Air Travel Digestive Woes: Does Airplane Food Cause Constipation?

Ever wondered why you’re feeling a bit “backed up” after a long-haul flight? You’re not alone. Many travelers have experienced the discomfort of constipation post-flight, and it’s not just the stress or the change in routine that’s to blame.

Airplane food might be one of the culprits. It’s often high in sodium and low in fiber, two factors that can contribute to constipation. But before you swear off in-flight meals entirely, let’s delve deeper into the issue. We’ll explore the factors that may lead to that uncomfortable bloated feeling, and offer some tips to help keep things moving smoothly on your next trip.

Key Takeaways

  • Airplane food can contribute to constipation due to its high sodium content and low fiber content. Sodium can cause dehydration, leading to constipation, while lack of fiber disrupts the smooth running of the digestive system.
  • Extended sitting periods and changes in routine during flight can also lead to constipation. Physical activity stimulates intestinal contracts and normal routine aids regular bowel movements.
  • Staying hydrated, moving around, eating fiber-rich foods, and maintaining regular habits can reduce the chances of post-flight constipation.
  • The average sodium level in airplane meals is high and can set travelers on a path towards dehydration and potential constipation. Balancing this by staying hydrated, and packing low-sodium, homemade snacks can help to tackle this issue.
  • Airplane meals tend to lack adequate dietary fiber, which aids digestion and regulates bowel movements. Packing fiber-rich foods and opting for fiber-rich airline meals can minimize constipation risk.
  • To prevent travel-induced constipation, drink plenty of water, increase fiber intake with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, stay physically active, consume probiotics, and ensure good sleep quality.

Traveling by air can sometimes disrupt your digestive system, but is airplane food the culprit for constipation? Scientific American explores how low cabin humidity and dehydration may slow digestion and exacerbate constipation. The New York Times further delves into how travel, in general, can lead to constipation, highlighting factors such as dehydration and changes in routine. Meanwhile, BuzzFeed News offers practical steps to prevent discomfort, emphasizing the importance of staying hydrated and moving around during the flight.

Factors Contributing to Constipation After Airplane Meals

When you board a flight, several factors might contribute to constipation, particularly if you consume airplane meals.

High Sodium Content

Airplane food is notoriously high in sodium. This isn’t without reason, as our sense of taste reduces by up to 30% at high altitudes, making food taste bland. To counteract this, airlines add extra salt to their meals. However, high sodium intake can lead to dehydration, which in turn, could cause constipation.

Lack of Fiber

The lack of fiber in airplane meals is another cause. Fiber helps to keep your digestive system running smoothly, and without it, you might find yourself backed up. Most airlines base their meals around refined carbs like pasta and white rice, which contain little to no fiber.

Limited Movement

Sitting for extended periods, like on long-haul flights, reduces intestinal movement. Physical activities stimulate your intestines to contract and push stool out. But on a flight, your movement possibilities are limited which could cause constipation.

Change in Routine

Air travel disrupts your routine, including your eating and sleeping patterns. The rush, the change in time zone, or even the stress of traveling could all interfere with your bowel movements.

As a result, your overall digestive system bears the brunt of all these disruptive factors which could result in constipation after consuming an airplane meal. Adjusting how you handle your meals onboard or pre-flight preparation could help alleviate these inconveniences. Here are some tips:

  • Stay Hydrated: Carry a reusable water bottle and fill it up before boarding. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate you further.
  • Keep Moving: Walk down the aisle whenever possible, do in-seat exercises to stimulate bowel movements.
  • Eat Fiber-rich Foods: Try bringing your snacks like fruits or whole-grain bars.
  • Maintain Healthy Habits: Try to stick to your routine as much as possible.

By tackling these issues, you could reduce the chances of post-flight constipation. The subsequent sections will delve into a comprehensive guideline to managing your diet and exercise to counter these factors.

High Sodium Content in Airplane Food: A Possible Culprit

On your next flight, when you’re munching away on a microwaved meal, it’s crucial to remember that you may be consuming more sodium than you realize. Why is that significant? Let’s dive in.

Firstly, airplane meals are notorious for their high sodium content. The sky-high salt levels are primarily designed to counteract the dulling effect that high altitudes can have on our taste buds. However, there’s a kicker. Elevated salt intake can lead to dehydration, a known factor contributing to constipation.

Studies reveal the average sodium level in airplane meals is around 1,000-1,500 mg, almost half your daily allowance in just one meal. Here’s a quick comparison for perspective:

Meal TypesAvg. Sodium Content (mg)
Standard Airplane Meal1305
Fast Food Burger690
Homemade Chicken Salad215

With these figures on your radar, it’s easy to see how beginning your journey with such a sodium-heavy meal can set you on a path towards dehydration and potentially constipation.

So, what’s the game plan to tackle these high-sodium meals? It’s all about balance. You might want to consider bringing your own nourishment. Carefully selected homemade snacks can not only cater to your personal taste but also align with nutritional requirements. We’re talking about nut mix, apple slices, vegetable sticks, even a whole grain sandwich – tasty options with significantly lower sodium levels.

