A woman walking in an amusement park with a roller coaster in the background is followed by anthropomorphized bowels wearing a hat and holding popcorn

Vacation, With a Side of Constipation

Ah, vacation! Time away from everything, maybe somewhere warm or somewhere exciting, the time of year we all look forward to. What’s more fun than packing a suitcase and getting away from it all? Well, getting away from most of it. My IBS loves to follow me on vacation, making sure that I never forget it’s always with me, ready to try to ruin even the best trip. My IBS fluctuates between constipation and diarrhea, both of which have snuck along in my suitcase throughout the years.

Vacation prep with IBS

In August 2021, I went on my first vacation since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A friend and I went to Disney World for a ladies’ trip. I was so excited to travel once again! I have a standard travel toiletries bag I take with me on all my trips, full of all the necessities. I made sure to put anti-diarrhea pills in there since heat is a trigger for my IBS. I wanted to be able to enjoy my trip without having to stop the fun for multiple bathroom breaks.

Constipation kicked in

The trip was going great! We enjoyed theme park snacks, having a few nice sit-down dinners, and even sampling some of the treats at one of the parks’ food-based festivals. Before leaving for Florida, my stomach had reached a level of normalcy; I went to the bathroom at least once a day. I don’t know if it was the heat or the stress of traveling for the first time in over a year, but on day 3 of our trip, I realized I hadn’t gone to the bathroom in a few days. I was still drinking a cup of coffee every morning and certainly indulged in a few beers, usually surefire ways to get things moving, so what was going on?

I started having one of the most uncomfortable parts of constipation: hard, disgusting burps. How could I enjoy my beloved snacks when everything made me feel slightly nauseous? Then I noticed how bloated I felt and looked. I decided it was time for a laxative, just something to get the wheels moving so I could finish out the rest of the trip without getting sick.

I forgot my laxatives

I rooted through my trusty vacation toiletries bag, only to discover that I hadn’t packed any laxatives. I was so worried about having to go too much that I forgot the possibility I might not be able to go at all. The plastic theme park cheese had done me in, and I still had a few more days of vacation fun ahead of me! The hotel gift shop sold every common OTC medicine but laxatives, and having them delivered to the hotel seemed like a waste of money. (I’m still a little frustrated by that, that should be right there with the rest of the stomach meds!) I’d have to try the old-fashioned way and walk this constipation out.

I felt comfortable enough to give my travel companion a head’s up, one of the benefits of traveling with someone you’ve known for over 15 years. We tried to brainstorm what I could eat that would help. Nothing did the trick. Eventually, I was able to go one morning, just enough to relieve some of the frustration. It lingered enough to be a pain for the rest of my trip, unfortunately, interfering with my appetite for cocktails from a faraway galaxy or one of my favorite soups in the world (yes, even in the heat!).

Returning home from vacation

Of course, as soon as I got home and resumed life as normal, my stomach decided it was no longer on vacation either. Things got back to normal pretty quickly. Even walking in peak August humidity with a full, bloated stomach, I still had a blast on my trip.

But you better believe that when I started packing for another trip to Florida in early December, the first thing I put in my travel bag was a few laxatives, which I was later very, very thankful for.

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