You’re finally using your well-deserved PTO and getting out of town for a few glorious days of R&R. Your bags are packed, your travel outfit is on fleek (is anyone still saying this?), and your OOO message is set. After the necessary hours of travel, you’ve made it to your destination ready to explore or chill by the pool. Nothing could possibly go wrong—that is, until you encounter an unsettling discomfort in your stomach. Enter: the dreaded travel bloat.
Bloating while traveling is common. From dry air on the plane to long hours of staying seated and perhaps taking the phrase “Rosé All Day” a little too seriously, it’s easy for our digestive systems to feel a little off. If you suffer from bloat while traveling, know you’re not alone and there are plenty of ways to beat it. As a dietician, these are my tried-and-true tips to make your next vacation bloat-free.
1. Move daily
One of the biggest culprits of bloat (and other digestive woes) while traveling is staying sedentary. Whether it’s a long plane ride, multiple hours in a car, or lounging on the beach, all of that sitting slows down your digestive tract. It sounds simple, but the easiest way to prevent this is by being intentional about daily movement. During travel, try getting up to stretch and walk around every one to two hours, especially on longer trips. Depending on the type of vacation, you may have movement such as hiking, walking around a new city, or swimming built into your itinerary. But if your vacation is more of a lounge-by-the-water situation, try to find ways to be active, like walking along the beach or doing daily stretches.
2. Stay hydrated
When it comes to beating bloat on vacation, water is your best friend. Travel—especially flying—can cause dehydration, which is why your skin often feels dry or dull after a plane ride or long car trip. To get things moving, sip on water during travel and throughout the day once you’ve reached your destination. Traveling with a water bottle makes it easy to meet your hydration goals, and as an added bonus, it saves money you’d otherwise spend on expensive airport water bottles and is better for the planet.
If drinking alcohol is part of your vacation plans, wait until you get to your destination to avoid uncomfortable bloat during travel. When you do start drinking your favorite cocktails, try alternating with water between drinks. While drinking alcohol is not a replacement for a good old-fashioned glass of water, you can stay on top of your hydration by adding water to your drinks, ordering spritzers with sparkling water instead of soda, or asking for ice cubes in your wine.
3. Avoid gum while flying
Growing up, I was always told to chew gum on a plane to help my ears pop. Although gum- chewing may be helpful for your ears, it isn’t so great for your digestion. When you chew gum, you swallow excess air. This can lead to a buildup of gas in the stomach, causing discomfort. Depending on the type of gum, it also may contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols (particularly sugar-free varieties), which have been reported to have negative effects on digestion.
4. Consider a probiotic
Probiotics are supplements that contain bacteria to help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. As a dietitian, I always recommend nutrients from food first, but taking a daily probiotic while you’re away can help fill in any nutritional gaps you’re missing from eating differently than you normally do on vacation. When looking for a probiotic, be sure to pick one that is slow-releasing. Otherwise, probiotics can get broken down in the stomach’s acid, meaning the good-for-you bacteria never reaches the large intestine like it’s supposed to. Probiotics labeled “time-release” or “slow-acting” are your best bet.
If taking a supplement isn’t really your thing, opt for foods that inherently contain good bacteria for your gut. Fermented foods, such as plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and tempeh, are sources of probiotics. On the flip side, prebiotic foods provide food for the gut bacteria itself, which also plays a role in a healthy and happy GI tract. Sources of prebiotic foods include onions, garlic, asparagus, oats, flaxseeds, and apples.
5. Eat mindfully
I firmly believe that each individual knows what their body needs. While on vacation, tune in to that inner knowledge by eating mindfully. If there’s ever a good time to practice mindful eating, it’s on vacation. Not only are you relaxed (here’s hoping), but you’re also free from work distractions, so you can really focus on your meal and the present moment. Staying relaxed during meals sets your body up for optimal digestion and tuning in to your body gives you a clue of when you’re actually full—a win-win for preventing bloat!
6. Plan your food ahead of time when possible
While on vacation, I love to try new foods and meals that I wouldn’t normally cook at home. Although it’s fun and delicious, I know that certain foods and larger meals can wreak havoc on my digestion. During vacation, be mindful of the foods you are consuming and avoid certain ingredients that you know will cause bloat, gas, or general discomfort. Common culprits of GI distress are cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, legumes, and dairy (if lactose intolerant).
It may be helpful to pack healthy snacks you enjoy to give your body a sense of normalcy while traveling. Snacks such as nuts, popcorn, dried fruit (look for ones with no added sugar!), and pre-cut veggies that won’t go bad (i.e. carrots) are all nutrient-dense options filled with fiber to also keep your digestion regular.