By Jillian Tuchman, MS, RD
Whether you’re planning a summer getaway or you’re a frequent flyer for work, you already know that airline travel can leave you feeling less than awesome. Gas, bloating, water retention, dry skin–not fun.
Dr. Elizabeth Boham, a functional medicine doctor at The Ultra Wellness Center, Dr. Mark Hyman’s clinical practice in Lenox, MA, agrees: “Flying is incredibly dehydrating so it’s really important to drink a lot of water before and during the flight – and to avoid processed food which has a lot of sodium. Since flying can also lead to water retention, also avoid inflammatory foods like gluten, refined sugar and alcohol.”
Here are some other ways to mitigate some of the air-travel ickiness. Pack these snacks—and avoid these others.
WHAT TO EAT WHEN FLYING
Chia Seeds: Constipation is a never fun, and it’s a pretty common complaint after a long flight. Adding some chia seeds to your smoothie or yogurt for a few days before the trip helps to keep everything moving, thanks to the chia’s fiber. They also have omega-3s, which can fight inflammation and even help boost mood.
Pack This: Health Warrior Chia Bars ($22 for a box of 15, available online)
Bananas: They’re chock-full of potassium, an essential mineral that, simply put, can counter the water-retaining properties of sodium. Potassium-rich foods are naturally low in sodium, which means they’re the foods you want to load up on before a flight since they’ll help prevent sodium-related water retention. Other choices include sweet potatoes, avocados and dried apricots.
Pack This: Barnana Organic Chewy Banana Bites ($15 for a pack of 3, available online)
Protein: Protein helps regulate blood sugar, which keeps inflammation in check. Keep it simple (think plain turkey sandwich, nothing fried or heavily sauced) to avoid stomach upset. A salad made with canned wild salmon is a good choice; the healthy fats in the fish can keep your skin hydrated.
Pack This: Epic Turkey Strip ($40 for 20, available online)
Eggs: The lutein in egg yolks improves elasticity and hydration of your skin. Plus, eggs are a good source of protein, so you get those benefits as well.
Pack This: A couple of hard-boiled eggs (ideally pastured or organic) or egg and avocado salad.
SUPPLEMENTS TO BRING WITH YOU
Ubiquinol: This activated form of CoQ10 assists the body in moving excess fluid through the lymphatic system, so it can help keep swollen ankles at bay. Start taking 100mg a few days before you board and continue while you’re away.
Fish Oil: You already know that it’s great for lowering inflammation and keeping cholesterol balanced. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil also help your body manage fluid balance and keep your skin fresh and healthy.
Digestive Enzymes: I’m a big proponent of digestive enzymes; they really help the body better digest food, which in turn can prevent bloating and heartburn. Since air travel throws off digestion – gas in the stomach or intestine expands as aircraft climbs, leading to abdominal distention, constipation, and indigestion – supplementing with digestive enzymes really can make a huge difference. My favorite is Digest Gold ATPro. Take 1-2 with meals and you’ll notice the difference they make immediately.
Dandelion Root: Used for centuries as a liver tonic, dandelion is a great way to keep fluid retention – specifically swollen ankles – at bay. It also helps with fat digestion, eliminating the gas and bloating that some people feel after a rich meal. Sip some dandelion tea or shop for a dandelion tincture at your local health-food store. If dandelion greens are in a salad on the menu at your destination, order it.
WHAT TO AVOID
Just as some foods are the air-traveler’s friend, others are likely to aggravate. Stay away from carbonated beverages (yup, even sparkling water); high-sodium foods (say no to those little packets of nuts); and though they’re great for you, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, which can be tough to digest and make bloating and gas worse. And try your best to stay away from high FODMAP foods, like apples, cherries and dairy. Even though these are healthy foods, they can cause gas in some people, so best not to risk it.