Nutritionist-Approved Tips to Banish Bloating While Flying
Welcome aboard, travellers! Whether you’re jetting off to explore new horizons or embarking on a business journey, there’s one aspect of flying that can sometimes dampen the excitement – BLOATING. We’ve all experienced that uncomfortable feeling of being swollen and gassy during a flight, and it can put a damper on the entire travel experience.
But fear not, I have you covered! Read on to discover all you need to know…
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY WHEN IN THE AIR?
When we fly, the air inside your gut actually expands – all thanks to changes in atmospheric pressure. This additional pressure on the intestines can impact your bowel movements, leading to potential changes in your regularity and abdominal pain.
WHY DO WE BLOAT WHEN FLYING?
Reduced Cabin Pressure: Reduced air pressure on a plane can lead to the expansion of gases in your body, including those in your stomach and intestines, which may cause bloating.
Swallowing Air: During a flight, you may unconsciously swallow more air than usual due to factors like stress, eating quickly, or drinking carbonated beverages. This excess air can get trapped in your digestive system and contribute to bloating.
Dehydration: The low humidity levels in the cabin can lead to dehydration, as the dry air causes your body to lose moisture. Dehydration can slow down digestion and lead to bloating.
Sitting for Extended Periods: Being seated for an extended duration during a flight can slow down digestion and lead to a buildup of gas in your digestive tract, resulting in bloating.
HOW CAN WE AVOID IN-FLIGHT BLOATING?
To minimise bloating during a flight, consider choosing lighter, easily digestible foods, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water, avoiding carbonated beverages, and taking short breaks to walk and stretch. Additionally, practising deep breathing and relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety, which may also aid digestion.
WHAT TO EAT BEFORE A FLIGHT:
Those that suffer from IBS tend to have more sensitive intestines so may need to be extra careful before flying. So, what is the best way to avoid a flare-up in the sky?
Reducing your intake of high-FODMAP foods (garlic, onions, lactose containing dairy, wheat based products and pulses) 24-48 hours before flying may help, along with being mindful of what you consume when in the air. If you’re on a short-haul flight it may be best to stick to water and herbal teas, but if travelling further, be prepared and pack a low-fodmap-friendly meal.
Before a flight, it’s a good idea to choose foods that provide sustained energy, are easy to digest, and won’t cause discomfort during the journey. It’s best to eat a balanced meal a few hours before the flight to give your body enough time to digest:
Complex Carbohydrates: Opt for whole grains like oats, quinoa or brown rice. These complex carbohydrates provide a steady release of energy, helping you feel full and energised whilst also containing fibre, which aids digestion and helps maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Lean Protein: Include a lean source of protein like grilled chicken, turkey, tofu, or fish. Protein helps you feel satiated and supports muscle health, which can be beneficial, especially if you’ll be sitting for an extended period during the flight.
Fruits and Vegetables: Fresh fruits and vegetables will contribute to hydration due to their high water content. Choose fruits like berries, apples, or oranges, and vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, or bell peppers. Avoid gas-producing vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower to prevent discomfort during the flight.
Healthy Fats: Include a source of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, or seeds in your pre-flight meal. These fats can help you feel satisfied and provide a slow-release energy source.
Avoid foods that are high in salt, unhealthy fats, or heavy, fried dishes, as these can contribute to bloating and discomfort during the flight. Also, it’s essential to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and during the flight.
THE BEST FOODS TO EAT ON A FLIGHT:
Nuts and Seeds: Snacking on nuts and seeds can be a good option during a flight. They are a source of healthy fats, protein, and fibre, which can help keep you satiated and provide sustained energy throughout the journey.
Hydrating veggie sticks: Remember your intake of water should increase when in the air, and eating water packed fruits and veggies contributes to this. Try cucumber, pepper, celery and carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes.
Seaweed thins: Are generally low in calories and fat while being rich in essential vitamins and minerals. They can satisfy your craving for a crunchy snack without contributing significantly to your overall calorie intake, making them a healthier alternative to crisps and other ultra processed snacks.
Fresh fruit: Have a high water content, which helps combat the dehydrating effects of the dry cabin air during a flight. Fruits are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, potassium, and various antioxidants. These nutrients support your immune system, help reduce oxidative stress, and maintain overall health, which is especially beneficial during travel when you may be exposed to germs and stress.
Lean Proteins: Choose lean sources of protein like grilled chicken, turkey, tofu, or boiled eggs. These options are easier to digest compared to heavy and fatty proteins, reducing the risk of bloating.
Yoghurt: If you tolerate dairy well, plain yoghurt can be a good option, or go for lactose free. Yogurt contains probiotics, which can support gut health and aid in digestion.
FOODS TO AVOID:
PULSES – Beans, chickpeas and lentils are all high in fibre, which can trigger bloating. This is thanks to the sugars found in pulses known as alpha-galactosides. These FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates which escape digestion and are fermented by our gut bacteria in the intestines, producing excess gas and bloating.
GARLIC & ONIONS – Although both these delicious flavour-filled veggies are often consumed in smaller quantities, they are one of the main dietary sources of fructans, which is a type of soluble fibre that can trigger digestive symptoms. Most people tolerate both cooked better than raw. Alternatively, try dried onion or garlic oil.
SUGAR ALCOHOLS – Often used in sugar-free foods and chewing gum, the most common ones are xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol. The body struggles to digest most sugar alcohols, so they end up travelling to the large intestine, where our gut bacteria break them down. So, if you find yourself experiencing gas, bloating or loose bowel movements after consuming them, this may be the reason why. Consider using stevia or monk fruit instead.
FIZZY DRINKS – Contain high volumes of the gas carbon dioxide, which ends up in our digestive system when we slurp them down. Some of this gas can get trapped which can cause cramping and uncomfortable bloating. If you are prone to bad bloating, I also recommend sticking to still water over sparkling.
HIGH-SODIUM SNACKS: Snacks high in sodium can contribute to dehydration, which is already a concern in the dry cabin air. Avoid salty snacks to prevent water retention and further dehydration.
HIGH-SUGAR SNACKS: While a small amount of sugar is fine, excessively sugary snacks can lead to rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, potentially affecting your energy levels and mood during the flight.