A number of things can be responsible for your bloated feeling when you get on an airplane. For one, cramped seats that just keep getting smaller, coffee made with questionably safe water and the potential for developing blood clots make air travel come with a number of complications.
And there’s a minor health hazard associated with every flight that despite the fact that it isn’t common, has the potential to wreck havoc on your stomach by causing gas and bloating.
There is actually a scientific reason why being in an airplane can make you feel extra gassy and that has little to do with the fast-food burger you ate while waiting to board the plane.
Experts believe that the key to understanding what causes this unpleasant feeling is to think of your body as a balloon. A balloon is filled with gas, and as it ascends into the atmosphere, the pressure surrounding the balloon decreases and the gas contained therein increases.
The same thing happens to your body. As the pressure around you decreases, the gas in your belly isn’t constrained as much and it expands. This can make you feel bloated or become distended.
The good thing is that in-flight stomach pain is relatively simple to avoid—as long as you follow a few guidelines before takeoff and en route to your final destination.
Take A Laxative
If you’re prone to constipation, you can take a laxative one or two days before your flight in order to minimize the amount of stool in your body. The bacteria in your colon is what produces the gas, and once they are reduced, the amount of gas you’d produce invariably drops too.
Watch Your Diet
Another way to reduce gas is to avoid certain foods—both before as well as during the flight—that cause you to become bloated. Vegetables broccoli and cauliflower should be avoided and anything that’s extra greasy such as burgers.
Some experts even suggest going on a low FODMAP diet the day of your flight. FODMAP is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols,” which basically means carbs that are hard for your small intestine to absorb.
Examples of foods to avoid include certain dairy products like milk and yogurt; fruits such as apricots, nectarines, and plums; vegetables like asparagus and mushrooms; and certain sweeteners, including honey and xylitol.
Carbonated drinks also create extra gas in your body, which means you should stay away from sparkling water, soda and beer.
Avoid Chewing Gum
Chewing gum often results in swallowing air, another thing you should avoid on planes.
It is important you walk up and down the aisle every hour or two. Not only is this good advice for avoiding deep vein thrombosis, but it will also increase bowel motility and help spread out the gas, or even help you pass some gas.
If you feel the urge to pass gas, just do it. If you’re worried your seatmate will notice, just head to the nearest bathroom.
Women particularly should pay more attention to how they’re feeling in-flight. This is because women are simply more likely overall to have bloating and distension, meaning they may also have a higher probability of discomfort while flying.