Another tactic is staying amply hydrated during and after the flight. Don’t confuse the free-flowing alcoholic beverages onboard as hydrating agents, though. Instead, make water your go-to drink while mile-high. The aim is to drink enough to replenish the water you’re losing from the high salt intake and the dry airplane cabin.

Finally, keep up your physical activity as much as possible. Yes, engaging your muscles can help boost digestion and lessen your chances of feeling “blocked”.

Low Fiber Levels in In-Flight Meals

Continuing our exploration into in-flight meals, now consider the limited fiber content in these dishes. Ironically, it’s another leading cause of constipation during air travel.

When you choose to eat airline food, you’re typically served meals high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. We cannot emphasize enough how essential fiber is for robust digestive health. It’s the magic ingredient that aids digestion and regulates bowel movements. Lack of dietary fiber can cause the movement of material through your digestive system to slow down, leading to constipation.

Moreover, when we say ‘fiber’, we’re discussing both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Unfortunately, airplane meals often fall short in delivering any substantial amount of both types of fiber. Soluble fiber, found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium, dissolves in water. It forms a gel-like material that helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Simultaneously, insoluble fiber, found in whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and vegetables such as cauliflower and potatoes, increases bulk in your stool. This product helps food pass more quickly through your stomach and intestines, preventing constipation.

But fear not, there are strategies to maintain your fiber intake whilst flying:

  • Carry homemade meals: Pack fiber-rich foods like fruits, salads, and whole grain sandwiches.
  • Choose wisely: Pick the airline meal rich in vegetables or whole grains.

Thus, while you can’t control the stubborn dry air or the altitude that might curb your natural digestive process, you can control your diet. Make the effort – you’ll see the difference.

Tips for Preventing Constipation While Traveling

Navigating digestive issues, while you’re on the go, can certainly be challenging. But don’t let the fear of constipation interfere with your travel plans. Wondering how to keep gut health top-notch in the sky? Here are some solid tips to help reduce your risk of travel-induced constipation.

Drink plenty of water, especially when you’re going to be flying. The air in the plane cabin is notoriously dry, which can increase the risk of dehydration. Dehydration is a significant trigger for constipation, sedimenting water loss from your digestive system too. Attempt to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day. Similarly, avoid the excessive intake of alcohol and caffeine as they can have a dehydrating effect on your body.

Increasing fiber intake can also help manage bowel irregularities. Whole grain bread, vegetables, fruits, and nuts are all high-fiber options that pack easily in a travel bag. Don’t depend too much on in-flight meals as they can sometimes be lacking in fiber content.

Staying physically active can improve the regularity of bowel movements. Walking around the cabin, stretching your legs, and light exercises can help stimulate digestion. It’s a small change that can reap significant benefits.

Probiotics are mighty helpers when it comes to regulating the gut. They can be taken as supplements or through certain foods, like yogurt or fermented dishes.

Investing in a good quality travel pillow can also indirectly help you combat constipation. Restful sleep is vital for overall wellbeing and digestive health. A comfortable neck support pillow can enhance your sleep quality on long-haul flights.

Remember, packing digestive health essentials, like a small stash of herbal tea or over-the-counter laxatives, can save you from uncomfortable situations when flying.

These measures are mere precautions to adopt on any journey. However, if you have persistent digestive issues or chronic constipation, it’s highly advisable to see a health professional for a proper assessment and treatment plan.


So, does airplane food make you constipated? It’s not the sole culprit, but it can contribute to the issue. You’ve got the power to prevent travel-related constipation. Staying hydrated, upping your fiber intake, and keeping active are key. Don’t just rely on in-flight meals for your fiber fix, pack some high-fiber snacks instead. A good travel pillow can help you get restful sleep, and essentials like herbal tea or laxatives can come in handy. If you’re dealing with persistent digestive issues or chronic constipation, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Remember, your health should always be your priority, even when you’re 30,000 feet in the air.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main tips to prevent constipation while traveling?

The article suggests staying hydrated, increasing fiber intake, and remaining physically active. Additionally, incorporating probiotics, restful sleep, and carrying essentials such as herbal teas or laxatives can help prevent constipation while you travel.

Is it advisable to depend on in-flight meals for fiber provision?

No, it is not recommended. While in-flight meals can offer some fiber, heavily depending on them might leave you wanting. It is advised to bring along high-fiber foods for better nutrition.

What if constipation persists even after following these tips?

If constipation persists even after following these travel-friendly tips, it is recommended that you seek professional medical help. Chronic constipation might suggest deeper health issues that need attention.

Is hydration a preventative measure for constipation during flights?

Yes, staying hydrated is a prominent preventative measure for constipation. It is especially crucial on long flights where dehydration risk is higher.

Which foods are considered high-fiber that are useful during travels?

Whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, and nuts are examples of high-fiber foods that might aid in avoiding constipation during travel.

How important is sleep in preventing constipation while traveling?

A good night’s rest supports overall health, including digestive health. Travel pillows can help ensure that you get sufficient sleep while traveling, reducing the risk of constipation.