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How to Avoid Feeling Bloated on Planes

How to Avoid Feeling Bloated on Planes

How to Avoid Feeling Bloated on Planes

Try these doctor-approved fixes for the common stomach trouble linked with air travel.

Jet belly—it’s a term flight attendants use to describe the not-so-pleasant (and all-too-common symptom) of air travel: a heavy, bloated stomach. But what’s the reasoning behind our pants tightening up in the air?

A law of physics, really, says Peter Hackett, M.D., director of the Institute for Altitude Medicine in Telluride, Colorado. The ‘cabin altitude’ of most planes is equivalent to about 7,000 feet, he says. And as science has it, all gases—including those in your gut—expand as pressure decreases (or as altitude increases), Dr. Hackett explains. “Gas in the intestines will expand about 30 percent with a cabin altitude of 7,000 feet.”

While this is totally normally, the change in pressure won’t just lead to bloat. As volume expands in your intestines, you’ll likely have the urge to pass gas more often, too, says Gina Sam, M.D., director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Center at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely side step these issues—after all, it’s science. But you can avoid potentiating the problem.

Here’s how: First, pass on carbonated drinks (like seltzer water and soda) and gassy foods (think: fatty or fried bites like chips, broccoli, beans, and onions) just before and during your flight, suggests Dr. Hackett. Since bubbles expand in your stomach, they could further feelings of bloat. Likewise, the wrong snacks can promote intestinal gas.

Your best bet is water, a light pre-flight meal, and—if you know you’re highly-affected during flights—Gas-Ex, which can help if your belly starts acting up, says Dr. Sam. Also make sure to go for a walk every now and then—either to the bathroom or just down the aisle. Moving around can help keep things…well…moving (and relieve some of that mid-flight bloat).

Written by Cassie Shortsleeve 2016

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