back to top

Why You Have Trouble Pooping When You Go On Vacation

Pooping? No way! You're on vacation, and so is your butt.

Posted on

Maybe you're the type of person whose anal sphincter just shuts down for business when you dare venture far from home.

Pooping? No way! You're on vacation, and so is your butt!

The good news is that it's all totally normal! You are not a poop freak. Here's what you need to know.


When it comes to travel-induced constipation, there are several things that might be a factor. Like the fact that traveling means your eating habits have changed.

"Oftentimes with traveling your diet isn't the same as it normally is, so you may not be eating the amount of fiber that you normally eat," Gina Sam, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center, tells BuzzFeed Life. Maybe you're not eating veggies as much as you normally do, for example. Or if you typically eat a bowl of cereal or oatmeal each morning, and you don't when you're on vacation, that could mean a LOT less fiber than you even know. Sam says that most people should eat around 20 to 25 grams of fiber per day, but when you travel you might not be taking in enough.

Do this to poop better: Remember to eat your fruits and vegetables every day. Yes, even on vacation! And if you're addicted to cereal in the mornings, maybe bring a few mini-boxes of your favorite kind to eat while you're on your trip.

You're probably also a bit dehydrated from all that ~traveling~.

Muse Productions / Via Facebook: SpringBreakers

And that's a problem for keeping things moving! "Water helps the stool move along in the colon," Sam says.

Do this to poop better: Carry around a water bottle with you, and make sure to drink from it regularly. "You should probably be drinking about eight to ten glasses of water a day," Sam says, especially if you're having trouble with constipation.

And if you're on a relaxing getaway vacation, all that glorious lazing and luxuriating means that you're not actually moving much.

Carolyn Kylstra / BuzzFeed

"Movement helps move things along," Sam says.

Do this to poop better: Get up and get moving! Don't be a total lump, especially if you're backed up and feeling crabby about it.

Unfortunately, the problem could also just be that your type-A rectum and anal sphincter just get really uptight about any change in routine.

Walt Disney / Via

And no, you can't just make them relax or go with the flow, no matter how hard you try.

Blame your brain. "There's a lot of coordination in your brain communicating with your anal sphincter and rectum to have a bowel movement," Sam says. "When you're traveling, you may not be relaxed enough in your new environment to have a bowel movement. The system is just off."

Do this to poop better: As we've already covered, drink a lot of water, eat a lot of fruits and veggies, get your exercise. And if after doing all that you still can't poop after three or four days and you're beginning to feel crampy and bloated and miserable, Sam suggests a safe laxative called MiraLAX. "In those situations where you're starting to get the pain, then you might want to try to take the laxative," she says.


But enough about constipation! Let's talk about diarrhea. Anxiety and stress about travel can definitely cause the runs.

"They call the GI tract the second brain," Sam says. "If you're stressed, it might manifest in diarrhea." Travel can sometimes be super stressful! And for people who experience stress with stomach upset, crappy pooping habits might be an unfortunate side effect.

Do this to poop less: You can take some Imodium or Pepto-Bismol to feel better.

Or maybe you're just eating a lot more spicy food than you normally do.

Hey, having a sensitive stomach is nothing to be ashamed of!

Do this to poop less: If spicy food gives you the runs, maybe avoid spicy food.

OK, and let's talk about traveler's diarrhea for a hot second.

Warner Bros. Pictures / Via

This is definitely another reason your poop might go completely haywire on vacation. And this one is pretty serious: It's from a bacterial intestinal infection, typically from dirty water or food that hasn't been handled in a sanitary way. "You'll have a lot of diarrhea, you may have fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal bloating," Sam says.

Do this to poop less: Sam suggests that if you're planning an exotic vacation, you might want to go to your primary care doctor before you leave so they can write you a just-in-case scrip for an antibiotic, so that you can treat yourself if you do catch traveler's diarrhea. And if you do end up getting it, know this: "Many times it'll resolve on its own after a few days, but if you're experiencing it and having severe symptoms and you're dehydrated, it's important to go to the emergency room to be evaluated," she says.