Dr Katie Molloy, Chinese Medicine practitioner
Travelling is exciting – but getting there isn’t always half the fun. If you’ve ever been on a long-haul flight, you know the feeling of arriving at your destination feeling tired, grumpy and unwell.
But with a few simple changes, you can make your trip much more comfortable, soothing and easy on your body. Here are a few tricks to try.
Staying well hydrated is always essential, but especially so during a flight. You will need to drink more water than is offered on board, particularly if you’re on a long-haul trip. Take a water bottle and ask cabin crew to refill it. No need to overdo it – aim for about one glass of water per hour.
Keeping your fluid levels up can help reduce headaches, improve skin and hair texture, and reduce the tendency for mucous membranes in the nose and throat to dry out. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages will contribute to feeling dry and thirsty. Instead opt for plain water or herbal teas such as chrysanthemum, peppermint or ginger.
Gentle stretching and moving about can release tight muscles and improve circulation as well as reducing the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Wear loose, comfortable clothing that breathes easily and allows freedom to move. Deep veins in the legs have one-way valves which ensure flow of blood back toward the heart, but this means that muscular contraction is necessary to maintain circulation when sitting for a long time.
Do a lap of the aisles every hour or two and when seated, point and flex your toes whenever you think of it. Compression stockings can help prevent blood pooling in the lower limbs.
Set your clock to your final destination’s time zone when you first board. Try to plan meals and naps vaguely around the time at your destination. You might like to watch TV with a cup of tea in the ‘morning’ and have a nap at ‘night’ – take an eye-mask!
With significant time differences, where possible arrive in the afternoon or evening so that you can take your first rest overnight. Give your circadian rhythm the best chance to re-establish itself by waiting until dark to fall asleep, and spending time in the morning sunshine.
“EAT A PROPER FRESH MEAL INCLUDING VEGETABLES AND PROTEIN BEFORE YOU BOARD AND BRING SOME FRUITS, VEGETABLES, NUTS AND SEEDS TO SNACK ON DURING THE FLIGHT.”
Try to avoid sugar, alcohol and carbonated beverages as they tend to contribute to bloating. Eat a proper fresh meal including vegetables and protein before you board and bring some fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds to snack on during the flight. To aid digestion, move around the cabin as much as possible, taking short walks up and down the aisles.
On very long flights try to keep meals to vegetables and simple proteins. You’ll be ready for a meal once you arrive at your destination and you’ve returned to ground conditions.
Breathing recycled, filtered air and sharing a small space can create the perfect breeding ground for bugs. Zinc, Vitamins A, C and E are important to maintain a strong and healthy immune system. Rather than taking supplements which can often be laden with sugars and other fillers, get your vitamins and minerals from vegetables and fruits. Red, green and yellow capsicum, carrot, grapes, kiwifruit, apples – pack a bunch of whatever takes your fancy and is in season.
Massage the acupuncture point between your eyebrows (YinTang, the third eye) and the point three finger-breadths above the wrist on the inside of your arm (NeiGuan) to soothe nerves and if you suffer flight-sickness. These points are indicated in Chinese medicine to overcome nausea and slow down an overactive mind.
Breathe deep into your abdomen, imagining the tummy expanding on the inhale and relaxing on the exhale. Make every belly breath count! Mindful breathing also helps maintain a sense of feeling grounded, even when we soar to 35,000 feet. If you are a nervous flyer you might find take-off and landing particularly stressful.