Preventing Constipation During Summer Travel
February 28, 2024
Backyard barbecues, beach vacations, days spent by the pool. These are all wonderful things about the summer season that keep you busy, but if you’re not careful, these activities can slow down your digestion, possibly leading to constipation.
Regularity in bowel movements is a key factor for colorectal and anorectal health. Constipation can cause issues, such as hemorrhoids, or it can be a sign of a more serious issue, such as colorectal or anorectal diseases.
No one wants to deal with these issues during summer -- adults or kids -- so here are helpful hints and tips to prevent constipation this summer.
How to Prevent Constipation During Summer
First, what exactly is constipation? The medical definition includes symptoms such as:
- Fewer than three bowel movements per week
- Straining to start or complete a bowel movement
- Stool consistency that looks like rocks and pebbles
- A feeling of incomplete emptying
As food passes through your colon, your body absorbs the water from it, and what's left forms into stool. Your muscles move it through the colon to the rectum, and then you pass it. When this movement slows down, your colon draws too much water. Stools get dry and hard to pass, which causes constipation. Many people don’t know when they’re constipated, and it can easily creep up on you.
This summer, if you find that your healthy habits have been sliding and mild constipation occurs, it should be fairly easy to correct with the strategies below. If you are experiencing persistent and debilitating constipation, we strongly recommend seeing a doctor who specializes in these issues, such as the ones at Alabama Colon and Rectal Institute.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Especially in the summer, drinking more than enough water is important for many reasons, including preventing constipation. One of the biggest contributors to constipation is dehydration, which can easily occur when it’s very hot. While we may naturally drink more, we also sweat more, which can cause us to lose more liquids overall. Aim for at least eight glasses of water daily, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, both of which can be dehydrating.
Enjoy summer foods, especially those with lots of fiber. Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables help improve gut function, and during summer months, there will be many of these in season. Add a variety to your diet, and remember that plums, kiwis, and watermelon are great sources of fiber. Don’t forget about whole grains during summer as well.
Exercise appropriately for the season. Regular exercise can help keep stool moving through the colon, but it can be difficult to exercise enough during hot weather. Take advantage of early mornings and late evenings when it may be cooler, and consider swimming for exercise.
Don’t ignore what your body is saying. This can be challenging during summer, especially for kids who are playing hard, but if your body is telling you that it’s ready for a bowel movement, do your best to get to the bathroom. Ignoring the urge can contribute to the development of constipation as the stool material will just get harder as it stays in your rectum. The harder the stool, the more difficult it is to pass.
Keep your schedule as normal as possible, even on vacation. Going off routine during vacations is a big contributing factor in constipation for many people. As much as possible, try to be consistent with regular mealtimes and bedtimes, as both of these will help your digestive system stay on schedule. Also, continue with healthy eating habits, focusing on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Don’t overdo it on sweets, treats, and junk food. These types of foods are typically low in fiber, which can contribute to constipation. While summer is definitely a time for fun road trip snacks, popsicles, ice cream, lemonade, and more, be sure that these treats are minimal or once in a while indulgences while continuing to focus on healthy options.
If you do find yourself or a family member experiencing constipation this summer, these tips should help you get back on track. If you do not see improvement within a few weeks, consider seeing your doctor to find out if there is another underlying cause that needs to be addressed. The doctors at Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute are here to help this summer, and always!