Two things we love about traveling: indulging in novel treats and taking a few days (or weeks) off from the gym. That rest does wonders, giving your mind and body a much-needed break, but neglecting healthy foods and exercise can also take its toll on your body. All of which leads to digestive discomfort and things like bloating and constipation, which are really not what you need on your tropical vacation or urban getaway.
Does Travel Cause Bloating?
It's not a coincidence that we tend to get bloated when traveling — but why does it happen? Part of it is mindset, said registered dietitian Anna Kippen, MS, LDN, of Cleveland Clinic Wellness. "Going on vacation is exciting and I think we all know the catchphrase: 'It's a vacation, eat what you want!'" she told POPSUGAR. "Too often that leads to overindulging in alcohol and a variety of foods rich in carbohydrates, fat, and refined sugar."
And while exploring new tastes and foods is one of the best parts of going someplace new, that experimentation can also lead you to discover food allergies and intolerances that can lead to bloating, Anna said. Plus, there's the fact that you probably aren't moving or exercising as much when you're on vacation. Rest and recovery are important, but as Anna told POPSUGAR, "this decrease in physical activity negatively impacts our digestive health, increasing the chance we'll feel the bloat."
And what about air travel? Sitting on an airplane, especially for an extended period of time, can actually increase your chances of feeling bloated, Anna said. "For one, the cramped seats don't always leave us with the opportunity for exercise or a nice walk," which can relieve bloating symptoms, she told POPSUGAR. You might also be exposed to airplane meals or snacks that you're not used to and can lead to bloating or digestive discomfort. And on top of all that, you're also in a dry environment with low air pressure. Drinking carbonated drinks like soda in that situation can easily lead to bloating, Anna said. "As we go higher in the atmosphere, gas will expand, causing an increase of air in our digestive system," she explained. "This can be very uncomfortable and a common cause of bloating on airplanes."
How to Get Rid of Bloating When Traveling
Anna suggested a few simple things to do if bloating is causing you discomfort, whether you're on the plane, in the car, or sitting beachside.
- Take walks on the plane. Want to relieve bloating on the plane? Standing up, stretching your legs, and taking short walks can help. Anna recommended just walking to the bathroom a few extra times to relieve the discomfort.
- Pack healthy snacks for air and car travel. "Bringing healthy snacks like unsalted nuts, a crunchy apple, or some roasted chickpeas can go a long way," Anna told POPSUGAR. They'll help you stay full so you won't have to reach for salty, potentially unhealthy airplane snacks that may cause dehydration and bloating.
- Take probiotics. "Getting enough probiotics can be very helpful in ensuring your digestive system is working smoothly prior to boarding a flight," Anna said. Her favorite way to do that is by drinking kefir, a fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt, but you can also use probiotic supplements like these or eat some other probiotic-filled foods like yogurt.
- Avoid fizzy, alcoholic, or caffeinated drinks on the plane. Carbonated drinks can cause bloating, while caffeinated and alcoholic drinks dehydrate you, neither of which is good when you're traveling by air, Anna told POPSUGAR. Pass on them for at least a couple hours before you get on your flight as well.
- Eat veggie-filled snacks. Anna's tip for ensuring veggie consumption: "Aim to try new things during meal times and save snacks for your favorite fresh vegetables." Vegetables are fiber-rich and filling, which can help prevent overeating of indulgent foods while promoting healthy digestion, Anna said. She recommended convenient snacks like baby carrots or mini cucumbers.
- Stay hydrated. "Dehydration is one of the leading causes of constipation that I see with my patients every day," Anna said. Keep a glass of water or a full bottle nearby at all times, especially if you're dealing with heat, humidity, or the dry air of an airplane. And Anna reminded us that alcohol can be dehydrating as well. You can still have the margarita, but she recommended pairing it with a glass of lemon water "to prevent dehydration, constipation and ultimately bloating."
- Exercise when (and how) you can. "Exercise is really important for our digestive health and can help with regularity, as a lot of people experience constipation on vacation," Anna said. You don't have to hit the gym every day of your vacation; just get some physical activity throughout the day. Go for a walk or hike or skip the car and see a few sights by foot to keep your digestive system feeling good.
If you're experiencing extended periods of bloating or feel like it's negatively impacting your life, Anna recommended seeing a doctor or dietitian to identify your triggers and find a healthy lifestyle that works for you, whether you're traveling or at home. Want more tips on relieving the bloat? We've got plenty. Check out these 10 gastroenterologist-approved strategies you can try right now.