More often than not, flying long-distance is the most dreaded part of the holiday. Cramped seats, poor aeroplane food, re-circulated air. These are usually just part of the holiday package deal and long-haul flights are hardly the advert for happiness and health. Upgrading to first class is always an option for a more comfortable trip, but there are plenty of great alternatives to make the best out of an otherwise not ideal flying situation. Here are 5 tips that will help you to stay healthy on a long-haul flight and that also double down as advice for any sort of journey that you need to make this summer.
Probably the number 1 rule for staying at your best or as close to it as possible on long-haul flights is staying hydrated. Plane cabins are often very dry with humidity levels dropping under 20%. That is in contrast to a comfortable home environment where the humidity level is at about 35%. 20% humidity is similar levels to the Arizona desert.
What’s more, dehydration causes your mucous membranes to dry out which will make you more prone to bacteria and viruses.
Therefore it is important to either bring your own water on board or buy a bottle from the trolley. It is not recommended filling from the taps in the aeroplane toilet as there is a risk of E-coli and other bad substances being present in the aircraft’s water tanks.
If it suits, you can also try drinking electrolyte drinks such as Powerade rather than just water. Maintaining electrolyte balance is often considered important and whilst water is your best option, too much of the stuff can dilute your system.
As difficult as it may be, try to avoid any drinks that can dehydrate you. Carbonated drinks, alcohol and caffeine are no-gos if you want to keep hydrated and arrive at your destination feeling at the top of your game. Green tea is probably the best alternative option to coffee.
Save the beer, coffee and wine for when you aren’t in the air.
Being sat on your bum for extended periods at a time is never good for you and there is no better opportunity to do it than when you are stuck next to strangers for several hours on a flying metal tube.
However, being immobile for long periods allows the blood in the body to stagnate which increases the risk of a clot and the risk of developing Deep-Vein Thrombosis. This is also true for those who make multiple smaller trips within a short timeframe.
According to WebMD:
The deep veins in your legs have one-way valves, where blood can only move toward the heart. The only thing that gets that venous blood from the lower body back up to the heart is muscle contraction.
The best thing that you can do is engage in movements that mimic the muscles used when walking – especially things like calf contractions and stretches which can be done from your seat. Alternatively, just getting up and going to the bathroom every now and then should be enough.
Bolster your immune system
Flying long-haul is the absolute dream for germs, viruses and other little nasties in the air. Lots of people from all over the world in an enclosed space, re-circulated air, weak immune systems from the artificial conditions, dry air and other factors can make bacteria and the sorts flourish. While many airlines now have exceptional-level filters to protect you, there are still some measures that you can and probably should take to protect yourself – such as boosting your immune system before flying.
Steelsmith, author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health, recommends avoiding sugar-laden food and drink. Sugar creates dampness and phlegm, which can lead to an environment where viruses and bacteria thrive, creating a sort of ‘petri dish’ in your sinuses and in the back of your throat.
Eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles and yoghurt before you fly can really help you out. Getting some extra Vitamin B and C in your system is recommended too. Make sure you give your gut some lovin’ before jet off.
Eat lightly and wisely
As covered previously, avoiding sugary food and drink is really important for your flight and avoiding overeating is also a big point to consider. Not only is aeroplane food not the tastiest of foods out there but processed airline meals also contain a whole bunch of additives and preservatives. This places some of that bad type of stress on the body. Bring your own food onboard, with preferably some fresh fruit as a part of that.
Alternatively, you can eat a decent meal on the ground before the flight. Avoiding foods that give you gas such as beans, corn, chickpeas, cabbage, lentils or onions is a smart idea – at 35,000ft, bodily gases expand by a third and the digestion process slows down.
Be kind to your fellow passengers’ nostrils.
Consider fasting or eating according to your destination
Fasting, i.e. not eating at all on your flight, might actually be a really smart tactic to use, especially if you are travelling across multiple time-zones and are worried about jet lag.
The simple process of eating is one of the biggest indicators and reset mechanisms of your circadian rhythm. Eating on board can override your natural body clock and delay the onset of sleep when you actually need some of the good stuff.
The changes in daylight, clocks and eating patterns can really throw your whole system out of whack and knock you out of sorts for the first few days of your holiday.
By not having to digest a meal, the body’s immune system remains more active and if you wait to eat at the destination, you can already begin to adjust to your new ‘eating clock‘ as soon as you touch down. This will make assimilation into your new environment much more smooth.
If you really need to eat on your flight because it is really long-haul, consider trying to eat according to your destination. So if it were 7pm in the UK but I was travelling to China, it would be 3am there. Probably best to not eat if I want to adjust to Chinese time in advance.
It can be difficult to factor in time considerations like this, especially when there are large time differences between where you are and where you are going, but it is certainly worth taking into account.