Camping can be one of the most satisfying outdoor experiences. But anyone who has ever gone camping knows that this magical experience isn’t without its own unique set of problems. And one of the recurring problems is getting constipated. That is, having an infrequent bowel movement, or in extreme cases, not being able to poop at all. Yikes!
So how can you avoid constipation while camping? There are a few ways you can avoid constipation while camping:
- Stay hydrated.
- Know what to eat and how to eat it.
- Avoid foods high in fat.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
In this article, we will explore all these factors as well as share some scientific insights on the matter. And most importantly, we shall share some tips on how you can avoid getting constipated during your next camping trip.
So without further ado, let’s get going! (Pun unintended)
Why Do Campers Get Constipated?
So why is it exactly that campers get constipated so often? Let us start by looking at the science.
You might be surprised to learn that you carry a vast ecosystem of microbes inside of you. There are roughly a hundred trillion microbes that call your intestines their home.
All humans maintain a symbiotic relationship with this fragile ecosystem of intestinal microbes living inside of them. You house and feed them, and they help regulate your digestive functions in return. These microbes are partly responsible for the irregularity in your number two habits when you’re out camping.
Besides the intestinal microbes, your intestines also have a unique second feature. There are millions of neurons lining the intestines. This is why some researchers have given it the nickname “the second brain.” This feature is responsible for a number of familiar sensations, like when you get butterflies in your stomach when you’re anxious.
So, say you go camping or simply travel outside of your usual habitat. You might be prepared for the change, but your second brain and the intestinal microbes living there are usually not. It all depends on how often you travel and how well adapted you are.
If you’re a frequent camper, there’s a good chance your gut will not be thrown off balance every time you travel. But if you’re not, you can prepare for a reaction. This can sometimes be diarrhea, but most often, it is constipation.
For people who aren’t accustomed to traveling at all, just the simple act of moving to a new place can trigger constipation. But what exactly are the changes that trigger this?
Several things affect your gut and gut bacteria. Here is a list of the four main factors:
This is undoubtedly the most common thing that triggers constipation when you’re out camping. One of the parts of the camping experience is having to relieve yourself out in the open.
If you’re like most people, this will be incredibly difficult for you. Many humans are used to the comforts of modern civilization, which can make it surprisingly hard to go when you need to when you’re on a camping trip.
So you might opt to hold your number two in for a while, till you find a most convenient location. This is a big mistake, as it confuses your gut. And if you hold it in for long enough, it might lead to constipation.
One of the most common reasons people get constipated when they’re out camping is dehydration. When you go camping, there’s also a good chance you will walk to your camping site. This is often a part of the experience.
And even after you’ve set up camp, you might feel like strolling around out in nature. But many people fail to consider that they’ll be losing a lot of fluids when they walk (think perspirations).
If you’re not compensating for all the lost fluids, your gut will not have enough liquid to soften your stool. This, combined with the other factors listed below, can lead to constipation.
Food is another major factor that contributes to constipation when you’re out camping. You’re probably accustomed to a certain diet at home or out in the city.
While this diet at home may or may not be as well balanced or healthy as it should be, what matters more is that your intestinal microbes are used to processing them. A drastic change to the food when you’re out camping can upset them, and as a result, trigger constipation.
It is safe to assume that when you’re out camping, your sleep pattern gets challenged a little. Many people who are accustomed to sleeping in their own beds can find it difficult to catch a shut-eye outdoors.
You probably have a fixed time and habit for your number two’s as well. If you’re like most people, you probably go in the morning after a full night’s sleep. Take the sleep out of the equation, and your gut gets thrown off balance.
What Can You Do To Avoid Constipation When Camping?
There are several tips you can follow when you’re out camping that can help prevent constipation. In this section, we will share with you six vital tips:
Listen To Your Body! (Don’t Hesitate To Relieve Yourself)
The first and the most important tip for avoiding constipation when you’re out camping is to listen to your body!
You may feel inconvenienced to relieve yourself out in the open. But before choosing to hold your poop in, ask yourself: Is it really worth the constipation? A brief moment of inconvenience can help elevate your whole camping experience.
Keep a roll of toilet paper and plenty of bottles of hand sanitizers handy. When nature calls, answer!
Pro tip: Don’t forget to bury your waste somewhere well off the beaten path. Leaving it exposed to the open air is unhygienic and can attract unwanted animals. As the saying goes, leave the forest the way you found it – that includes dealing with your waste.
Another very important tip is to stay hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking a lot of fluids, particularly clear fluids like water. When you’re out camping, there’s a good chance that you’re moving around a lot more than you’re used to.
That usually means you’re losing a lot more fluids from your body, and you need to make up for that. The more fluids you send into your body, the softer the stool. And consequently, the easier it is to pass.
When choosing fluids, there are a few you should try and avoid. Milk can actually trigger constipation, so it is always wise to avoid it. Also, avoid caffeine, tea, sodas, alcohol, etc. as they can actually be more dehydrating. If you feel like drinking something other than water, you can drink juice or soup. But always remember, nothing beats water. And you should be drinking plenty of it!
So the rule is quite simple. Drink more water than you’re used to. But you should also be mindful of where you’re getting your water. You could end up with something much worse than constipation: diarrhea! Keep water purifiers handy. Collect your water from a running source (remember, stagnant = bad). And it is always a safe bet to boil the water you collect before drinking it.
Know What And How To Eat
Another very important tip is choosing the right food. Your best bet is foods high in fiber. These include the likes of vegetables, fruits, bread, and cereal. Unless you’re camping on a hunting trip, it is wise to avoid meat. The meat you carry with you will most likely be processed or canned. That could upset your insides.
