How to stay “regular” while you travel

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Image: Maria Sbytova / Shutterstock

Traveling is a great way to broaden your horizons or get away from it all, but there’s nothing quite like GI distress when it comes to ruining an otherwise fun or romantic vacation. It’s a pretty common problem, but you don’t have to succumb to it. Here are some tips to keep everything… moving smoothly.

Drink plenty of portable water

I don’t know about you, but I never seem to drink enough water on vacation. Whether it’s the tiny cups on planes and trains or having to throw out your water bottle whenever I enter an establishment (museum, restaurant, club, security check, etc.), I’m always a little parched.

But if you don’t drink enough water, you’re going to have sad, or non-existent, bathroom times. If you don’t want straining in the hotel bathroom as a vacation memory, you need to drink as much potable water as you can. Sometimes that means buying lots of bottles of water as you travel, filling up a reusable one, or just keeping a giant jug of water at your home base.

Don’t wait for a completely familiar restroom

If you have average mobility and won’t have your gender identity questioned, you should be able to use most bathrooms. I know there’s this idea that women need a porcelain throne in order to relieve themselves, but seriously, you’ll be fine. Don’t hesitate to get low over a squat toilet (or hole in the ground or whatever) because deciding to just hold everything for until you return home isn’t great for you.

Look, deciding to hold it is fine once in a while, but if you make it a habit you may get to deal with fun stuff like constipation, taking forever finish, or distended bowels. Yay!

Be aware of risky local specialties

Trying local delicacies is an important part of taking in the culture of the place you’re visiting. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try them, but be aware of the risks you’re taking. Americans are used to being warned about raw meat and eggs, but less so cold noodles or salads. Some preparations may be rinsed in questionable water or not strictly follow “keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.” Maybe the local population is inoculated through mild exposure, but you probably aren’t.

Of course, eating any raw meat, whether beef or mangrove worms, carries a risk of making you sick, and not in the romantic La Bohème way. And if you’re violently ill, go to the doctor because food poisoning can kill people.

Designate a few modest meals

Even if the local specialty is barbecue, the change in your eating patterns could be enough to make for a sad GI tract. When you travel, you can end up eating out a lot, which usually means richer food and bigger portions with less vegetables and fiber. This can be okay for a weekend, but if you’re away for a couple weeks that kind of eating gets to be a pain in the butt.

If you limit some meals everyday of your trip to something more recognizable in your routine, everything from your neck down will be happier. If you have a home base, pick up some stuff from a grocery store, even convenience stores should have options like milk and cereal. Even if your modest meals aren’t perfectly healthy, you’re probably doing better than an average menu item.

Through vivid miming you can talk to any pharmacist

You’ve tried your best to keep your large intestine happy and pristine, but sometimes you’re just gonna have a bad case of the poops (or lack of poops).

Now, many Americans have a “wait and see” approach to health, or may feel uncomfortable trying to buy medicine in a foreign country. But if there’s one universal thing you can count on, no matter where you are, it’s that medical folk are not squeamish and everyone has had to deal with diarrhea or constipation at some point. Unless you’re in the wilderness alone, someone near you will be able to provide helpful medicine.

Yes, the process of explaining what you need may require miming or drawing pictures. It may make you feel silly or embarrassed. But would you be more embarrassed by trying to get what you need or by traveling across the world only see to your hotel crapper?