It’s Not Just You: Why Everyone Gets Gassy and Bloated on Airplanes
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
And there’s a minor health hazard associated with flight that, though it rarely makes headlines, can wreak havoc on your stomach by causing gas and bloating.
Yes, there’s actually a scientific reason why being in an airplane can make you feel extra gassy — and it’s not the fault of that fast-food burger you scarfed down while waiting to board the plane (or at least, not entirely).
According to Dr. Lawrence J. Brandt, MD and the Emeritus Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, the key to understanding what causes this unpleasant feeling is to think of your body as a balloon.
“A balloon is filled with gas, and as it ascends into the atmosphere, the pressure surrounding the balloon decreases and the gas contained therein increases. The same thing happens to your body. As the pressure around you decreases, the gas in your belly isn’t constrained as much and it expands. This can make you feel bloated or become distended,” he told TPG.
Luckily, in-flight stomach pain is relatively simple to avoid — as long as you follow a few guidelines before take off and en route to your final destination.
Take a laxative
If you’re prone to constipation, Brandt recommends taking a laxative one or two days before your flight in order to minimize the amount of stool in your body. “The bacteria in your colon is what produces the gas,” he explained.
Watch your diet
Another way to reduce gas is to avoid certain foods — both before as well as during the flight — that cause it, such as broccoli and cauliflower, not to mention anything that’s extra greasy. (Which does, sadly, mean saying goodbye to that airport burger.)
Dr. Arun Swaminath, MD and the Director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, even suggests going on a low FODMAP diet the day of your flight.
FODMAP is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols,” which basically means carbs that are hard for your small intestine to absorb. Examples of what to avoid include certain dairy products like milk and yogurt; fruits such as apricots, nectarines and plums; vegetables like asparagus and mushrooms; and certain sweeteners, including honey and xylitol.
Carbonated drinks also create extra gas in your body, which means sparkling water, soda and beer are all no-no’s.
Avoid chewing gum
“Chewing gum often results in swallowing air, another thing I avoid on planes,” Swaminath said.
Keep it moving
Another tip from Brandt is to walk up and down the aisle every hour or two. Not only is this good advice for avoiding deep vein thrombosis, but it will “also increase bowel motility and help spread out the gas,” Brandt said. “It may even help you pass some gas.”
Which brings us to the experts’ final point: If you feel the urge to pass gas, just do it. Or, as Swaminath puts it, “Do what comes naturally.” If you’re worried your seatmate will notice, just head to the nearest bathroom.
Women should be especially cognizant of how they’re feeling in-flight. According to Brandt, women are simply more likely overall to have bloating and distension, meaning they may also have a higher probability of discomfort while flying — just one more reason why the aisle seat is the way to go.
This card from Bank of America gets really interesting if you have a BofA checking, savings or investment account. Depending on the value of your combined accounts you can potentially get as much as 3.5x points on travel/dining and 2.625x points on other purchases making it the richest consumer banking bonus out there.
- Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
- Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
- If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
- No limit to the points you can earn and your points don't expire
- Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
- Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Low $95 annual fee