Have you ever stopped to think about what exactly happens to your body when you fly? Have you ever considered that your body is under completely different conditions and needs different support at 35,000ft in the air? What does this mean for those of us who fly multiple times a month?
The lifestyle of a jetsetter is often glamorized through social media and marketing, but what is really going on with our health?
The good news is that once you are aware of what happens to you when you fly you can take the proper measures to nourish and support your body when you travel.
So what exactly happens to your body when you fly?
Well, it basically boils down to these 6 concerns for frequent flyers:
1. You are exposed to Cosmic Radiation
What the heck is Cosmic Radiation? Basically, it's radiation from the sun, and at ground level this isn't a problem, but once you put yourself into a metal tube and fly to altitudes of 30,000-40,000 feet this can become a big problem over time.
"You can't see it or feel them, but at any given moment, tens of thousands of highly charged particles are soaring through space and slamming into Earth from all directions.
These particles, sometimes called cosmic rays or cosmic ionizing radiation, originate from the farthest reaches of the Milky Way. They're bits and pieces of atomic cores shot to nearly light-speed by black holes and exploding stars, and they smash into (and through) anything and everything in their way.
With that incredible speed and energy, it's no surprise cosmic rays can easily penetrate human flesh and, in the process, pose risks to our health. Their damage to tissues and DNA have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, for example."
2. Your body becomes dehydrated.
What is your go-to beverage on flights? Most people opt for coffee or an alcoholic beverage of sorts- mix that with air that's dryer than the Sahara desert and you have a dehydration cocktail.
Dehydration can cause severe headaches, parched skin and lips, and fatigue. Having dehydrated mucous membranes (especially in the nose) leaves us more vulnerable to airborne viruses as well.
3. Your circulation is impaired.
Blood can pool in your legs and circulation can slow down if you are standing on your feet or if you are sitting for too long. Narrow seats, limited leg room and a lack of mobility are problematic for both pilots and passengers; and flight attendants can sometimes be on their feet for hours at a time during a busy flight before they even get the chance to rest.
So what are the consequences of poor circulation? Well, blood circulation is essential for your overall health, spreading oxygen and nutrients throughout your entire body. When circulation is impaired, blood pools in your leg veins, contributing to foot swelling by forcing fluids out of the blood and into the surrounding tissue. More serious problems like varicose veins or blood clots can also result.
4. Your immune system suffers.
You can imagine that spending hours in a confined space, with hundreds of strangers from all around the world, all while breathing in recycled air can severely impact your immune system. Catching a cold is 100 times higher on an airplane because not only are you exposed to tons of germs, but the fatigue and jet lag can even switch off genes that are linked to the immune system.
This means that frequent flyers have a suppressed immune system and therefore aren't as well equipped to fight off colds and viruses compared to people who travel less frequently.
5. You will become bloated.
When you fly, your body goes into an immediate state of stress. When we are stressed, all of our body's energy goes to support our vital functions - like breathing and keeping our heart beating. What does this mean for digestion? Well, the blood in our digestive tract get rerouted to support our vital functions so there is a lot less energy to digest the food you eat.
Your under-functioning digestive system will have a harder time digesting the unhealthy, nutrient depleted plane food, and the air pressure changes cause build-ups of gas - it's clear why we feel bloated and experience all sorts of digestive disturbances while we fly.
6. Frequent flyers experience chronic jet lag and age faster.
Scientists now understand and agree that certain genes affect how fast we age—and it appears the more someone travels by air, the faster they age.
"Frequent flying can lead to chronic jet lag, which can cause memory impairment and has been linked in studies to disrupting gene expression that influences aging and the immune system, and increased risk of heart attack or stroke."