Canned food should be taken as a last resort back up food. But when possible, always eat freshly prepared meals. Cereals, protein bars, granola bars are also all safe options.
But just choosing the right food isn’t enough. It’s also important to understand how to eat it. When out camping, try and avoid eating raw vegetables and salads. While a healthy diet choice in the city, eating raw vegetables while camping can lead to bacterial infections. Cook (or at least steam your vegetables before eating them).
It is also important to sit down while you eat. While this is also true for when you’re eating in the city, it becomes particularly important when you’re out camping. Think of it as giving your body enough space and time to process all the changes you’re subjecting it to. Besides, a good meal is always best enjoyed well seated.
Try And Avoid Junk Food
Now that we’ve finished discussing what you should eat and how you should eat it, let’s look at some of the things you should try and avoid.
It is tempting to carry and pig out on junk food when you’re out camping. After all, you are on a trip, aren’t you? But junk foods are some of the biggest triggers for constipation. When you’re out camping, there are a lot of changes that your gut is trying to comprehend. If you add junk food to the equation, it can act as a catalyst.
Try And Avoid Foods High In Fat
There is one other culprit you should try and avoid at all costs. Foods that are high in fat are notorious for causing constipation when people are out camping. These include items such as pizza, ice cream, cheese, chocolates, chips, etc.
Of course, you are entitled to something like a little bit of chocolate. After all, you are on vacation. But many people tend to take their vacation liberalism too far. And like we’ve mentioned so many times in this article, your gut is rather flimsy, and there are a whole lot of things that could throw it off balance. If you want to avoid getting constipated, it is a safe bet to avoid all fatty foods.
Prepare Ahead For A Good Night’s Sleep
As we mentioned above in the previous section, a break in your usual sleep pattern can easily trigger constipation. This is why you should prepare beforehand for a good night’s sleep.
Now, this part can be a bit tricky. When you’re setting up your tent, be mindful of your sleeping area. There’s a good chance you will ignore this factor when you set up the tent early on in the evening. But you will start noticing all the subtle discomforts as soon as you go to bed late in the evening.
Is there a rock or some other protrusion under your sleeping mat? Is the ground ever so slightly inclined? Is there a hole somewhere in the tent that’s letting all the chill in? Are there insects that have made their way into your tent?
Everyone has his/her own preference when it comes to the ideal sleeping area. Be mindful of your requirements and be prepared.
What Can You Do If You Get Constipated While Camping?
Prevention is better than cure. So you should make sure you’re following all the tips listed in the previous section. But if you get constipated anyway there are a few things you can try:
Drink Warm Water
One of the surefire ways to help your constipated gut is to drink something warm. You should avoid beverages such as tea or coffee, as they can lead to further dehydration. Your best bet is to drink some hot water.
Drink a cup of hot water every hour or so until you notice the good signs in your gut. As soon as your body tells you to go poop, do it!
You should only use laxatives as a last resort if you’re feeling particularly unwell due to constipation. Laxatives can help you with your constipation, but they can bring about a hazard from the other end of the spectrum. Having to go every 15-minutes or so can be a much bigger problem when you’re out camping. Besides, this can also result in you losing a lot of fluids very rapidly. That can be very dangerous.
If you’re going to use laxatives, make sure you are well settled for the evening, and have a place you can relieve yourself ready nearby. And drink a lot of fluids!
Stay Relaxed! Try Some Breathing Exercises
One last tip that could come handy is staying relaxed. This is a no brainer actually. Our vacations or camping trips are meant for relaxation.
But often, we find ourselves more stressed trying to organize the itineraries and the logistics. You should be mindful of this and prepare for the stressful situations that could arise beforehand. While you’re on your trip, try to keep yourself relaxed and calm with good music and company. As they say, life’s a journey, not a destination. So is your trip.
You can also try some breathing exercises to calm your nerves. Even stretches can help you. All of these relaxation methods will keep your body calm and help it adjust better to the changes you’re experiencing on the trip. And this can help you with your constipation.
Should You Get Help?
If you’re experiencing constipation while out camping, there’s a good chance it will soon pass. Other than the overall unpleasant sensation, there is no too serious that will come of it. You can try the tips listed above, and there’s a good chance one of those will work. But that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be mindful of exceptions.
In some severe cases, constipation can lead to hemorrhoids. These are tears in the skin around your anus and can be extremely painful. An early sign of this is blood in the stool. If you notice this, make haste and call your doctor. Unfortunately, you might have to cut your camping trip short. Better safe than sorry. Live to fight another day!
This concludes our article on how you can avoid getting constipated when camping. We looked at the basic science and reasons behind constipation. The main culprits are almost always holding in due to inconvenience, dehydration, upsetting food, and change in sleep patterns.
We also shared some basic tips you can follow to help avoid the issue altogether:
- Listen to your body! (Don’t hesitate to relieve yourself)
- Stay hydrated
- Know what and how to eat
- Try and avoid junk food
- Try and avoid foods high in fat
- Prepare ahead for a good night’s sleep
In case you do get constipated anyway, there are a few things you can try. Try and stay as relaxed as you can and drink plenty of warm water. Use laxatives conservatively as they often come with unwanted side effects. Be mindful of exceptional cases. If you notice blood in your stool, cut the trip short and go see a doctor right away.
Camping can be an incredibly revitalizing experience. Don’t let the possibility of getting constipated discourage you from partaking in it. You should be fine if you take all the necessary precautions discussed in this article.