this tour life

frequent flyer club: the good, the bad and the ugly.

July 25, 2016
by

travel

Life on the road can ostensibly present endless images of adventure and a buoyant lifestyle. Travel can be a liberator from the mundane nature of the modern human work life. Most people embarking on the occasional plane trip deal with little to no consequences aside from the long lines at the security check, flight delays and the jet lag that will come from spanning time zones in short time frame. It’s a small price to pay for the escape. However, those of us that tour the world for a living need to be aware of the consequences that the traveling life style can bring.

Frequent flying can induce a state of chronic jet lag. Being in this stressed state has been shown to cause memory impairment, disruption of gene expression, impair our immune system and increase our risk of heart attack or stroke over time. There is scientific research that says the more an individual travels, the faster they will age. Just the mere disruption of our circadian rhythms and wake cycles can lead to disordered physiological rhythms – This can trigger specific genes also related to how  we age .

A ‘road warrior’ lifestyle can be so much tougher on you then you may realize. Extreme business travel can have a wide range of physiological, psychological, emotional and social consequences. Understanding that extensive air travel is not entirely healthy can help us take the steps needed to be at our optimum, avoid getting sick and stay mentally sharp.

A Weakened Immune System

– The immune system is our body’s biological defense system that protects us against disease. A weakened immune system can lead to illness and infection.

The perfect combination of jet lag, general exhaustion of traveling and the break neck pace of touring can all come together to switch off genes that are linked to our immune system. When this happens we become less equipped to fight off disease than our more sedentary, less traveled counterparts. Poor eating habits, that can come from being constantly on the go, with less access to fresh healthy foods, can weaken your immune system even further.

“I’ll just eat on the flight”.

Just so you know, airline foods are loaded with salt and sugar for better taste at high altitudes. At 35,000 ft your taste buds go numb in the pressurized conditions.  The excess salt and sugar added creates a perfect environment in the body for viruses and bacteria to thrive.

The Humidity level in the cabin, dries out your nose evaporating nasal mucus and making for desert like conditions leading to dehydration. Staying hydrated before, during and after a flight is imperative to ease jet lag, fatigue and for overall good health.

so hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Caffeine can be dehydrating and hampers your normal sleep cycle, making you feel sluggish when you reach your destination. If a warm beverage is what you want, try choosing tea over coffee to keep you hydrated. Alcohol, although it may help some fall asleep, impairs your ability to get into a deep sleep preventing you from feeling rested and may prolong jet lag. Water is always the best choice to maintain good levels of water in your body and blood.

nourishment

Sitting for such long periods of time can cause a lower metabolic rate and slower digestion. This can lead to gas, bloating and constipation.  Eating as little and light as possible while on the plane will help reduce these symptoms. Pass on cold foods such as raw salads served on the plane – If you must eat, try to stick to warm nourishment as it is easier to digest at altitude.

According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, fasting before a long flight may help prevent or reduce jet lag. Try intermediate fasting for up to 16 hours before and during flying. It is harder to digest food under the pressurized conditions, better to eat before you board if you must.

Some food tends to cause gastrointestinal discomfort such as gas pain and bloating – like most of the greasy and oily options at the airport. Try to avoid processed and fried foods, sugary items and white bread since these foods tend to make you feel tired and unsatisfied. Look to eat lean proteins such as boneless, skinless chicken, turkey breast,  egg whites and lean fish such as tuna. Steamed vegetables, fennel seeds, rice and herbs like cumin, coriander, clove and cinnamon are all good choices pre flight. All have healthy pre- and probiotic properties excellent for a healthy gut micro-biome and digestion.

 

Poor Mental health

Stress can be a big component of travel. Air travel magnifies this with todays high alert anxieties over things such as terrorism and safety. This is all compounded by weather delays, technical failures, security checks etc… Constantly changing time zones and daily schedules stress our circadian rhythms. The disruption of circadian rhythms not only affects sleep but also mood, judgement and concentration for up to six days. Being away from home for more than 20 nights per month has been shown to cause cognitive decline in those who travel for work. This also puts us at risk for a higher BMI leading to obesity, high blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels.

Traveling for tour can also leave you feeling a bit lonely and/or isolated at times. We don’t always travel together, in fact often during air travel we are traveling alone going to or from home. For some, leaving family and loved ones behind can leave you with feelings of guilt for not being there. This can lead to serious issues with our mental health and increase psychological issues as it can stress our relationships with loved ones. Staying in contact with significant others, friends and family while on the road can help with this. Trying to avoid isolating and disconnecting from your home life when touring can also help. Make the time to talk. Try including as many details about your day as you can recall, the more the better.  This will give a better picture of how you spend your time when away and will make your significant others feel included and connected. In turn listen to their day no matter how mundane it may seem compared to yours… it matters to them. We live in amazing times where we can video chat on our hand-held smart phones. Take advantage of it as often as possible (using your headphones so the rest of us don’t have to hear everything).

