Bloating After Flying: What Causes Jet Belly & How to Prevent it

Crammed into a middle seat on a crowded plane for a long-haul flight might have you counting the minutes until landing. 

You should feel relieved once you’re on the ground, but for a lot of frequent travelers, more discomfort comes after the flight in the form of bloating.

Bloating after flying, also known as “jet belly” or “airplane belly”, is a common travel side effect, and most people might just try to stomach the discomfort from the added gas in your digestive system. 

But understanding why bloating after flying happens and the best ways to prevent it can save you that same discomfort on your next trip. 

We’ve outlined the science behind bloating, its effects on your overall health and even have some tips for preventing bloating after flying all together. 

Article Guide

Why Does “Jet Belly” Happen? 

Bloating after flying

From take-off to landing, your body is constantly trying to adjust to changes it experiences while flying.

One of the biggest changes your body is adjusting to is the shift in atmospheric pressure. 

As the plane rises and descends, the air pressure inside the main cabin increases or decreases accordingly. In the meantime, your body is doing all it can to equalize the pressure in the cabin with the air pressure inside your body. 

Do you ever feel your ears pop during takeoff and landing? That common sensation is the air within your ear canal adjusting to match the air pressure of the main cabin. 

The same thing is also happening within your digestive system, which is one of the main causes of travel bloat. 

The air that naturally gathers within your intestines is now increasing and decreasing to make up for the cabin air pressure that changes based on the plane’s altitude.

Your Digestive System Under Pressure

As it tries to keep up with the changing altitude, your digestive system is doing its best to adjust to the excess gas that is filling your intestines.

This excess gas builds up during takeoff and increases until the plane reaches its cruising altitude. At this point, your body has done what it can to equalize the pressure inside and outside of your body so you might not notice the symptoms of bloating right away, especially if you’re on a long-haul flight. 

But when it comes time to descend for landing, your digestive system is set to release the excess gas it’s built up. 

As the plane starts to get closer to landing, you might feel the need to pass gas or belch, which is your body’s way of trying to get rid of the air it’s been holding onto for the flight. 

Airplane belly happens when your body doesn’t release all of the excess gas it accumulated throughout the duration of the flight. So even though you’ve landed at your final destination, you might not feel as relieved as you would like to be. 

Effects of Bloating on Your Health 

Your digestive system is hard at work on your flight so it’s important to understand the stress that bloating after flying has on your overall health.

Because you have excess gas taking up room inside of your intestines, bloating can be uncomfortable and take the form of stomach pain and issues passing gas. You may feel discomfort and notice minor swelling in your abdomen area as well. 

Luckily jet belly shouldn’t last more than one week after you land and can be relieved using different techniques and by taking natural supplements.

INFLIGHT ELIXIR

The drink mix for healthy travel, packed with ingredients for immune support, cosmic radiation protection, improved circulation & reduced jet lag impact.

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How to Prevent Bloating After Flying

Even though excess gas will build in your body during the flight as a natural reaction to atmospheric pressure, you can still prevent the bloating you experience after flying.

By taking the time before and during your flight to follow these tips, you can help prevent the effects of that atmospheric pressure change can have on your body. 

#1. Watch What You Eat and When You Eat it

Just like jumping into the pool only 30 minutes after eating, you don’t want to jump into a flight on a full stomach. 

Your body is already working overtime to keep your gas levels in balance, so eating a big meal that's tough to break down before your flight only adds more stress to your already busy digestive system. 

Try packing plenty of healthy snacks that are easy to digest. Munching on healthy snacks throughout the long flight can help give your digestive system the support it needs while it's busy adjusting to changing atmospheric pressure. 

Some easy to digest, wholefood snacks that we recommend include: 

  • Yogurt with granola and chia seeds
  • Apples and peanut butter for dipping
  • Homemade salad with dark, leafy greens
  • Humus and whole grain crackers
  • Nuts and berries 

Pacing yourself as you eat small snacks while the plane is at cruising altitude will also help give your digestive system time to break down food naturally and without any added stress.

#2. Pack Probiotics and Natural Supplements

Packing natural digestive aids can help prevent the effects of bloating by giving your digestive system the boost it needs while it’s constantly adjusting to the cabin pressure. 

