When I’m up in the high mountains, sometimes I feel my stomach bloated and nauseous and I will vomit everything. Other than that, often I lose my appetite completely while I’m up there.
It used to upset me, but then I figured out why it happened and what I should eat and not to eat to avoid it. After some trial and error, I’ve come up with a list of foods that I rely on when I’m hitting the trails and you can also try.
I’ve found that light, easily digestible snacks work wonders. Things like nuts, dried fruits, or even a bit of trail mix with some dark chocolate chips. They give me a good boost without making me feel heavy. Drinking water with a pinch of salt helps with altitude-related nausea, and it’s crucial to stay hydrated up there.
You should avoid fatty, spicy, seasoned, greasy, or heavy food that contains much oil. These heavy, oily items can wreak havoc on your stomach and cause discomfort when you’re hiking thousands of feet above sea level.
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Why Does Our Stomach Feel Changed Up On The Mountains?
Hikers face several challenges when ascending to higher altitudes, and this impacts their food choices and stomachs. Here are some of the main issues hikers encounter at higher elevations and how they affect their dietary considerations:
Decreased Oxygen Levels
At higher altitudes, the air contains less oxygen, leading to reduced oxygen saturation in the blood. This results in fatigue, shortness of breath, and decreased physical performance. Hikers may experience reduced appetite due to altitude sickness symptoms, which makes it challenging to consume enough food.
Higher altitudes often have lower humidity levels, which leads to increased fluid loss through respiration and sweating. Hikers may not feel as thirsty as they do at lower altitudes, potentially leading to dehydration. Dehydration affects digestion and leads to gastrointestinal discomfort.
Altitude sickness, including symptoms like nausea, headache, and dizziness often impact a hiker’s ability to eat and digest food. It’s essential to choose easily digestible foods to minimize the risk of exacerbating altitude sickness symptoms.
Digestion tends to slow down at higher altitudes, making it harder for the body to process complex or heavy meals. Hikers should go for lighter, easily digestible foods to avoid digestive issues and discomfort.
Here are some foods that I utilize and I also advice other people to utilize them for a better high altitude hike.
Fruit or fruit chart
I rely on fruits or a fruit chart as my go-to trail snacks. The rationale behind this choice is quite straightforward: fruits are gentle on the stomach and effortlessly digested. They also offer a potent source of essential vitamins that revitalize your body.
At high altitudes, our bodies cope with reduced oxygen levels, and digestion becomes sluggish. This is where fruits shine as the ideal hiking companions.
Their natural sugars provide a quick energy boost without burdening your digestive system. Unlike heavy, hard-to-digest foods, fruits are a light and refreshing choice that won’t leave you feeling weighed down on the trail.
Fruits also pack a nutritional punch. They’re rich in vitamins, such as vitamin C, which is particularly valuable in high-altitude conditions.
This vitamin helps combat fatigue, supports your immune system, and aids in overall well-being. Fruits are also brimming with antioxidants that protect your cells from stress caused by altitude and physical exertion.
Brown bread or wheat
While fruits provide a refreshing burst of natural sweetness and hydration, sometimes I find that my appetite craves a little more. That’s when I turn to the trusty choice of wheat or brown bread.
Fruits give you a quick boost of energy, vitamins, and hydration, which is fantastic for those sunny hikes. But as you keep moving, your hunger might start calling for something more substantial. That’s where wheat or brown bread comes into play.
These bread varieties offer a steady release of energy, thanks to their complex carbohydrates. They won’t burden your stomach like heavier foods might. Instead, they provide a comfortable and satisfying source of sustenance to keep you going.
Dark chocolate can be your secret energy ally on the hiking trail. It’s like a little powerhouse of natural sugars and a touch of caffeine, perfect for giving you a quick and efficient energy boost. When you’re out there on high mountain trails, this sweet delight can be your trusted companion.
Dark chocolate contains natural sugars, which means it provides a swift burst of energy. These sugars are the kind that your body can put to work right away, giving you that needed pep in your step.
And don’t forget about the tiny caffeine kick it carries. It’s not like your morning coffee, but it’s enough to give you that extra alertness.
In high-altitude locations, I’ve often experienced stomach discomfort, but I’ve discovered a reliable solution – tea. Tea offers a soothing and comforting remedy. It’s a warm hug for your insides when you need it most.
The steam rising from a cup of tea provides a welcome respite from the biting cold of high altitudes. The herbal options can aid in digestion and alleviate any tummy troubles you might encounter.
When you reach that breathtaking mountain summit or find yourself battling the brisk mountain air, a cup of tea can be your trusty companion. It will warm you up, settle your stomach, and enhance your overall hiking experience.
Trail mix is lightweight and easy to carry, making it perfect for your backpack. What’s more, it’s like a powerhouse of energy packed into a simple snack.
At high altitudes, your body works harder, and you need more calories to keep going. Trail mix has you covered with a mix of nuts, dried fruits, and sometimes even chocolate.
These ingredients are like little bundles of energy. The nuts provide healthy fats and protein to keep your muscles strong, while the dried fruits offer natural sugars for quick bursts of energy.
Trail mix also helps with hydration. You see, nuts and fruits contain water, which keeps you from getting too dehydrated at those lofty heights. Plus, the salty and sweet combo in trail mix can satisfy your cravings and keep you motivated on the trail.
Foods To Avoid At High Altitude
When hiking at high altitudes, it’s advisable to choose easily digestible, balanced meals and prioritize staying well-hydrated to ensure a comfortable and safe hiking experience.
Fatty and Greasy Foods
High-fat foods like fried items, heavy gravies, and fatty meats are best avoided at high altitudes. The reduced oxygen levels at elevation can slow down digestion, making it more challenging for your body to process these heavy foods.
This can lead to stomach discomfort, bloating, and a feeling of sluggishness. These foods can be calorically dense, which might not align with the increased calorie needs of hiking at altitude.
Spicy or heavily seasoned dishes irritate the stomach lining, potentially exacerbating altitude sickness symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. The heightened sensitivity of your digestive system at high altitudes can make spicy foods more unsettling and uncomfortable.
Carbonated drinks, such as soda, can cause bloating and gas, which can be particularly uncomfortable when you’re already dealing with changes in air pressure and slower digestion at high altitudes. Opt for still, non-carbonated beverages to stay hydrated.
Alcohol often worsen dehydration, a common issue at high altitudes due to increased respiration and sweating. It also impairs cognitive and motor functions, which are crucial for safe hiking. Drinking alcohol at altitude can lead to quicker intoxication and may increase the risk of altitude sickness symptoms.
Heavy, Rich Foods
Heavy dishes that are rich in cream, butter, or cheese can sit heavily in your stomach and be challenging to digest at altitude. They can lead to a feeling of fullness and discomfort, which can be compounded by the effects of reduced oxygen levels on digestion.
Overeating in general can strain your digestive system, and this effect can be more pronounced at high altitudes. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help your body digest food more effectively and provide a steady source of energy.
Hikers at higher altitudes should be mindful of their food choices to mitigate the effects of reduced oxygen, altitude sickness, and slower digestion. Opting for easily digestible, balanced meals and staying well-hydrated are crucial strategies for a successful and comfortable high-altitude hike.