When you get home maybe you’re jet-lagged, stressed out or just plain exhausted. You may still have tour-related things on your mind, like receipts for reimbursements, doing laundry for the first time in a month, or just sleeping in your own bed. Take time first to catch-up and reconnect with your personal relationships before settling in. They’ve been waiting for you.

Negative Physical effects

One of the most common conditions associated with air travel is the formation of blood clots in the legs known as Deep Vein Thrombosis. These are created by long periods of immobility, dehydration and low cabin pressure. Clots can form during or up to 30 days after travel, most clots dissolve on their own. Oxygen deprivation from the 8,000 ft conditions of a pressurized cabin plus cool, dry air can cause swelling, stagnation of blood flow, Altitude sickness, fatigue and headache.

The best way to combat this is with movement, every 30 minutes if you can.

Move around the cabin as much as possible.

Flex your feet, extend your legs and contract your calves while on the flight.

 Wearing loose, comfortable clothing helps with ease of movement and circulation.

 Standing and walking as much as you can while at the airport.

Move whenever you can.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

The effects on your hearing while flying can be quite significant. The occupational safety limit set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and health is 88 db for four hours and 85 db for eight hours. Noise while on a plane can go from 95 db to up to 105 db and even up to 115 db at take off. If you’re concerned, avoid the back of the plane as it is the noisier part of the cabin. Using noise-reducing headphones cuts out about 40 db, bringing the noise to a more healthy level.

Radiation Workers

This term has been used to describe those who fly regularly for business and are exposed to more radiation than is considered healthy via Cosmic Rays. Being at a higher altitude than at the ground is a huge increase of exposure. 85,000 miles (137,000km) per year exceeds the regulatory limit. That means that commercial aircrews exceed that of nuclear power workers and can be exposed to all the related health problems. On a roundtrip from NYC to Beijing you can easily exceed A 100- microSievert dose that you would get from a chest X-ray. If you worry about those full-body scans, multiply it a few thousand times . Long-term exposure to radiation can cause cellular changes in the body.

How to combat all the bad with the good…

All the potential effects of air travel mentioned may sound really bad and, let’s be honest, they can be. But, if you take some steps to reduce the effect flying has on your well-being and physiology, then you can possibly improve your resilience and overall health when touring. New environments, new time zones and new foods are taxing on the human body. Working long hours while having to deal with fatigue, an upset stomach or just feeling ‘under the weather’ as a result of so much traveling can make our jobs feel much harder than they need to.

Defense is the best offense.

Supplements and more…

Natural dietary supplements can help by promoting and supporting health while fighting against unwanted symptoms due to travel.

Taking supplements as an insurance policy against deficiencies developed from lack of good foods.

When dealing with the effects of motion sickness when flying try 0.5-2 grams of ginger 30 minutes before travel. Use this to avoid the side effects like dry mouth and drowsiness of medications.

Stress management techniques like meditation or breathing exercises can be beneficial for reducing your cortisol levels.

Look into easy to use meditation apps like headspace which are great to have right on your smart phone.

Bad gut? Take Acidophilus (500 million live cells twice a day) to promote a healthy gut biome.

Sleep Aid. Try a more natural approach like valerian root (200 mg) or melatonin(3 mg) to help you get rest.

A multivitamin can help maintain a well-balanced diet and to fill in the gaps in your nutrition.

Boost your immune system by taking between 250-500 mg of vitamin C two to three times daily. Vitamin C is a powerful Antioxidant.

Echinacea (250 mg for no more than 8 weeks at a time) has been shown to boost the immune system as well and support healthy lungs.

Vitamin A (3,000-6,000 I.U.’s a day) along with vitamin E play a healthy role in immune system health as well.

Vitamin D (1,000-4,000 I.U.’s a day) controls the expression of thousands of genes. It regulates the aging process and helps prevent cell damage.

Pump up your energy levels. Supplement with B-complex to get the benefits of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, B-6, pantothenic acid, folate, B-12 and biotin. Helps to maintain the health of the nerves, eyes and more which are all heavily effected by traveling.

Ginseng is an adaptogen, which means that it aids the body’s adjustment to unusual physical and mental stress. It also helps with physical stamina.

Use your hotel gym if you have access or get outside to run, swim or be active just a bit more than your typical tour load ins and outs.

No gym? do push ups, sit ups, body squats etc. Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases.

Improve your diet with as many healthy choices as possible. Keep better snacks on you. Carry low sugar versions of trail mix, protein bars, beef jerky etc.  Put these types of snacks in your pockets, backpack or luggage.

Get outside! Get out of the venue, hotel, bus etc. Exposure to sunlight, especially afternoon light can help reduce the effects of jet lag and increase vitamin D levels.

Upgrade whenever possible for more leg room, comfort, better food and attentive service.

Visit your physician. Don’t be caught off guard when on the road with health issues that need to be taken care of or could have been dealt with when home.

Play it smart. If you want to feel your best do not underestimate the effects travel can have on your general health and well-being over time.

As incredible as this tour life can be, it can have some major negative effects on your overall health if you let it.

 


Tags: , , ,

have a comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.

have something you would like to contribute? ↓


→ get in touch