Probiotics are a natural source of important bacteria that line the inside of your stomach and intestines. They help your body break down food so bringing probiotics along with your other vitamins in tablet form is a simple way to kick start the digestive process while you’re 35,000ft in the air. 

Bringing other natural supplements such as whole food powders can also help aid digestion because they contain powerful digestive enzymes. 

Papaya is a key ingredient in the FLIGHTFUD Inflight Elixir and can help with bloating because it is a one of the best natural sources of digestive enzymes. 

Papaya is a rich source of the enzymes papain, chymopapain, caricain and glycyl endopeptidase that each aid in healthy digestion. 

#3. Stay Hydrated 

Drinking enough water during your flight is important for your overall health and can directly improve your digestive system. 

When you drink water, your body naturally filters out the extra sodium it might retain when it bloats after flying.

Having enough water to regularly use the restroom can ensure that your digestive system is working to flush out unwanted toxins and waste while inflight.

#4. Get Up and Move Around

Sitting for a long period of time, especially after eating, doesn’t give your digestive system much help when it comes time to break down food. 

The plane might be cramped, but if you take some time to shimmy out into the aisle for a quick walk it could help your digestive system speed up its natural process. 

Getting up from a seated position can help with circulation and can help your body release excess gas by releasing tension in your muscles. 

Even just standing for a few moments can help your body relieve any excess tension that can lead to bloating. 

#5. Think About Your Posture

It’s hard to get comfortable in your seat especially when legroom is scarce, but if you can be more mindful of how you sit in your seat, it can help prevent bloating. 

Sitting up right as opposed to slouching opens up more airways that can help you release the excess gas that is building up inside your intestines.

Investing in a business class seat on a long-haul flight is worth the extra purchase because most seats on larger aircrafts allow you to lay flat. 

Laying flat isn't just a luxurious way to get a good night's rest, it’s also worth the price to help relieve tension in your digestive system might cause bloating after flying.

Best Ways to Relieve Jet Belly

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll experience some amount of travel bloat; it’s one of the many impacts of flying that your body undergoes. 

#1. Keep Drinking Water 

Drinking water might be the last you want to do because you feel full and bloated, but it’s one of the best things you can do to relieve the effects of bloating. 

Packing a reusable water bottle for your trip can help so that you always have water on hand even though your travels might get hectic. 

Be sure you stay hydrated even if it might feel initially uncomfortable so that your body continues to filter out the sodium that is causing you to retain water and bloat. 

#2. Exercise to Release Tension

There’s a lot of built up pressure in your abdomen from the excess gas, but a good way to relieve that tension is to loosen up with a little exercise. 

Going for a walk or taking a light run can relax your muscles to allow for gas to release freely. Light stretching and yoga are also calming ways to get your muscles warmed up so you can help get that excess gas out of your body.

#3. Natural Digestive Aids

If you forgot to take your vitamins on the plane, it’s still not too late to use natural supplements to aid in bloating.

The papaya in the Inflight Elixir is a natural digestive aid that's filled with helpful enzymes that will are known to not only prevent but relieve the symptoms of bloating.

INFLIGHT ELIXIR

The drink mix for healthy travel, packed with ingredients for immune support, cosmic radiation protection, improved circulation & reduced jet lag impact.

CHECK IT OUT

#4. Eat Fiber Rich Foods

Foods that are rich in fiber help your digestive system break down food and release unwanted toxins more freely. 

Leafy greens like kale, spinach and swiss chard are high in fiber and so are fruits like apples and berries.

 Eating a healthy diet of fiber rich foods at your final destination can help your get back to a regular gastrointestinal routine that can release the excess gas you’ve accumulated while flying.

Take the Pressure off by Understanding Why Your Body Bloats

Bloating after flying can make an already stressful trip even more uncomfortable. 

The last thing you want is to feel uncomfortable when you’re in a business meeting, or bloated when you’re trying to relax on the beach.

You want to be relieved when you reach your final destination so taking the time to prevent travel bloating can save you the stomach ache you might get on landing. 

By Kristine Auble

Kristine grew up traveling her whole life. Her mother was a flight attendant who took her from her hometown in Southern New Jersey to visit places all over the world. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a journalism degree, Kristine realized she never lost the travel bug. She became a flight attendant herself in 2018. She writes articles whenever she’s not in the air and hopes to make travel more manageable for anyone eager to explore the world like she is.

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