact, I’ve had teachers tell me to not even show up for yoga if I don’t succeed in pooping that morning. A ritual for many in India is drinking warm/ hot water (and a lot of it) right away in the morning. The logic is that this literally wakes up the GI tract, and a large amount of water consumed in a small amount of time triggers the gastrocolic reflex, pushing things along their way. I typically warm about 1 liter of water, and it usually takes me 2-3 glasses of water before I feel the urge to go. Although a bit time consuming, this is easy to do on the road–most hotels have water heaters or you can request hot water. Give it a few tries; I think there’s a bit of getting used to with this one.
The old fashioned way to poop is the best way to poop. Loads of research has now proven that the closure mechanism of the gut is not designed to open or release when we’re simply sitting down (on the toilet) or standing up. So before you head to the throne in the morning, do some squats. It works, I promise.
4. Digestion tea
Staying hydrated, especially on planes, is incredibly important. So plan ahead and kill two birds with one stone. I always pick up a pack of digestion tea (I love this one), and fill my carry-on with tea bags. Then I just ask for hot water on the plane or at any coffeeshop and I’m good to go.
5. Strong probiotics
If you take probiotics on the regular, up your dose significantly when you travel. I usually do a 30 billion probiotic when I’m on the road. And the plus side of this is that a large dose of probiotics not only keeps things moving, but also acts to overpopulate your intestines with good bacteria, which is especially important if you happen to be traveling to places with poor hygiene standards–this way even if you ingest the bad stuff, your intestines are already so crowded with the good stuff that it won’t have anywhere to stick and will just flush through you.
Triphala is just the best. I never leave the neighborhood without it. It’s a well known Ayurvedic herb, a powder made of three fruits: amalaki, haritaki, bibhitaki. It is most often used as a mild laxative which encourages full elimination by pulling stagnated toxic residue from the GI tract and increasing the colon’s absorption functions. The best part of Triphala is that it’s non-habit forming (like its more popular cousin, Senna), and it’s very easy to use. Experiment with it and find the dose that works for you- start with one capsule before bed and work your way up as needed. On really taxing, long trips, I have been known to take as many as 10 capsules a day.
Happy traveling, dumplings! 🙂
Also by Irina: 3 Ways to Feel Younger and Happier
More on digestive health: Best Foods, Herbs, and Remedies for Digestion
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Photo: Irina Vishnevskaya