Friday - - Contents -

Here’s how to beat jet­lag be­fore you even take the flight – the se­cret lies in what you eat.

Anita’s case was ex­treme but, in the UAE, not al­to­gether unique.

In the space of just four weeks, she had flown on four ma­jor trips: From Dubai and back to New York and Is­tan­bul for work, to Lon­don on hol­i­day, and then Phuket to a wed­ding. On the day she ar­rived back from the last of the quar­tet, she de­clared her­self ready for some se­ri­ous stay-at-home-time. Then her mother fell ill back home in Dur­ban. She booked a flight to South Africa the next day.

‘I was shat­tered,’ says the 42-yearold man­age­ment con­sul­tant. ‘The con­stant rush­ing about was ex­haust­ing but it was the con­tin­u­ally shift­ing time zones that re­ally got me. My body didn’t know whether it was com­ing or go­ing, and it just seemed to give up. By the time I got to Dur­ban, mum was ac­tu­ally fine – it was a bit of a false alarm – but I ended up spend­ing two days in bed with sick­ness and stom­ach cramps.’

She is, it would seem, not the only per­son to ex­pe­ri­ence such ex­treme ef­fects of global move­ment.

The UAE is in­dis­putably a coun­try of trav­ellers – and, it would seem, a coun­try of jet­lag suf­fer­ers too.

Health ex­perts here reckon that, as a so­ci­ety, we are more prone to suf­fer from the flight-based syn­drome than those liv­ing in other parts of the world.

There are two rea­sons for this. The first is that we tend to fly more than the global av­er­age – like Anita, many of us head abroad on hol­i­days, busi­ness and vis­its back home mul­ti­ple times a year. And the sec­ond is that we tend to fly longer – that’s be­cause of the UAE’s ge­o­graphic lo­ca­tion sev­eral time zones away from the ma­jor cen­tres of Amer­ica, Asia and Europe.

The re­sult is that dream treks and busi­ness trips alike can all too eas­ily be­come one-way tick­ets to ex­haus­tion, fa­tigue and ir­ri­tabil­ity. Worse still, in ex­treme cases, jet­lag can lead to nau­sea, con­sti­pa­tion, cramps and di­ar­rhoea as the body’s in­ter­nal clock is thrown into dis­ar­ray.

‘I know I’m not the only one this has hap­pened too,’ says Anita, a mother-of-three of Dubai Mo­tor City. ‘I’ve had clients and friends tell me they’d like to go abroad for a few days but they can’t face the tired­ness af­ter­wards. They say it’s not worth it so they don’t bother.’ But it doesn’t have to be this way. A grow­ing school of thought says that by eat­ing the right foods be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter a flight, we can largely negate the more crush­ing ef­fects of jet­lag. Yes, even on that 16-hour mon­ster to Auck­land.

A series of stud­ies have found the body’s nat­u­ral 24-hour-cy­cle – its cir­ca­dian rhythm – is tuned not just to day­light but also to food in­take. Which means that, while fly­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent time zones can up­set our in­ter­nal clocks and leave us fa­tigued, eat­ing the right snacks and meals at the right time can check th­ese ef­fects and keep our in­built rhythm run­ning smoothly.

So, what ex­actly are th­ese won­der foods? And when should we be eat­ing them?


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