When suffering from constipation, diarrhea, or digestive discomfort, taking a long-haul flight can quickly turn into a nightmare.
It seems that the change in pressure (lower than at sea level), especially during takeoff and landing, is one of the causes of these discomforts.
Disturbances to circadian rhythms due to jet lag (which disrupts the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that studies have shown to play a role in IBS), as well as disruptions to meal and sleep schedules, are known to unbalance our digestive functions.
In addition to these factors, there is also the stress of departure.
Here are some tips to travel as calmly as possible and avoid unbearable digestive troubles during the flight.
Prepare your microbiota
One to two weeks before your flight, I recommend starting a probiotic supplement (unless contraindicated, e.g. SIBO) to be continued for about four weeks.
Maintain your habits as much as possible
In the few days leading up to your flight and on the day of travel, try to maintain your usual eating habits.
If you tend to have diarrhea, focus on simple meals based on rice the day before or even two days before.
If you tend to be constipated, I suggest taking 200 to 300 mg of magnesium citrate in the evening before bedtime and waking up a little earlier in the morning to use the bathroom before the flight.
Select your meals in advance
For long-haul flights, it is possible to select your meal at the time of booking.
Personally, I always opt for the “Indian-vegetarian” option because it suits me (vegetables, rice, lentils, sometimes accompanied by yoghurt).
You can also choose the gluten-free option or any other option that suits you.
The advantage is that you will be served first 😉
Choose your meal wisely
If you haven’t chosen your meal in advance, avoid foods that trigger symptoms for you.
In general, avoid anything very greasy and high in carbohydrates. Vegetables are sometimes scarce in airplane meals, so make sure to consume them before and after the flight or during layovers.
Consider pausing your movie if you’re in the middle of watching it to chew and eat slowly. You have time!
Bring your own provisions
Even when choosing your meal, you may not like what you receive.
Also, I don’t know about you, but for long journeys (hello, France-NZ!), the quantities are clearly not enough for me!
I invite you to bring provisions based on foods that you tolerate well and have no trouble digesting (low in FODMAPs, for example).
Personally, I often bring a French specially from the area I come from (Brittany) called “galette bretonne” which kind of a big flat buckwheat crepe (as a substitute for wheat bread/crackers that I don’t tolerate well), as well as fruits. I usually prepare a homemade cake and bring some nuts.
- Make sure to bring only solid foods; liquids are not allowed, nor are yogurts.
- Check the policy of the destination country. Fruits and other agricultural products may be prohibited and will need to be declared and disposed of. Make sure you finish your food before arrival if they are not allowed.
Remember to stay hydrated… with water!
Always have a water bottle with you and fill it up after passing through security.
Don’t hesitate to ask the flight attendants to fill it up for you on the plane (it will avoid disturbing your neighbor in the middle of the night and wasting a plastic cup every time).
Avoid carbonated drinks on the plane (they worsen the pressure changes that cause bloating) as well as alcohol.
Also, avoid coffee if it has a laxative effect on you, and you clearly don’t need that!
Breathe and relax
Traveling far, whether for vacation or work, can be stressful. Remember to relax and engage in physical activity the day before departure, especially if anxiety gives you diarrhea.
Heart coherence can be practiced anywhere: in the security queue, at the boarding gate, on the plane… so you don’t have the excuse of “not having enough time” J.
The RespiRelax app is user-friendly and does not require an internet connection.
At the airport and during layovers, remember to walk and stretch.
Just because you’re on a plane doesn’t mean you have to stay still. Remember to get up every 2 hours.
Okay, it’s not always easy when you’re sitting by the window or it’s nighttime, but don’t be afraid to disturb. Notify the person beforehand or ask to be seated in the aisle (especially if you have diarrhea).
You can also request at check-in to be placed in a seat by the aisle.
Some useful supplements
Here are some supplements that are general and safe recommendations.
However, some may worsen your symptoms depending on your situation, such as probiotics in the case of SIBO.
- Magnesium (citrate) to facilitate bowel movements.
- Digestive enzymes, and if needed, betaine HCl to be taken with meals.
- Peppermint capsules for gas.
- Supplement with non-fermentable fibers, which may be lacking and exacerbate digestive issues.
- Probiotics before, during, and after the flight.
Your digestive issues should not prevent you from traveling.
Having stomach pain is not normal. Feel free to send me an email if you would like to discuss it.
Have a good flight!