Intestinal transit: how can I regulate it on holidays?

During holidays, our body is subject to changes in its daily routine that can complicate the intestinal transit. What can we do to regulate it?
Intestinal transit

The long-awaited holidays help us break away from our daily routine. But, changing the dynamics also involves changing schedules and eating habits and, in many cases, further physical inactivity. This contributes to many people suffering what is known as travel constipation. An irregular intestinal transit is one of the disorders that usually appear during this holiday period, and it can even extend a few days after returning home.

Frequent causes of intestinal transit disorder

The main reasons are the reduction of fibre and water intake and a greater inactivity. The stress caused by jet lag is also another factor. In addition, many people feel embarrassed and avoid evacuating when away from home or the habitual environment, thus favouring constipation. This is even more acute when on holidays. There is also another cause known as parcopresis (or "shy bowel syndrome"), which is the term used to define many people's phobia to evacuate in public bathrooms. However, this is an extreme case, categorised as a social phobia.

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How to avoid it

  • Healthy breakfast. It is usually the meal that nobody skips, and most accommodation establishments offer it because it is the day's starting point. Therefore, we must make sure that we eat a nutritious breakfast high in fibre. Whole grain cereals (bread, breakfast cereals, etc.), fruit, nuts and dried fruit are a great choice. Sandwiches with wholemeal bread; fruit, such as kiwi, plums and orange; and muesli, which includes raisins and nuts, besides being nutritious, will highly contribute to our daily requirements of fibre.
  • Liquid. The intake of liquid is also important.Fibre will perform its function when you are well hydrated. We should not forget drinking water when eating, but especially between meals. Let's not forget that a high-fibre breakfast must be accompanied by liquid, such as tea, juice, and the classic morning coffee, which can stimulate intestinal motility due to caffeine having a certain laxative effect on people who are particularly sensitive.
  • Yoghurt and food with lactic ferments.. The microorganisms present in this type of products have a beneficial effect on endogenous intestinal flora, favouring its balance and, as a result, the intestinal transit.
  • Vegetables and pulses. Holidays cannot be an excuse to avoid our vegetables. Even if you travel to certain countries where it is advisable not to eat them raw (salads), it does not mean that you cannot eat them cooked. Nor should we avoid pulses, which in addition to being high in fibre have a high nutrient density. If they are part of the holiday destination's typical cuisine, you must take full advantage. We must keep in mind the recommendation of eating two servings of vegetables a day, one at lunch and the other at dinner.
  • Additional fibre. If you have persistent constipation, you can add wheat bran (source of insoluble fibre) or seeds such as flax or chia (source of insoluble and soluble fibre). The latter have the property of swelling in water, forming gel, providing volume to the faeces and favouring evacuation. Seeds, although not usually consumed, are easy to carry and eat, as they can be added to yogurt, salad, soup, juice, etc.
  • Do not hold the urge to go to the bathroom. We must pay attention to the rhythm of bowel movements and go to the bathroom when needed. It has been proven that suppressing the desire to evacuate leads to reducing the gastrocolic reflex, thus favouring constipation.
  • Stay active. Holidays are for disconnecting from the year's frantic pace, but that does not mean that we should reduce our physical activity. Breaking away from our routine to enjoy the pleasures of life is compatible with doing exercise, such as cycling, walking, swimming, dancing, etc. This will favour the intestinal transit and bowel movement.

We should always take care of our health, bringing it with us instead of sending it on holiday; this will ensure that we enjoy our holidays even more.

Isabel Lopez

Article by Isabel López

Dietitian, specialising in obesity prevention.

She holds a Bachelor's in Food Science and Technology. Degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Master's in Nutrition and Obesity. She is currently part of the Advance-Medical (Teladoc Health) nutrition team.

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12-08-2019