Constipation – the curse of the business traveller

Constipation is a common hazard when travel is far and frequent, even to those usually blessed with the most regular habits. The causes are multiple, each would be manageable alone but in combination can lead to serious discomfort.   When travelling on business you want to be at your peak performance and not worrying about when your next bowel movements could be.



Foods with Low Water Retention

coffee and croissant

The regular healthy breakfast eaten at home, on business travel, is often replaced with comfort food, my choice being the pain aux raisin. Foods like muesli, bran flakes, porridge and whole grain toast is high in fibre and water binding gels, bacon baps and patisserie isn’t. Our digestive system soon becomes clogged when we switch from a reasonably good diet, to a reasonably poor one.


If we don’t have access to a regular supply of fluids, we become dehydrated and this can cause constipation, in addition to head aches and lethargy.

Consumption of Dehydrating Foods and Drinks

Salty foods and snacks (now a purchase item on low budget airlines) need water in order for the salt to be excreted by our kidneys.  If we drink fluids with over 5% alcohol, our liver needs extra water to process the alcohol.  Strong caffeinated drinks stimulates the excretion of water.

In isolation salt, alcohol and caffeine will promote dehydration, a combination will make things worse.

Very Low Humidity

The atmosphere in aeroplanes is extremely dry and the longer we spend in this environment, the more important it is to keep hydrating with fluids.


Staying Sedentary

Even gentle exercise is good for keeping all our systems moving. Long periods sat in a car, plane or train with little opportunity to wander, makes all our systems sluggish.

Uncomfortable Toilet Arrangements

In the absence of a bit of quiet privacy, we can be reluctant to make full use of the available toilet facilities. In this situation, it’s tempting to ‘hold on’ and wait until a more inviting toilet situation is available. One function of the colon is to extract liquid from it’s contents, and the longer waste products stay there, the more dry and solid they will become.



A Good Diet

Take it with you. Apples are a great prevention and cure for constipation and it’s easy to carry a few in your bag. The gel forming pectin in apple assists the contents of the bowels to retain moisture plus the high fibre peel adds water binding bulk.

Carry Water

Bowl of rice flakes porridgeAlong with the supply of fruit, always carry water. Make full use of fluids served ‘en route’ but in addition, carry your own supply.

Avoid salty snacks and strong coffee. Keep alcohol levels low, dilute drinks containing over 5% alcohol.

Get Moving

If possible, walk about the plane or train, in a car, stop every few hours to walk around. After the journey, try and get some exercise.

Forget to be embarrassed

Holding on to a stool motion promotes constipation and can cause discomfort. If you know there will be poor hygiene standards on your journey, always travel with your own packs of disinfecting wet wipes and tissues.

Any long journey is going to involve some of these factors and some are impossible to avoid. With careful planning it is possible to take preventative action and ensure comfort at the business destination and on returning home.

© Extravitality 2015


Author: Carol Sadler PhD
Carol is a Nutrition Consultant. She counsels in diet and lifestyle change at Surrey Cardiovascular Clinic where clients have been referred by the clinic cardiologists. Prior to this Carol worked in private practice in Dubai for nine years, where she had various media engagements including Emirates Radio 2 Lifestyle Show monthly ‘phone-in’ on nutrition topics; Gulf News Friday Magazine (weekend supplement) monthly nutrition letter answered; City7 TV appearances on Breakfast Television and Lifestyle Show commenting on nutrition topics. Contributions to local magazines, and organizations, eg Rheumatoid Arthritis Group, Grazia Magazine, Living in the Gulf magazine. She continues to write nutrition articles and blogs, recently writing for Reader’s Digest, and HASTE Academy heart health charity and provides talks on diet issues. Carol is a member of The Nutrition Society, a Registered Nutritionist at the Association for Nutrition, Registration No. 912 and a member of SENSE (self employed consultant Nutritionists group for professional development).

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