How to Avoid “Jet Belly” (aka Bloat) and Generally Feel Good when Flying

I fly a lot with my day job. Over the years I have observed the way my body reacts to this situation. Sometimes not so well.

The biggest problem I have noticed isthe bloated rumbly stomach (apparently known in the airline industry as “jet belly”) I am struck with during and up to 48 hours after flying, particularly on long-haul flights. Fortunately, I seem to be learning a thing or two in all these years of flying, and the result is my enjoyment of the flight experience is improving immensely.

To be clear, part of the problem is unavoidable, as pressure decreases (which happens as altitude increases during flight) gas expands.  So any gases in your body will expand by about 30%.  Ugh.  But there is no need to exacerbate this situation, and over time I have learned that the bloat can be diminished to almost zero.

My current protocol to feel as good as possible en route and after long-haul fights may contain some useful nuggets for you.

  1.  BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU EAT BEFORE BOARDING.  Avoid processed, salty foods.  The high salt content and preservatives add to water retention and bloat during flight.  Stick with whole foods with which you know your body reacts well.  My current favorite pre-flight meals tends toward green salads with boiled eggs or poached chicken and a vinaigrette, or a vegetable soup, or sushi.
  2. DECLINE THE AIRPLANE FOOD.  This one tip aIone almost totally solves the problem for me.  I learned it the hard way through trial and error. I eventually experimented by avoiding eating the airplane food, or really much of any food while in-flight, and the problem was 95% resolved immediately. Airplane meals will never go down in history as your top dining experiences anyways, so you know you’re not really missing anything.  I challenge you to give this a try just once.  Like me, you may get hooked on Flight Fasts.
  3. USE A GREEN SUPER-FOOD POWDER IN-FLIGHT.  So, what do you do on the plane for nourishment?  I have become a proponent of green super-food blends, in general, but in-flight they are essential. If you take your favorite (this is mine) and add it to an 8 oz glass of water, you will have all the nutrients you need for the next 12 hours.  This allows your brain the confidence to override your stomach or whiny internal critic, which may be complaining, silently to the rest of the passengers but loudly to you, that it is starving.  You will be able to proceed steadfast knowing that you are nutrient-fortified, despite your Flight Fast.  You can also congratulate yourself for engaging in an intermittent fast.
  4. ELIMINATE OR STRICTLY LIMIT ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION.  I admit this is a tough one for me.  I’m lately a much happier camper when I succeed in this, though.  Alcohol is a diuretic, which contributes to dehydration in flight.  If you do choose to drink it, supplement those red wines with plenty of extra water.  I notice that often the flight attendants will even ask if I want extra water when I order a glass of wine.  Nice touch.
  5. AVOID ALL CARBONATED BEVERAGES (SODA & TONIC WATERS, COKES).  They contribute to the gas in your stomach.
  6. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER.  There is a lack of humidity in airplanes which can be dehydrating.  Water is always available on demand in the back of the planes, (in case you are not flying in a class that comes with frequent service.
  7. AVOID COFFEE.  It’s dehydrating.   Bring along an alternative clean healthy hot beverage mix. Airplane coffee is bad tasting, and I think it can also be allergy inducing.  Perhaps due to the mold… Why not bring a healthy elixir along instead – these mushroom elixirs are caffeine-free and taste great.   Plus, they do not make my nose run immediately like airplane coffees seems to do.  Further, they are filled with health-inducing components.  I will ask for hot water (also always available in the back of the plane), add a packet to it, and take it instead of coffee.
  8. BRING HEALTHY WHOLE FOOD SNACKS (HIPPIE CRITICS BE DAMNED) LIKE RAW NUTS AND DATES, AS A BACK-UP.  Normally I avoid eating solid food full-stop, but sometimes it is good psychological help just knowing I have something available in case I need it.
  9. MOVE AROUND AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.  This is actually an advantage to #6 above.  Drinking plenty of water will require you to get yourself to the bathroom regularly.  This is a good thing.  (Book yourself an aisle seat.)  If you find yourself in a queue, even better.   Take some basic yoga asanas like tree pose or half moon variations.  Really.  No one else cares what you’re doing on the plane, and anyways, what they think is not your business. So get up and move about regularly.

It’s a process, but I can tell I’m improving.  During my most recent long-haul flight, I side-stepped the post-flight bloat by following my own advice.  Apparently #2 above did not go un-noticed by one of the flight attendants.  As I de-boarded he asked me if I was hungry, having already observed that I ate nothing.   I replied, truthfully, that I felt great, all things considered.   He replied, with a knowing smile, “Yes, it’s the best way to fly – without eating the food.”

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