Spoiler alert: you get to indulge in dark chocolates
In the air every 10 days, I shuttle between Shanghai and Hong Kong. A supposed two and a half hour flight often turns into a half-day affair because of bad air traffic control or smog. Frequent air travel can leave you fatigued and cranky -- partly from stress, and partly from feeling uncomfortably bloated on the flight.
For me, it starts before I even board. Anxiously propped in front of the flight schedule screen like a meerkat, I’m fretting to and fro waiting for the latest flight updates. My blood circulation starts to go out of whack right there and then, with oxygen in my body going off to battle travel stress instead of going about working on its normal circulation function.
Finally, when it’s time to board my body faces a new challenge. The cabin is pressurized to resemble atmospheric conditions as high as Machu Picchu. This means that there is a lower oxygen supply and, gas expands under low atmospheric pressure, causing the gas inside the body’s tissue to swell.
In the thin cabin air, moisture decreases and dehydration takes place. It only takes only one percent of fluid loss for the body to become dehydrated. Blood cells become less efficient as they dry out, leaving a smaller amount of water and oxygen to circulate throughout your whole body.
The inability of your body to eliminate toxins the same way it does on the ground is another cause for being bloated. This problem seem much more common among women. Men, as we all know, tend to have miraculously active bowels.
According to seasoned flight attendants who spend a bulk of their lives up in the air (and still manage to look enviously refreshed after a long haul flight while the rest of us trudge off the plane disheveled and puffy), there are several secrets to looking and feeling fabulous while traveling:
- Stay off hard to digest foods one day before the flight
Instead, fill up on grainy, high fiber choices like quinoa, apples, pears, broccoli, and oatmeal to prevent clogging in your digestive system. No beans— that makes you gassy. No complex carbs either—at least not for dinner!
- Have a good workout the day before you board
While we understand it might not be possible to find time to hit the gym before a business trip or vacation, even a 30-minute yoga or stretching session at home can help “motivate” your intestines to adjust more easily to air time.
- Have a leafy salad right before the flight
We all know we need more veggies in our lives. Folic acid in darker greens helps to increase oxygen in the blood, preventing the body from swelling. If your flight is in the morning, my personal favorite is to broil okra and flavor it with a bit of soy sauce and bonito flakes.
- Drink hot water with lemon on board
Lemon is highly alkaline and helps the liver detox. If it’s difficult to get served lemon on board, bring a bottle of ingestible lemon essential oil with you on the flight. Alternatively, taking Vitamin C will also get the job done.
- Eat pineapples and bananas
These high fiber fruits contain enzymes that help your digestive system work more effectively. If you are traveling in the summer, cut up the pineapple and bananas into small pieces and freeze them overnight to make a tasty in-flight snack.
- Snack on granolas and nuts instead of flight meals
Nobody likes sodium-loaded, highly-preserved, carb-filled plane food. Avoid them altogether by picking up high-fiber granola and iron-rich mixed nuts at most airport convenient stores. Indulge in a bit of dark chocolate too—it also has the iron you need.
- Drink LOTS of H20 instead of fizzy drinks
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it? But most travelers forget to drink at least one 8-ounce glass for every hour in flight. Even worse, many “gas” themselves with carbonated drinks or “drain” themselves with alcohol.
- Wear comfortable, circulation-boosting pants
If you are often stuck in Economy class like me, your lower body falls victim to hours of being in a cramped sitting position. That’s when frequent bathroom breaks actually becomes beneficial. Wearing caffeine-infused leggings also help improve blood circulation.
While you may not have the perfectly coiffed hair of flight attendants stepping off of an 8-hour flight even after following all of these tips, at least you will have happy bowels and a bloat-free body! Ironically, I’m writing this article on the plane and wished I had picked up more of those almonds and cashews at the waiting lounge.