How to Reduce Travel Bloat - Why we bloat and the ways we can combat travel bloat for good!
Almost every time I go on a road trip or fly, I get travel bloat. Anybody feel me?! One time when we traveled to Savannah, GA, it was so bad I had to take almost half of the day just lying in bed because of the pain. If you are anything like me, when you travel, you want to see the world. You got things to do and you are on a schedule! Well, when it comes to belly bloat while traveling, say goodbye to itineraries, Instagram-worthy food dives, and looking cute in that new outfit because bloat is here to stay!
What if I can tell you that travel bloat doesn’t always have to ruin a great time? In my recent experience traveling, I have found products, tips and tricks to combat bloating while traveling, vacationing, or for any occasion.
First things first, why do we bloat? Well, there are many reasons why we bloat, but a few that you may not think about are:
FOOD - Whether you may have allergies, known/unknown food sensitivities, or just eating something you are not accustomed to/out of normal routine, you will have some sign of abdominal discomfort/bloating. For example, flying out of smaller airports can be hard to find a healthy meal so try to pack a meal from home to the airport instead.
SITTING - Long layovers, road tripping, or train rides - the majority of your travel is sitting! While sitting, your abdomen is compressed which slows down digestion. I always think of high-waisted jeans. In the beginning, they feel and look great but after a few hours, you can’t wait to take them off because they feel so tight around the abdomen. Those high-waisted jeans are like that to your abdomen so try to get movement in when you can.
FLYING - You might not have as much control while you are in the air, but flying in general causes gas and bloating. The change in ambient pressure increases bowel air volume so while it may be polite to hold it in, the best thing to do is to let it out whether in the bathroom or seated politely. While you’re in the air, it’s best to drink water instead of carbonated drinks, sparkling water, or club soda because the added CO2 will only make it worse.
Now that you are aware of what causes bloating, here are a few quick remedies I have found helpful in my experience:
DIGESTIVE ENZYMES - Digestive enzymes are substances found in our body to help us digest the foods we eat. There are many types of enzymes that break down certain foods in our bodies; for example, lactase breaks down the sugar and lactose found in dairy products. If you have a lactose allergy like me, then your body may not produce this enzyme.
Let’s just say you’re in Chicago and have been dying to try a Chicago deep dish -- what do you do!? Well, a digestive enzyme supplement is here to save the day! Brands like this provides a full enzyme panel that will not only help to breakdown lactose, but will help to reduce bloating. I like taking digestive enzymes when I eat something that may contain dairy, gluten or that I know causes me gas/distress like cruciferous vegetables, i.e. cauliflower and broccoli.
VEGGIES - In the past, I thought eating healthy = losing weight for next vacay and eating indulgent = diet’s over, it’s vacation time, baby! Thankfully I do not have the same mindset but sadly, a lot of people still do. When it comes to bloating, not only are you adding more processed foods, refined sugars, or more carbs into your diet, but you may also not be adding enough fiber and prebiotics (the food for good bacteria) that foods like veggies can provide. Whole foods help our digestive system to run more smoothly so try to get in veggies when you can! *Some veggies like cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and broccoli may cause gas and bloating for some.
SMOOTH MOVE TEA - Even after incorporating veggies into your diet, you may still feel bloated/constipated. Maybe you just need more help! Before knowing I had a gluten and dairy allergy, I would go days, or sometimes weeks, without going to the bathroom. This would also happen during vacation (eating more indulgent/carb heavy foods), stress, or anything that we have talked about up to this point. I tried everything from milk of magnesia to enemas, yet nothing seemed to work. Smooth move tea is the way to go! Tip when traveling: Drink tea the night before when you know you have a relaxing morning the day after.
MAGNESIUM - A great way to fight fluid retention and to expel gas is by getting your intake of magnesium which works by relaxing the muscles of the intestinal wall, thereby easing constipation. Green leafy vegetables like chard, kale, and spinach have high amounts of magnesium but you can also grab these calm powders for on the go! Bonus: Magnesium not only relaxes the muscles for our GI tract, it also relaxes our body’s muscles! If you have been sightseeing all day or having a hard time going to sleep due to time changes or body aches from lugging a suitcase all day, these calm powders are a lifesaver.
GINGER - Many foods like pineapple, beets, papaya, fennel, garlic, and bone broth are great for digestive health. But the most practical and portable that I can count on when traveling are ginger tablets. Ginger promotes the elimination of intestinal gas, relaxes and soothes the intestinal walls, inhibits any possible inflammatory compounds all while stimulating digestion. Well, that checks off everything! I don’t have to worry about tracking down a tropical fruit like papaya in the states when I can just grab a piece of ginger! Bonus: ginger is great for nausea so if you have a hard time in cars, boats, or planes - ginger’s got you!
WATER - I saved the oldest trick in the book for last! Just drink water! It sounds simple but as I mentioned before, if you are dehydrated, eating salty/ high sodium foods, or having a hard time going to the bathroom, water is key. “But what about water weight… isn’t that bloating?” Water weight is the result from an imbalance of sodium to water. Our body will hold on to water if too much sodium is consumed, so even though it may seem counter-intuitive, drink more water!
ONE LAST TIP!
The most important thing we can do for our body is to slow it down. Slowing down the mind and body is not just for the digestive system, but the entire system to work at its optimum level. Our autonomic nervous system (control center that acts unconsciously and regulates all body functions) has two responses. The body can either respond in a parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) state, often referred to as “rest and digest” where digestion, detoxifying, eliminating, and building immunity takes place, or sympathetic nervous system (SNS) state which is our “fight or flight” response. SNS state produces stress hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine, which increase heart rate, spikes blood sugar levels, and cause vasoconstriction (high blood pressure).
For the average person, lunch break usually looks like this: 30 minute lunch break - 15 minutes to drive over to the bank or do a quick errand while going through the drive thru and stuffing food down our throats so that we can get back to work on time. Sound familiar? Well, when we eat in this sympathetic state (fight or flight) our digestive system shuts down which means that our body cannot properly digest that cheeseburger we just woofed down. Also, if we are always in a state of “on the go” then how will our body be able to switch to a “rest and digest” state? Be mindful of the next time you are on a short lunch break or having a chaotic work week.
Homework assignment: For one meal a day, turn off all distractions, and while sitting down, take a few deep breaths (or time to pray/give thanks). Intentionally chew your food slowly, your body will thank you for it!
If you try out these tips and tricks for bloating/digestion, let us know! Leave a comment and share your thoughts #fromtherootsblog on Instagram or here!