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In Flight Nutrition

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

In 2018 a record 4.4 billion passengers traveled by air which was a rise of 6.9% from 2018 (IATA). I’ve had more and more clients in clinic that are reporting complains about feeling bloated, puffy and have digestive discomfort when travelling both short and long haul. In addition to this passengers, air hostess and pilots are reporting difficulties in maintaining health food choices due to long hours and restricted food choices.

Many airport now offer a range of food outlet options but in some local airports the choice can be limited and due to food policy certain foods may not be able to cross boarders when you’re switching flights or travelling to destinations such as America. For example taking food from Dublin airport to the US will have a number of restrictions. This includes a ban on fresh fruit and vegetables and having to declare commercially canned fruit and dried beans, dates, figs, nuts, okra, peas and raisins. Solid cheese is ok, eggs need to be cooked thoroughly and inspected to show they have been. Suddenly packing for a long haul flight can feel daunting so should we stick to the aeroplane food?

Aeroplane food might not appeal to everyone. Our taste buds change when we are up in the air. Aeroplane food is designed with added spice, salt and sugar as our perception of saltiness falls by 30% and sweetness by 20%. Due to the humidity falling our ability to smell food is more difficult and ow air pressure causes our taste bud to be numbed which effect how we enjoy food. Due to the amount of salt in the food your body will take up more water to the cells and you may feel thirstier and require to take more fluid on board. This may cause you to feel bloated.

Cabin pressure can make our body swell up and our body finds it difficult to digest food. This coupled with limited movement may affect your bowels and cause changes to your bowel habits. Movement helps to support the contraction of muscle in your gut and helps to move your stool. When movement is limited the transit slows down and can cause delayed passing of stools which may lead to bloating. When you’re on a flight as we know movement is very limited.

Lac of movement can also affect our bowel habits. In the cabin the pressure changes and that change happens in your body too. It means that any gas your body produces in the gut may expand which can leave you feeling bloated and may cause pain if it becomes trapped. Your body needs to relieve this pressure and until you do you may feel bloated.

All in all a flight can really disrupt your normal eating patterns food choices, nutrient intake. So if you’re flying regularly you might want to consider:

1. Plan your journey ahead and identify food you can take on your journey.

2. Eat nutritious snacks regularly and ensure they are balanced with protein, carbohydrates and fats.

3. Snacks such as dried fruits, hard cheese, boiled eggs or nuts (depending upon restrictions) are easy things to pack up.

4. Remember to have regular fluids. Try and avoid foods that are caffeine rich or fizzy as these can cause effect bowel habits.

5. If it’s possible prepare meals to take on board. Taking tinned beans, new potatoes and tinned vegetables can be really helpful.

6. Identify any food that cause bloating when at home and then avoid these on the plane as they will cause further bloating.

7. Make sure you’re wearing comfy clothes and shoes as you are likely to have swelling.

8. Get moving with chair stretches and move up and down the aisles.

References IATA 2019. Pressroom. World Airport Transport Statistic.

Spence 2017. Tasting in the air: A review. International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. Vol 9.


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