How to Fend off the Dreaded Airplane Bloat
Illustration courtesy of Thinkstock
You know the feeling. About three hours into your cross-country or transatlantic flight, your shoes start feeling a bit tight. Your jeans are cutting into your belly, and your rings are stuck on your fingers, which now look like little sausages. It’s the dreaded airplane bloat.
In 2006, a passenger on an American Airlines flight actually forced the plane to make an emergency landing because how she dealt with her flatulence! You do NOT want to be that person.
In order to get to the bottom of how you can avoid being bloated like a sausage on your flight, it’s important to understand why it happens in the first place. There are a few different mechanisms at work.
First, it’s about air pressure. As the plane ascends, the air pressure drops. This drop in air pressure causes gasses to expand. Gasses in your stomach, gasses in your intestine…*toot!* You know what happens next!
A Danish study has even reviewed the causes of bloating and flatulence on flights, it’s that prevalent.
Next, the food you eat comes into play. When people travel, they tend to be in “vacation mode.” This mindset often starts at the airport, where travelers choose salty, fatty foods to eat before and during their flights. Too bad that being in an airplane at 30,000 feet tends to slow down your digestive tract. That leaves your greasy snack in your gut for a lot longer, hanging out and making you feel heavy and sluggish.
The copious amounts of salt in your meal also promotes water retention, which is why you can’t get your rings off by the time you finish watching that bad movie.
What’s the secret to not bloating on your flight? You can’t really rid yourself of every bit of gas in your body, but you can certainly help by following these tips:
Avoid: carbonated beverages — anything carbonated just puts more gas into your system. Bad idea. Tomato juice is another in-flight favorite, but it’s super salty. Avoid.
Also, the booze! Alcohol dehydrates your already flight-dehydrated body. This can cause rebound bloating, plus everyone knows that booze hits you harder in the air. I don’t want to be reading about you on Passenger Shaming, so save the cocktails for your destination, okay?
Choose: lots of water. Coffee is fine too, but can be dehydrating if you drink a lot of it. Fennel tea is awesome for intestinal gas and bloating, so you can bring some fennel tea bags with you and just add hot water on the flight.
Avoid: sugarless gums and other foods containing the sugar alcohols xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol — these are sweet going down, but the bloating and gas they can cause will not be worth it.
Choose: If you’re worried about bad breath, pack portable brushes like Colgate Wisp. The occasional piece of sugary gum isn’t going to kill you, but sugar breeds bacteria and can make your breath even worse. I also like Altoids, which have sugar but are so strong, you only need one or two.
Avoid: Anything fatty or salty. This includes most airport food, but there are exceptions. Try bringing food in your carry-on or scoping out the airport online in advance to identify healthier options where the foods below are likely to be available.
READ MORE: 10 Rules for Flying With Small Children
Choose light snacks — Vegetable sticks with hummus, fresh fruit, raw almonds, hemp hearts and CLIF Mojo bars are examples of portable, healthy snacks that won’t cause bloat.
This blog originally appeared on Vane's website.
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