Happy Travels, Happy Bowels: Practical Advice from the Mindful Physio

Ever notice how your bathroom routine shifts around when you travel? If you have experienced constipation or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) you probably know what I’m talking about. What is it about airplanes, family members that love to talk hot button politics around holiday dinner tables, and routine changes that cause a change in our bowels? There are a couple of good physiological reasons why this happens:

#1: Bowels love routines. You likely know someone in your life that can time their poops down to the minute (maybe not that exact, but you know what I mean!). Bowels are SLOW learners but they like to know what to expect. We are out of our routine when we travel. If your routine was already a little loose (pun intended) you are more likely to notice a bigger shift when you travel.

#2: Bowels have brains. Our guts tell us a lot about what is going on in our lives. If we are feeling a little anxious, reluctant, resistant, or generally worked up about travel or who we are going to be spending time with our bowels know. Sometimes they speed up and sometimes they slow down and hold on. Bowels are windows into our souls- It makes perfect sense when you think about it!

#3: Travel makes us tight. You know I couldn’t write this without giving a shout out to the pelvic floor. Our pelvic floor muscles are the gateway to having a bowel movement. If these muscles are happy and able to fully contract and relax- then we poop! If they are feeling tight, grippy, on guard- then we don’t poop. Simple mechanics!

What can you do about this? I’ve listed a couple of my favorite travel tips below.

#1: Be gentle with yourself. Travel comes with a lot of sensory overload, stimulation, and change. Give yourself extra time so you don’t have to rush. Sounds simple, but if your nervous system feels safe and supported you are more likely to stay consistent!

#2: HYDRATE! Drink extra water starting 1-2 days before you travel. Limit alcohol and caffeine during the same time frame. The pilots know! And when I finally took my pilot’s advice I noticed a BIG difference in how I felt when traveling.

#3: Move More. Walk between flights, find yoga rooms to do some stretching (laying on the tummy and lunge stretches are my favorite), and stand up on flights whenever you can- even if they are short!

May you be well and stay regular!

The Mindful Physio

Dr. Megan Anderson, DPT is an integrative physical therapist combining the wisdom of yogic teachings with the western science of medicine to guide her clients in their individual path towards healing. She first discovered the practices of yoga during her post graduate work and would later decide to deepen her practice and train to become a teacher. Yoga changed her life and showed her a path towards healing her own persistent pelvic and hip pain and deepening her relationship with herself. As a physical therapist, she specializes in supporting women to live their healthiest lives. She has practiced as a PT for nearly 10 years with the last 6 years dedicated to supporting women with persistent pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and pre/post-partum.

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