Fart a Lot on Airplanes? Scientists Have Finally Discovered Why

LONDON - MAY 15: Passengers sleep on a low cost flight to Dinard in France on May 15, 2006 from London. Low cost airlines are increasing their market share in Europe by offering flights as low as 14 pence (plus taxes) to destinations across the Continent. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Source: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As you can probably infer from the title, this is going to get uncomfortable, so I’m just going to cut right to the cheesev— I mean the chase — have you ever noticed you feel extra gassy when you’re flying? You’re not alone; a Danish doctor has figured out why you fart on airplanes. So go ahead and let out that sigh of relief.

Dr. Jacob Rosenberg had a eureka moment on his recent trip to New Zealand. He noticed that during the flight he felt super bloated, kind of like how his water bottle expanded during the flight and then compressed when the plane landed. He realized that the air in his stomach must have been doing the same thing as the air in the water bottle. 

When not flying, the average person lets out about a liter of gas, but when air pressure drops it causes the air to expand. So, that one liter of gas has to expand to fit 30 percent more space, which is what makes you feel so bloated. Also add in the fact that you’re trapped with a hundred or so other strangers in a tiny cabin who are probably all dealing with the same thing and things are bound to get awkward.

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So what to do? You could try to hold in your farts, but is that even physically possible, anyway? In addition to me thinking your gas is bound to come out eventually (and believe me, I have tried to keep it in), Rosenberg warns against doing this, especially if you’re not in your prime. “For a frail old person it may put a strain on cardiac function,” he says. Yeah, not exactly the way you want to go. Say it with me now: Ew.  

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So what are your options? If you’re super self-conscious, you can try charcoal-lined underwear which is designed to absorb almost all of the bad odor, or use removable liners which absorb up to 70 percent of odor, according to the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Some airlines are even jumping on the charcoal bandwagon, installing charcoal filters into their air conditioner units.  There are also steps you can take before you board, and in life in general, to keep flatulence at bay. Try these foods for a flatulence-free flight.

1.  Just a Spoonful of Honey Helps the Flatulence Go Down

Eating a spoonful of raw honey can help prevent excessive gas, so it might be a good idea to grab a handful of packets while you’re getting your pre-flight Starbucks. While you’re at it, go easy on the whipped cream.

2. Eat Your (Pureed) Vegetables

Veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are some of the worst culprits of gas. Pureeing them can help keep gas at bay, because grinding up the vegetables increases surface area for your digestive enzymes to go to work on. That might be tricky for flying because you can’t really bring liquids on airplanes, but maybe you're so fancy that your airport has a smoothie place, I don’t know.

3. A Pineapple A Day...

Pineapple, pineapple, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the less you toot. Yes I know that’s not how the rhyme is supposed to go but I don’t really care. In addition to possibly making your down-under regions taste sweeter, pineapple also contains bromelain, an enzyme that helps you digest proteins.

4. Take the Cinnamon Challenge

But not literally, unless you want to cry. Cinnamon (in normal amounts) can help relieve intestinal gas, though. Some scientists speculate that it helps metabolize fat by increasing enzyme activity and that it acts as an anti-bacterial.

 5. Tea Up

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Peppermint and chamomile have both been proven to help reduce gas and bloating, so pull a Kermit and sip your tea. You can mind your own business and decrease gas at the same time.

You could do any number of these things, or you could just realize that gas is a normal, basic human function and everybody does it.

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Images: papy-venix / Tumblr; Getty Images; Giphy (4)

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