BEST WAYS TO BEAT JET LAG
Frequent flyers’ tips to touching down feeling fresh
We’ve all been there. Crawling from an aircraft after an arduous long-haul flight feeling like death warmed up and spending the next few days blaming jet lag for every debilitating symptom from lethargy and headaches to burning eyes and constipation. But, more often than not, the culprit is simple dehydration brought on by spending hours at altitude without guzzling enough water. For Australians heading across continents or oceans, flying means extensive stretches in an artificial environment with reduced oxygen and associated low humidity, which can plunge below conditions in an African desert, rapidly drawing moisture from the body.
Research shows that during an average 10-hour flight, women lose 1.6 litres, with closer to 2 litres for men, so flyers travelling between Sydney and London can sacrifice 4 litres or 8 per cent of body water.
Jonathan Cohen, medical director of Travel Clinics Australia, says people are prone to dehydration while flying because cabin air is depressurised and dehumidified from the usual range of 50 to 80 per cent down to 10 or 20 per cent. “Unless extra fluids are continuously taken, the body loses a lot of water over the time of the flight and this can be compounded by drinking a lot of tea, coffee or alcohol which all have a diuretic action to increase fluid loss,’’ he says.
“Symptoms include thirst, increased heart rate, tiredness and feeling light-headed and, if more severe, can progress to nausea, mental clouding and severe malaise with fainting a natural body reflex that makes us fall in order for blood to reach the brain. Maintaining adequate hydration is vital for normal functions, and is especially important when travelling as we tend to be more active.’’
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?
Dr Cohen says the most efficient way to complete a sky-high journey in good nick is to drink nourishing liquids during the jaunt. “The general recommended intake is at least 1.5 to 2 litres daily – increased to 2 to 3 litres over a 10 to 15-hour flight – so aim to drink a glass of water or juice every hour, alternate with water between every drink containing alcohol or caffeine. Oral rehydration solutions like Gastrolyte or Hydralyte can help.’’
COPY THE CREW
Flight attendants carry their empty water bottle through airport security, then fill the container once past the X-ray machines. “Airside’’, Qantas staff add a slice of lemon or drop of apple juice to help the body absorb the nourishment rather than simply passing through the system. Crew sip green tea instead of coffee when seeking a boost, and pack low-salt snacks to eat instead of airline food. Jetstar flight attendant Larissa Sheppard says that after 12 years of flying she knows to “always start with a big bottle and take small sips during the flight’’. “It’s a bit of a myth you shouldn’t drink coffee or tea, as long as you don’t have too much, and cosmetically the crew loves face mist as well as lip balm or lip gloss and lots of moisturiser,’’ she says.
While passengers, especially those flying economy, are encouraged to take a personal water bottle to be filled after clearing security, remember that bag check is completed at the gate in airports like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok so when in doubt leave it empty until on board.
Samantha Lippiatt, co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel, says while savvy flyers know to skip the booze and avoid salty foods there are ways to revive after touchdown. “Drink lots of water to help your body expel waste and reduce bloating and, if you’ve landed in a tropical destination, order a fresh coconut which is not only tasty but contains a large dose of nutrients,’’ Samantha says. “Eat water-rich foods such as celery, lettuce, spinach, cucumber, capsicum, tomato and in-season fruits because, with salts and natural sugars, the water within is easily drawn across the digestive membrane into the bloodstream to nourish the body. Even though you might feel tired and groggy, skip tea and coffee, and if you can’t abstain from alcohol, stick to clear liquids like vodka and gin mixing with soda, and alternate with water.’’