How to deal with holiday constipation

It’s great to be on holiday, away from it all, exploring new countries and cultures and eating to your heart’s content. But if your bowels get blocked, the fun’s soon over. What to do if holiday constipation strikes?

Your bowels are a sensitive beast that can be temporarily thrown out of kilter by the slightest change. Unfamiliar food, jet lag and a different climate are some of the most common causes of travel constipation. Here are some tricks to tackle this digestive disturbance:


Many people have problems going to the toilet in unfamiliar places. This unease can bring on constipation. To prevent stress it's a good idea to get used to the idea before you travel that you won't be able to do your business in familiar surroundings. You can create a more familiar and hygienic atmosphere far away from home by bringing, for example, your own moist wipes or sanitiser.

If you then feel the need to go to the toilet, don't resist. By responding quickly, you train your bowels to empty regularly. The trick is to give it your full concentration: ideally you should avoid distractions like the newspaper or your smartphone while you're on the toilet. Remember to relax and not get stressed. Sometimes good things take time.


Fibre-rich foods help get your digestion going. Dietary fibre fills you up nicely as well as keeping your stools supple. So you should eat plenty of wholegrain products, nuts and seeds, as well as fruit and vegetables with the peel. Kiwifruit, dried figs and plums are also ideal, as they have a mild laxative effect. White flour, bananas and chocolate, on the other hand, tend to cause constipation and should only be enjoyed in moderation. But the right fluid intake is also important: especially in warmer climes you should drink more, otherwise the fibres will stick together to form a tough clump (see next tip!).


Drinking a glass of lukewarm water before breakfast can stimulate the intestine muscles in the morning. In the course of the day you should get at least two litres of liquids – ideally water, unsweetened juices, buttermilk or herbal teas with alder bark, rhubarb root, senna leaves or fennel. It's particularly important to do this on the day you travel, when you're likely to be sitting down more and for longer than usual in the car, train or plane. When the body lacks fluids, it extracts as much water as possible from the stools to maintain key bodily functions. Herbs and roots can counteract unpleasant flatulence.


Exercise stimulates the digestion and reduces stress. Going for an evening walk can help you switch off even before your holiday starts. Once you've arrived you can continue this routine, adding strolls along the beach or walks during the day. Physical exercise after each meal strengthens the abdominal muscles and gets the digestion going. In the event of cramps, a light abdominal massage helps relax the intestines. Simply place the palm of your hand on the right side of your abdomen and move it clockwise in a circular motion.


If nothing else helps you can also take laxatives for a short time. However, you should only resort to chemical laxatives in exceptional circumstances, because your intestines can get accustomed to them, merely making the digestive disturbance worse. In particular, laxatives such as psyllium husks, which with sufficient fluid swell in the intestine and/or make the stools supple, are proven remedies that are also available over the counter in pharmacies.
It's best to consult your doctor or pharmacist before you travel. The medical specialists at santé24 are there 24/7 to assist SWICA customers with digestive problems as well – online and by phone, also from abroad.


In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.