I’m on the plane to LAX, the first leg en route to our first stop – Tokyo! I can’t think of a better time or place to write this article.
Airplane travel, is unfortunately (and fortunately!) a big part of my way of life. I’d be surprised if you added up the amount of travel I have conducted for work and personal if it didn’t end up being a full year of my life. For this reason, I set out to find out exactly the best strategies to keep your body energized, free of aliments, and flying high when you are on the bird!
A few facts about what airplanes do to your body -
When your body is in the air, at a seriously high altitude, your body under goes some serious pressure. Just think about it – Airplanes thrive in places we don’t. You are traveling in a pressurized cabin, and when your body is pressurized, it gets really compressed!
Compression leads to all sorts of issues. First off your body’s digestive organs start to shrink, taxing your ability to digest large quantities of food. Secondly, this compression reduces the ability for your body to normally circulate blood through your blood vessels. Sitting down for long hours while this is happening, exacerbates these issues, leading to what they call “Economy Class Syndrome.” Economy Class Syndrome results the action of sitting in a cramped space for a long period of time, thus resulting in blood flow loss to the legs. A unhealthy person or someone who eats a poor diet, smokes, has heart disease, diabetes or an auto-immune disorder has a larger risk of developing DVT, which basically causes a blood clot in your one of your large veins in your leg and you risk death.
Additionally, the pressurized cabin reduces the humidity by 40% of what humans typically thrive at. The Sahara Desert has more humidity at ~25% than your airplane does at ~10%. Remember your body is made up of 50% water, if the humidity is reduced by 40%, your body becomes very dehydrated, very quickly and usually without you feeling the effects until after you get off the plane. Dehydration causes all sorts of issues from fatigue, headaches, constipation, light headedness and even death in extreme cases.
The air you are breathing on an airplane is recycled from directly outside of your window. That means you are breathing everything that the airplanes gives off and is flying through. The air that is pumped in isn’t pure oxygen either, it’s mixed with nitrogen, sometimes almost at 50%. To pump a greater amount of oxygen in costs money in terms of fuel and the airlines know this! The nitrogen may affect the times and dosages of medications, make you feel bloated and cause your ankles and joints swell.
Did you know certain countries require that airplanes and even passengers be sprayed with pesticide before they take off? This means if you are visiting one of these countries you are breathing in these fumes potentially all flight, especially if they were sprayed on board. Horrific!
Ok enough horror facts about airplane travel (especially while I am flying right now!)…Here’s my Food Babe tips on what you can do to avoid and/or protect yourself of all the facts I mentioned above.
Food Babe’s Tips: First Class Airplane Tips for your Body
Before you Fly:
- Choose a seat as close to the front as possible. Pilots control the amount of airflow and it is is always better in their cabin.
- Eat a light meal or fast, it is better to digest as much of your food as possible before getting on the plane
- Exercise! You reduce your risk of developing DVT dramatically and you will also improve your body’s circulation ability
- Drink at least 16 ounces of water before your flight, and limit alcohol and caffeine
- Bring your own food. Airport and airplane food is overly processed and contains more GMO, pesticides, MSG, and chemicals than can make your head spin! Bring circulation enhancing foods! Some great ones that are easy to travel with are dark chocolate, blueberries, grapes, oranges, avocados, ginger, and pumpkin seeds.
- Don’t forget to pack an empty water bottle to be filled at the airport, or to buy water before your flight. I like to bring at least 32 ounces of extra water with me on any flight.
I can’t tell you how many times the airlines have been stingy giving me water (even in First Class!)
- Ask your Acupuncturist or Nauropath for herbs that can help prevent you from contracting colds, flus and other viruses through the recycled air
- The following two things are a must for international flights! Moisturizer and a little spray bottle of evian spritzer can do wonders in rehydrating your skin on long flights.
- Drink 8 ounces of water for every hour of flying time
- If you experience a headache, pains or aches, think about using turmeric, garlic or willow bark which are all natural alternatives to aspirin
- Fast or eat small light carbohydrate rich whole foods. Limit any heavy dairy or protein rich foods. Whole grain carbohydrates are better tolerated than proteins at a high altitude.
- Do not drink alcohol or caffeine on long flights
- Walk or stretch every 30 mins while in flight, if you can’t get up from your seat, rotate your ankles and raise your arms over your head to stretch
- Keep your hands clean with natural hand sanitizer spray and avoid touching your face as much as possible
- Don’t forget to take your natural herbs that can strengthen your immune system
After your Flight:
- Continue to drink 8 ounces of water every hour
- Aim to do at least 15 mins of yoga or other form of exercise
- Consider getting a massage, which as been known to reduce jet lag
- Continue eating circulation enhancing foods
- As soon as you can – swim, take a shower and/or a steam bath to rehydrate your skin
Exercise before the plane: Check!Essentials for my carry on: Check!
Prewashed avocado, oranges, apples and lemons: Check!Homemade sprouted wraps filled with sprouted sunflower seed hummus, sprouts and raw veggies: Check!Wraps wrapped in parchment paper, not foil (foil sets off the metal detector): Check!A great start for a trip – The nicest US Airways employee I’ve ever met: Check! A very heavy overpacked bag with lots of natural food options: Check!Herbs to keep me from getting sick: Check!
A light meal in the air: Check!Lots of crunchy healthy snacks: Check!Natural hand sanitizer: Check!
Phew. Get me off of this plane, will ya?
Also check out more Food Babe Travel Essentials!
Food Babe Travel Essentials – Part 1 and Food Babe Travel Essentials – Part 2: Eating Outside Your Home