Seeking a Friend is BuzzFeed News’ health advice column. Please feel free to talk to me about anything about your body! If you’re too scared to search Google or too embarrassed to ask a friend, family member, or even a doctor, Submit your question here.
looking for a dear friend,
Every time I fly, I tend to have major stomach cramps, bloating, constipation, and gas. I’ve tried pills and anti-flatulence medications, but nothing seems to work. What is it about flying that’s doing this to me? And what can I do before, during and after the flight?
— constipation flyer
Dear Constipation Flyer,
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: we’ve all been there.
Nothing beats failing to suppress or extinguish a fart while sitting inches away from a stranger on a packed flight, or gas reverberating from your seat and drifting up your ill-fated nose. There are very few things in life that I am ashamed of.
But the inner workings of the gastrointestinal tract, especially during travel, are sometimes humiliating but always essential, and nothing is more truly universal.
Kyle Starrer, M.D., a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General, said: Harvard Medical School.In fact, humans fart during 8 and 13 times a day.
“I can imagine that if the gut is stressed and its rhythm is disrupted, it might be less effective at moving things across the gut,” Stoller said. bloating and discomfort; ”
Travel is commonly known to make you feel constipated, bloated and out of gas. This phenomenon is primarily related to changes in daily routines, such as meal times, sleep patterns, stress levels, hydration and exercise schedules, and may have a greater impact on people with certain medical conditions, such as: I have. irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s disease.
Less researched and discussed are constipation and bloating. in the meantime Flight. According to Eamonn Quigley, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, in most cases, the same factors that can cause common travel-related bowel problems can occur while on an airplane. Yes, but the flight itself can cause some additional problems. .
First of all, sitting for long periods of time doesn’t support regular bowel movements, Quigley said.
In a normal scenario, the colon (also called large intestine) absorbs water as food passes through it, forming a waste product called poop. A series of wave-like contractions in your digestive tract called peristalsis pushes that poop into your rectum, signaling it’s time to go to the bathroom. This is why many people need to go second in the morning, immediately after eating, and even during exercise. Movement is a cue to move the colon.
However, for some people, prolonged inactivity slows or slows contractions, causing the colon to absorb too much water, resulting in hard, dry stools and constipation. there is.
It is also possible that the low-pressure environment on board an airplane contributes to stomach discomfort. It can cause gas,” Quigley said. (If you’ve ever noticed a plastic bottle expanding during flight, you’ll understand the concept.)
Stoller said the rationale sounds sensible, but has not been studied and may be “exaggerated.” But while flying at 35,000 feet, it’s more likely that your gut isn’t processing gas as it normally would.
Like all other systems in the body, the organs that make up the digestive tract have their own circadian rhythms that do not adapt well to disturbances. Long trips and trips to new places bring many changes to our daily lives. My body clock is a little strangeespecially when crossing time zones, says Staller.
One of the biggest factors in this cycle is the food you eat. Food at the airport is mostly fast food, and in-flight snacks are usually unusual, such as salty pretzels and sweet cookies. Not to mention that some new foods you eat while traveling will inherently produce more gas than before.
“You’re eating something you’re not used to or can’t stand, so you’re producing more gas and you’re not expelling that gas efficiently,” says Staller. “All of these can trigger sensitive nerves in your gut. It’s the perfect recipe for gastrointestinal upset.”
Dehydration is another major cause of stomach problems on flights. On the go, people tend to drink less water and more coffee and alcohol, both of which are diuretics. Airplanes are also a dry environment, which can lead to dehydration.
“It can certainly cause constipation, especially for people who may be prone to constipation and have reached their thresholds and rarely crossed them,” Staller said. I’m here.
The rest is stress. Have you ever had to run to the bathroom just before a performance, a big test at school, or a short flight?That’s because “the gut and the brain are very closely connected,” he says. increase. While stress is not the only cause of gastrointestinal symptoms, it certainly acts as a “volume control” that can exacerbate symptoms of gas, bloating, or constipation.
“You may not worry or be anxious about flying, but the whole experience is stressful and sometimes, as the famous book put it, your body can keep score“Even though you’re maintaining and functioning at a high level without a lot of drama,” Stoller said. For people with genital bowel syndrome.”
And don’t forget the fact that “airplane toilets freak out a lot of us,” says Quigley. Effective defecation! ”
Some of the advice for avoiding intestinal deterioration in flight is obvious. Avoid alcohol, drink plenty of water, and keep your caffeine intake to a minimum (although caffeine can help expedite bowel movements, Stoller said). It should be done not only during the day, but also during the trip.
Knowing your body is also important. If you’re prone to constipation, you can take a fiber supplement or a mild laxative a day or two before your flight to keep him at bay (depending on the length of your flight, of course). may not be necessary). Explosive diarrhea in those tiny bathrooms).
Speaking of diarrhea, if the plane gives you a run, you can try taking an antidiarrheal drug a few hours before boarding. Do not refrain from bowel movements. Just back up the pipe more.
“Don’t be reactive, be proactive,” said Stoller.
Once you arrive, you need to be careful when adjusting to your new surroundings, especially if you’ve crossed the time zone.
“When we get to a new environment, we tend to really lean into that environment by trying all the new foods and stuff like that,” Stoller said. , when you get there, it might be to eat a little more carefully and stick to something that resembles a home meal rather than jumping right in and eating local food. I think it will be helpful.”
But what if nothing works?
Well, Constipation Flyer, if these tips don’t help you on your next flight, you might be relieved to know that there really isn’t a magic solution that gives anyone the power to defy nature (at least consistently do). The above will certainly help reduce the severity of symptoms.
Passing gas, although painful, is actually a sign that your gut is healthy. The next time you hold a fart (which, by the way, never works. It will leak eventually) or wiggle around in your seat to ease the discomfort, make sure everyone around you is doing the same. Please remember that there is a high chance that