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Travel bloat is a real thing! Almost every time I travel (especially if my flight is longer than 2 hours or so), I end up really bloated and gassy. It’s not just that my stomach puffs out, which it does, but I also tend to get gas pains. These uncomfortable feelings continue for a couple of days before subsiding. It’s such a bummer, because I’m often in a new city and I want to explore and enjoy myself, but I feel terrible.
Last time I traveled to Austin, Texas back in December I shared about my travel bloat on Instagram and so many people replied saying that they struggle with the exact same symptoms. It honestly made me feel less alone, but I was surprised that travel bloat is so common. With that in mind, I knew I needed to get to the bottom of why travel bloat is a thing and share some tips for how to combat it.
Why do we bloat while traveling?
- Cabin pressure. Taking it back to high school science class for a second. Think of a balloon filled with air. When the pressure around it increases, the balloon shrinks. If the pressure around it decreases, the balloon expands. The same thing happens to your stomach while flying. The cabin pressure decreases as you gain elevation and the gas in your stomach expands. I often tell people it’s like my stomach is a bag of chips (if you’ve ever seen a bag of chips on a plane you know exactly what I’m talking about).
- Food plays a role. Are you known to run through an airport and grab whatever quick meal you can find? The unhealthy options (think super salty and fatty foods) that line the airport concourses are not the best options for your belly. I usually try to pack my own meal(s) or snacks for the airport.
- You’re sitting for a loooong time. Have you ever worn high waisted jeans and felt bloated because your digestion is just a liiiittle cut off? Being seated for long periods can have that effect as well. And this one explains why some people tend to experience bloating from other forms of travel (like long road trips or train rides).
Here’s a photo of my bloated belly the night I arrived in Austin, TX. I looked 4-5 months pregnant and I was in a ton of pain.
I’ll be honest, even when I pack my own snacks and get up and move mid-flight, I still bloat pretty bad. So what did I try? What works? Let’s break it down.
Things I’ve tried to combat travel bloat
On our last trip, I was so uncomfortable the first day we arrived that I went to several gas stations looking for Beano or Gas-X. To be honest, I was looking for anything that would provide relief. None of the stores we went to carried gas relief options, which is probably just as well because I’ve tried Gas-X in the past and it didn’t seem to do much for me. After dealing with a significant amount of gas pain the first night, I made a special trip the straight to Whole Foods to stock up on all the gas and bloating remedies I could find. Here’s what I tried on this particular trip:
GAIA Herbs Rapid Relief Gas & Bloating. I had high hopes for this because it said rapid relief, but to be honest I didn’t feel 100% rapid relief. It did make me burp a ton, which was a good sign that my body was getting rid of the extra air. I’ll admit burping in public is less embarrassing than tooting so that was a plus!
Kor Shots Black Magic Charcoal – This little shot seemed like a good fit because it has charcoal, which is supposed to help with gas. I didn’t mind the taste, but I honestly didn’t see any relief after taking this. (This product is no longer available on their website.)
- Carbo vegetabilis 6C – relieves bloating and gas in the stomach (under the navel) with belching. Dissolve 5 pellets under the tongue every hour. Decrease frequency with improvement.
- Lycopodium clavatum 6C – relieves discomfort and indigestion, with gas and bloating around the waist (above the belt), especially after eating onions or garlic. Dissolve 5 pellets under the tongue every hour. Decrease frequency with improvement. This is the one I purchased at Whole Foods and, in retrospect, I probably should have picked up the carbo vegetabilis instead.
- Cinchona officinalis 30C or 6C – relieves exhausting, painless diarrhea with bloating of the abdomen and foul-smelling gas in both the upper and lower digestive tract. Dissolve 5 pellets under the tongue after each bowel movement. Decrease frequency with improvement.
What works to combat travel bloat?
So as you can probably tell, I definitely don’t have all the answers and I still struggle with travel bloat, but I have done quite a bit of research and have some good tips to share. Hopefully, these tips will help all of us!
Drink lots of water! I always travel with a water bottle so I don’t have to pay for expensive airport bottled water. Most airports have water fountains or water bottle stations. If all else fails, you can always ask for a cup of water at any of the airport restaurants. Added bonus: If you’re staying hydrated, you’ll likely have to go to the bathroom at least once during your travels, which will get you moving a bit more.
While you’re on the flight, once the seat belt light turns off, stand up and do a couple of laps. I know this can feel a little weird, but if needed you can just pretend you’re going to the bathroom. Once you land at your final destination, put on your walking shoes and get in some steps. Not only is it fun to explore, I find that going on a walk or run gets my digestive system working and gets things moving. . . if you know what I mean.
To be honest, this is my ride or die suggestion. I know it can be hard when traveling, but I’ve found that letting my body and digestive system rest while sleeping is the key to having the gas and bloating dissipate. Sleeping always helps with bloating and gas for me.
Let It Rest
If you’re like me, you might think that adding more to your digestive system will help with pain. I’ve done this so many times and have finally come to the conclusion that adding more food rarely helps! I’ve found that not eating anything actually helps the most. Fasting before and during flying is a tip I’ve heard people swear by. I haven’t tried this one 100%, but I might try it next time I fly and report back. Stay tuned 😉
There are a lot of essential oil brands that have digestive support blends. I have DigestZen by DoTERRA, but have heard great things about Gutzy by Saje Natural Wellness as well. I gently massage this blend on my belly and it does offer physical relief and a nice cooling sensation. I forgot to bring this blend with me last time I traveled, but I am certainly adding it to my packing list next time I fly.
Avoid Certain Foods
If you know there are specific foods that cause gas or bloating, be sure to avoid them before flying. Some top offenders include beans, dairy, broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous veggies. Carbonated drinks also make this list because the bubbles can cause bloating. I love sparkling water, but I try to stick with still water when I’m traveling. Some good travel snacks include protein-rich foods like grilled salmon or chicken and veggies like cherry tomatoes, carrots and celery. I like bringing a bag of chopped veggies with me along with a protein bar (RXBARs are my fav at the moment). Bananas are another great option!
A lot of people chew gum while flying to help with the pressure change, but it’s not recommended because most gum is sweetened with artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols that cause digestive issues (such as gas), and you’re likely unintentionally swallowing air, which can led to gas and bloating as well.
Have you ever experienced bloating while traveling? Do you have any go-to tips that you use to combat travel bloat? Let me know in the comments.