Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) has been described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a broad term that describes conditions with chronic or recurring immune response and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common inflammatory bowel diseases. In a news release on Sept. 16, 2013
the Swiss National Science Foundation reported, "When flying leads to stomach pain."
Many patients afflicted with a chronic intestinal inflammation experience bouts of inflammation after a journey. The primary cause of this problem is not due to the stress of travelling, as many people think. It is instead the lack of oxygen which is experienced in an aircraft or during high altitude stays in the mountains which causes this problem.
Researchers of the Swiss IBD Cohort Study have now confirmed that a lack of oxygen, or what is often called thin air, is common at high altitudes or during flights, and this can trigger inflammation in the intestinal tract in people with a corresponding predisposition. This correlation has been observed in patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In the month just after a stay at high altitude or a flight, episodes of inflammation occurred far more frequently.
Patients suffering from IBD who are aware of the association between travelling and occurrences of inflammation therefore frequently decide not to travel to remote destinations at all due to past unpleasant experiences. An understanding of this phenomenon has the potential to help improve the lives of patients. Doctors, for instance, will be in a position to prescribe medication prior to a journey, in order to reduce the bowels’ reaction to the lack of oxygen and to prevent an outbreak of inflammation.