Have you ever seen a wood chipper in action? It’s a beautiful thing: you feed the branches into one end and wood chips come flying out the other end.
Now isn’t that what we all want? In our real lives? Input and output in a smooooooth rhythm with no clogging?
Keeping the chipper unclogged is challenging enough for some of us when we are at home, in our regular routines but nothing can clog a chipper faster than travel. It’s estimated 40 percent of travellers suffer from this.
Why does being away from home slow down or stop up our chippers? Here are a few reasons:
- broken routine–Poo is a creature of habit and doesn’t like change. If Poo typically shows up at 7 a.m. he ain’t gonna come at any other time!
- time change–your morning poo is thrown off kilter by a seven-hour clock adjustment and suddenly you are halfway up the Eiffel tower when the urge hits. So you squeeze those cheeks. Poo thinks: I guess she doesn’t want to see me. I’m taking my marbles and going home…for a week!
- less activity or exercise–movement begets movement. Amen.
- less access to fibre-rich foods–restaurant eating instead of home cooking can limit our access to fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, grains and seeds. Whereas red meat, grease and sugar are the biggest cloggers, being on a trip often releases the inner beast: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! Bring on the T-bone, yam fries and cheesecake!
- anxiety due to lack of privacy–apparently this is a mostly female phenomenon; girls don’t like public toilets. Seriously, like I’m going to stink up a whole room full of friends I haven’t met yet?!
- stress associated with the trip–flight delays, missed connections, border crossing hold-ups, lost luggage and more sends a message to our “second brain“: Clog the chipper!
- dehydration–dehydration hardens the stool, making it slow down or even stop moving; fluid softens the stool. Being on the road, especially if you’re having fun, can distract you from drinking enough water.
- food intolerances–while the typical reaction to food intolerances is diarrhea (lactose intolerance, celiac disease), my casein (milk protein) intolerance causes a serious work stoppage on the old chipper!
So what? Why does this matter? If you travel for your work, like I do, you don’t have to ask. I am the poster child for the 40%. I have been all over the world and the only places I never had a clogged chipper were Lebanon (food poisoning=diarrhea) and Cayman Islands (Jamaican Jerk: Eh mon! A burnin’ ring of fire!)
Over the miles and the years, I have learned some simple causes, preventions and even some cures. And that’s what I want to share with you now.
When you travel….
Always Carry (never leave home without)
- your fibre of choice. I carry my “roughie” (ruffy) mix in a small ziplock bag in my suitcase. What is a roughie? The opposite of a smoothy. (It does however beget a smoothy in due time…ahhhh) It is roughage. It consists of equal parts psyllium husk, ground flaxseed and chia seed. Every morning I add a scoop (about 2 Tbsp) of roughie mix to 1/3 cup coconut milk (any liquid), mix it up and down it. I chase this mixture with black coffee and wait until I feel.the.earth.move.under my feet….
- helpful meds just in case. Stool softeners are a good go-to, just don’t wait too long before using them. You may have to call in the big guns (laxatives, suppositories, enemas) if the chipper gets too clogged but those things scare me so I don’t carry them…not saying I’ve never used them, but they seldom satisfy. And they create other problems. Aaarrgggghhh, take me home Jesus!
- refillable water bottle. It’s a great reminder to drink more than usual on a trip. Lots of water means you have to get up and pee more often so it keep you moving too. Bonus!
- TP. Nothing puts the kibosh on a good poo like an empty TP roll! You might as well sit on a cork. Be prepared, Boy Scout.
Avoid (like the plague)
- greasy, rich, sugary food. If you don’t want people to ask when you’re due, smarten up! Every menu has at least one healthy option. It’s like looking for Waldo, you can do it!
- sitting for longer than two hours at a stretch. Get up and move around. Most hotels have workout facilities. Most cities have sidewalks. Most islands have beaches. Bust a move!
- holding your poo when the urge hits. In my books, every poo is a welcome guest! Find a bathroom (or a bush) and let ‘er rip tater chip!
- eating once you’re clogged. Stop putting food in your mouth. I mean it. Quit. If there is no output, continued input only creates more misery (bloating, pain). You won’t feel hungry but if you do, eat a tiny amount and stop. If you a guest, move the food around on your plate and talk a lot but don’t eat much of it. You are only adding to the Monster Plug by continuing to eat. (Keep drinking though.) Once you get home things will start moving again. Avoid the urge to kiss your own toilet in gratitude.
You can’t do anything about time changes, jet lag, broken routines, lack of privacy, or travel mishaps but you do have choices about what you eat–or refuse to eat–how much you drink, what remedies you carry, how much you move, and how prepared you are. A little planning and awareness goes a long way to keeping you feeling chipper on your next trip.
Feel free to chip in with a few tips of your own…