BY SUJA NATARAJAN
WHEN YOU are cruising at more than
30,000 feet above the ground in a pressurized cabin, your body endures a lot, especially on a long-haul flight. Tired, irritable
and bloated, most travelers feel far from
refreshed upon arrival at their destination.
Jet bloat, aka flight bloat, is one of the
common uncomfortable feelings associated with flying. Boston-based Kate Scarlata, a digestive-health expert and registered dietitian, says gas expands at higher
altitudes, and some of the excess gas gets
trapped in the intestine. “You may experience a bloating sensation, a distended belly
or the need to pass gas,” she warns.
Because food plays a vital role in the
prevention of flight bloat, it pays to watch
what you eat before and during a flight.
Cruciferous vegetables. The raffinose (a
complex carbohydrate) in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
and kale remains undigested in the intestine, causing bloating and flatulence. “Aid
digestion by taking a digestive enzyme
supplement or by fermenting such vegetables or cooking/steaming them [which will
break down or pre-digest the fiber],” says
London-based Melissa Pierson, a registered nutritional therapist at Roots &
Shoots Nutrition in England.
Fructose-rich fruits. Pass on gassy fruits
like apples, pears and watermelon, as the
fructose present in them can cause ab-
dominal discomfort. According to a study
published in the January 2014 Current
Gastroenterology Reports, fructose intoler-
ance in some people can cause belching,
gas, abdominal pain or diarrhea. Choose
low-fructose fruits such as ripe bananas,
oranges, cantaloupe or berries instead.
Processed foods. Although processed
foods provide instant gratification, they
are high in sodium, preservatives and arti-
ficial sweeteners, which cause water reten-
tion and bloating. Salty foods hold on to
extra fluids, thereby increasing the risk of
high blood pressure and swelling, Scarlata
says. Think twice before picking up canned
foods, chips, dairy products, sugar-free
foods and baked goods. To ease poor circu-
lation and water retention, Costco mem-
ber Libby Gordon, a registered dietitian
based in California, says, “Stand when you
are able, and walk during your layovers to
keep your blood circulating and digestive
tract working normally.”
Fatty foods. Rich and greasy foods may
be part of your vacation mode, but sitting
for long hours can take a toll on digestion.
Fatty foods trigger gastroparesis—sluggish
movement of food from the stomach to the
small intestine—which causes heartburn
and bloat. “Your best bets to minimize gas
in the gut include grilled chicken, fish
[without onion or garlic], white rice, egg
omelet or salad with simple oil and vinegar
dressing,” Scarlata suggests.
Beverages. Carbonated beverages can
worsen bloating and heartburn as they
encourage the buildup of air in the stomach. Avoid beverages like seltzer water,
soda, sparkling water, alcohol and fizzy soft
drinks. Hydrate your body with plain water.
“It helps the body to self-regulate the liquid
consumption and accommodate the differences in air pressure between the ground
and 30,000 feet [in] altitude,” says Costco
member Alex Moskalyuk, a California-based software engineer and private pilot.
“Water-rich foods like melon, cucumber
and bell peppers will help you stay hydrated,” says Gordon.
Legumes. While fiber adds roughage to
the diet, foods like beans and legumes contain insoluble fiber, which is harder to
digest and generates gas when it breaks
down. According to the September 2006
Gastroenterology & Hepatology, indigestible complex carbohydrates such as stachy-ose, raffinose and verbascose are abundant
in beans and legumes, and could cause
As per the July 2014 American Journal
of Clinical Nutrition, soaking, sprouting
and cooking of beans and legumes in water
reduces the content of complex carbohydrates, which makes them easier to digest.
Starchy and sulfur-rich foods. Limiting
foods that are high in fermentable carbohydrates, like onion, garlic and wheat, is
one way to minimize gas in the colon, says
Scarlata. Stay clear of foods like potatoes,
corn, wheat, noodles, garlic and onion,
which could make you feel bloated. C
Suja Natarajan is a Cincinnati,
Ohio–based freelance writer.
•Gentle stretching and walking up and
down the cabin helps digestion and
motility of food.
• Avoid chewing gum or using a straw
to prevent swallowing of air. Although
chewing gum or sucking candy prevents buildup of ear pressure, you
swallow more air than normal, which
causes bloating. Yawn or swallow
frequently, especially during ascent
and descent to manage ear pressure.
• Probiotic foods like kefir, yogurt,
kimchee and sauerkraut promote
the growth of good bacteria and
aid better digestion.
• Herbal teas like peppermint and fennel
are good for digestion.
• Wear loose and comfortable clothes
and shoes to allow healthy blood
FOR YOUR HEALTH
Costco members can find low-fructose
fruits, water-rich produce and prepared
salads at Costco, as well as items for indigestion at Costco and on Costco.com.