Minimize In-flight Flatulence

Learn how you can quell your tumultuous tummy to minimize in-flight flatulence.

Minimize In-flight Flatulence

Medically reviewed in December 2020

Too close for comfort… Cheek to jowl…  Packed together like sardines. All of these phrases accurately describe the seating in the coach section of just about every commercial airline. That’s why one of the last things that you, or the people seated closely around you, need to contend with while on board is flatulence.

The average person (male or female, old or young) passes gas about 14 times a day when at ground level. But after lift-off, as you gain altitude, the gasses in your insides tends to expand by about 30 percent, even in a pressurized cabin. (It’s pressurized to around 6,000 to 8,000 feet, think Boulder or Aspen.) The result? High Altitude Flatus Expulsion or HAFE. Colorado researchers published a study in the Western Journal of Medicine that found HAFE also occurs on mountain hikes; their name for the condition—Rocky Mountain barking spiders.

The good news is that whether you’re crossing a mountain pass or reading a copy of an inflight magazine, the right diet—and OTC anti-gas medicines—can quell your tumultuous tummy. So, skip beans, broccoli and cabbage—and other foods that you know will give you gas such as dairy or spicy foods—before you fly. Drink plenty of water and stick with proteins and good fats found in tuna, salmon, nuts and avocados.

If you do get hit, it’s not smart to hold back (and usually impossible). That can result in painful intestinal cramps, elevated blood pressure and reduced blood oxygenation—all bad for your cardiovascular system.

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