The Women's Health Guide to Travel

With the holiday season in full swing, people are not only spending more money than usual but also traveling more! Whether you’re driving, flying, or taking the train to catch up with loved ones, traveling is something most of us dread. We just want to get to the destination we are going to with as little disturbance as possible. While I can’t promise that the child two rows in front of you sleeps through the flight, I can help make this travel season easier on your bladder, bowels, and body!

#1 Limit the caffeine

One of the most common complaints about travel is the bathrooms. Where are they? Are they clean? Are there 10 million women in line? You can decrease the amount of urgency you have to go running to the bathroom by cutting down on caffeine. And while you’re at it, take it easy on those little bottles of alcohol too.

Your travel mantra is now: dilute

Can’t imagine the thought of going without coffee? Well you can limit the impact of caffeine by drinking some water! While drinking more may sound counter intuitive, it’s actually going to help! Here’s how.

There are cells in your bladder, called the trigone, which are always sampling what urine is made out of. These cells can send an emergency “GOTTA GO NOW” signal to empty the bladder when they pick up irritants. This is a built in protective mechanism of the bladder. These irritants can vary from person to person, but the big hitters for just about everyone are:

      - Caffiene
      - Alcohol
      - Carbonated drinks
      - Dehydrated urine

Yes ladies, you read that right. Being dehydrated will actually make you run to the bathroom MORE than staying hydrated! You can cut down on the amount of emergency gotta pee signals by adding in water. Alternate sips of coffee or wine with water and you’ll be able to last a little longer!

#2 You’ve got at least 2 hours

Adults are able to store urine in the bladder for 2-5 hours, with 2 being the minimum. Remember, the bladder’s job is to store urine!! If you just went 20 minutes ago then please do not run to the restroom before your flight.

Uh oh. The seatbelt sign just turned on but you’re pushing 3 hours and you have GOT to go. What do you do?! Urge suppression technique!! This little gem got me through 30 minutes of Orlando traffic with my bladder throwing an adult-sized tantrum, so I know it can work for you too.

First stay calm. This is not the time for panic. It’ll just make you want to go more. Next, perform 10 quick pelvic floor contractions (AKA Kegels) in a row. Check in with the urge again. It’s no longer as intense. Repeat as much as needed until the urge goes away. You may need to repeat the whole sequence until you can get to a bathroom. You can also try distracting yourself to defer the urge.

#3 Pack your own seat covers...

Because you’re gonna be sitting on some public toilet seats. Don’t have any toilet seat covers? Grab some toilet paper from home, fold it up all pretty into a Ziploc bag and keep it within easy reach, i.e. your purse or carryon. If you include some hand sanitizer then you have your own bathroom travel kit ready to go!

Your cheeks need to make contact with that toilet seat!!

Why? So glad you asked.

A) Sitting allows your pelvic floor muscles to relax, which is what they NEED to do when you pee or poop. Remember, it’s the bladder and the rectum which are actually moving along those contents. Your pelvic floor muscles are the exit doors. If you are hovering over the seat then your pelvic floor muscles are working more to keep you in that lovely squat… but they also need to relax. In this case, take the wise words of Ron Swanson: 

Never half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing.

B) It takes away the excuse of “I can’t go because the bathroom is gross.” This is for you ladies who suddenly become camels from the Sahara dessert during travel. It’s okay to pee. Has it been a couple hours since you last went? Did you consume a large coffee AND a bottle of water? Is mother nature calling for you to evacuate? Then please go to the bathroom!

Holding back pee is just plain uncomfortable and for some of you, may be contributing to urinary dysfunction. Holding back a bowel movement (BM) can set you up for a harder time later (bad pun intended!).

When you hold back a BM it’s stored up in the sigmoid colon. Y’know what your colon does? It draws out water. So while that BM you deferred is being stored, it’s also being dehydrated more. And if it gets dehydrated enough, then it’s more difficult to pass. 

#4 Get up and MOVE

Travelling is a sedentary activity. Whether you are driving, flying, taking the bus/subway, or going back to the good ole horse and buggy days… you’re sitting. This lack of movement causes a decrease in blood flow in the areas we are sitting on (aka your booty), which is why your butt gets kinda sore and just plain uncomfortable after a while. This can occur in the back, legs, and neck as well.

Decreased Mobility.png

Yep, your lack of movement means your bowels are taking it sssllooooooowwww too. That and the disruption of your regular routine are what I consider to be two of the biggest culprits for constipation during travel.

So let’s move! During my last layover, I decided to do something very different… instead of checking my FB and Instagram feeds I actually worked out. It wasn’t intense, I didn't even break a sweat. At first, I felt very uncomfortable because I was worried about what people would think. They'd be all like "Who is this crazy lady stretching in the airport?!"

But I kept going. And after about 2 minutes I realized that no one cared. And I FELT AMAZING!!! So I came up with this little routine you can complete in the airport, or at any rest stop area to get you moving! I encourage you to do the same routine or to come up with your own.

A couple key points to remember when taking these mini-movement breaks are:

     - Think about opening up and extending your body. We usually travel cramped and seated

     - Do what feels good! I prefer to hold for a 5 count and repeat 2-3 times. I repeat movements that feel great even more frequently. Maybe you like to hold a stretch a little longer. Maybe you do fewer movements. Or more. It’s all good!!

     - Moving back and forth will help to improve circulation to the area more than holding a stretch for a longer period of time.

There you have it, a guide to travel from a women’s health physical therapist. Do you think these tips will help you? Have you already been doing them? Got any more to add? Comment below!