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?