5 Reasons Why You Bloat When You Travel, According to a Medical Professional
Travel bloat is all too common—but it can be avoided.
You know the feeling all too well: Before your trip, you feel amazing—but by the time you arrive at your destination, your stomach hurts and you're about two seconds away from popping all the buttons on your pants. Yes, travel bloat is no fun, but rest assured that it's incredibly common. When you fly, the cabin pressure causes the gas inside your stomach—and therefore your stomach itself—to expand. And that's not all: According to Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, a Miami-based registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, there are other factors, ranging from the liquids you drink to the gum you chew, that also play a part in this uncomfortable bloating. Here are the top causes of travel bloat, as well as what you can do to avoid the uncomfortable feeling the next time you fly those friendly skies.
You're chewing gum.
Though chewing gum can help you avoid the pain of popping ears during takeoff and landing, that comes at a cost. "The very act of chewing gum causes a lot of air swallowing, which can lead to bloat," Moreno says.
What's more, according to the Mayo Clinic, the artificial sweeteners found in most sugar-free gums and mints can also contribute to bloating. It's fine to chew gum when you travel, but be careful not to overdo it.
Unfortunately, people don't think much about their H2O intake when they're on vacation. And that's a problem, because "being dehydrated can cause bloating, not to mention constipation," Moreno says. It's hard to stay hydrated when you're on the go, but it's worth tracking your water intake in order to stay bloat-free.
You need more fiber.
When you're also not consuming enough fiber in addition to being dehydrated, you're basically setting yourself up for an even worse travel bloat situation.
"It can be easy to skip your usual veggie-laden intake while traveling. [But] without enough fiber and fluid, bloat can occur," Moreno says. WebMD notes that a lack of fiber can also cause constipation—so if you find yourself bloated and backed up on your next vacation, it might be time to up your fiber intake.
You're eating ultra-processed foods on the plane.
You might have every intention of eating healthy while traveling. But between the lack of nutritious options available at the airport and the limited time you have to eat before your flight takes off, you're often left consuming ultra-processed foods that only exacerbate the bloated feeling.
"It's not exactly convenient to take your usual salmon and salad with olive oil lunch on a plane, is it?" Moreno says. "A lot of times, we turn to fast food and hyper-processed, ultra-salty, and hyper-sweet snacks when we travel, like jerky, candy, chips, and cookies. Lots of salt, sugar, and additives can be a recipe for bloat."
However, just because there are plenty of unhealthy snack options available on the go doesn't mean you need to eat them. "Do you normally eat 14 little bags of pretzels at once? No? Then don't while traveling, either," Moreno says. Instead, she suggests packing healthy snacks and bringing them with you. "There are so many travel-friendly options that shouldn't cause bloat, like oranges, bananas, 100 percent cacao chips, raw nuts and seeds, raw nut butter packets, carrots, celery, and more."
You're drinking carbonated or caffeinated beverages.
According to Moreno, drinking anything carbonated when you travel can cause bloating—even if all you're drinking is sparkling water. As one 2011 study published in the journal Gastroenterology & Hepatology explains, that's because these drinks release more carbon dioxide gas into the stomach than the body can handle.
Two other beverages to avoid are tomato juice and anything that contains caffeine. "Tomato juice, while delicious and actually usually low in sugar, may be salty enough to cause bloat as well," she says. "Also avoid caffeine, as it can cause bloat."