Overcoming the Health Challenges Faced by Frequent Flyers
Being a frequent flyer is tough in today’s world. It saps health, vitality and contributes to lost productivity. Success on the road requires you to be proactive in pursuit of health. Besides jet lag, constipation and other inconveniences the occasional traveller suffers from, frequent flyers have more serious health concerns to contend with. These include Jet Stress (which is chronically acute jet lag), energy bankruptcy, sleep challenges, the hormonal seesaw and adrenal fatigue. As a consequence of multiple trips with little time to fully recover, frequent flyers are at a significant disadvantage. They are jet stressed rather than jet lagged. This is how you go about redressing the balance.
Energy, the currency of life is even more important if you are a frequent flyer. Criss-crossing the world on business leaves you subject to lots of change. The change offers you physical, emotional and psychological stress. The roller coaster of achieving work/life balance means you are often in a state of flux between types of stressors. If this sounds like you, chances are you are heading towards energy bankruptcy.
As a flyer you have to get your priorities straight, managing your energy is one of them. Be prepared, grasp the idea that uncertainty is a way of life for you and you always need something in reserve. Self-knowledge about your own energy rhythms is vital. Are you a morning person or a night-time person? Knowing your patterns allows you to tailor your energy refueling pit stops accordingly. Tools at your disposal include low glycaemic snacks (these tend to have fibre so they release a steady stream of energy) short naps, meditation, a short walk, fresh air, humour, relaxing music and time away from your desk.
Jet lag is synonymous with sleep challenges and is the bane of all flyers. A more granular distinction for frequent flyers may be the difference between sleep quantity vs. sleep quality. Frequent flyers tend to be prone to more sleep quality disruption rather than a lack of sleep per-se. Latitudinal travel’s effect on the hormonal patterns of flyers encourages sleep disruption of both kinds. While sleep disruption is telling on wellbeing, the more insidious caution for flyers is twofold, the aforementioned loss of sleep quality and the net loss of melatonin. Melatonin mediates sleep onset, and is triggered by daylight, but its net loss due to insufficient daylight exposure is a challenge because it is also a powerful super antioxidant. Low melatonin status is a chink in the armour of immunity.
The sustainable solution lies in tapping into Sleep Technology, these are tools you can use to enhance the quality of your sleep so you wake up rested. It consists of apps, brain training tools, low-tech gadgets (magnetic insoles, sleep mask), high tech gadgets (electronic sleep mask), nutritional protocols and common sense advice. The beauty of sleep technology is that you can pick and choose which tools suit you.
In the lifestyle of a frequent flyer, energy bankruptcy and sleep challenges are signposts to the bigger picture, the hormonal seesaw. Melatonin (mentioned above) and all hormones work together via a biofeedback loop. i.e. the presence of a hormone in the blood affects the others. This means the balancing act is more likely to be off kilter the more you fly. As such you need to build in a solution, as this imbalance will be a constant feature for your lifestyle.
Two of the best options are supplementation and exercise. However, before you get to that point it would be wise to look at your diet first, as food choices can influence hormones for better or worse. Once you have eliminated foods that are not supporting a healthy hormone profile, you might want to start with the sexual hormone supporting cast, which is the seat of your drive. Progesterone, Testosterone, DHEA, Vitamin D3, and Cholesterol can be coaxed back to norms and beneficial ranges through direct supplementation, exercise, diet or a combination thereof.
Adrenal fatigue is a warning sign to flyers that they are seriously scraping the barrel. Not only is physical energy at a low but also stress is very high. Doing something about health is critical otherwise complicated health pictures can arise. The best way to go about it is reduce all sources of stress (including taking time off work) and consulting with an Endocrinologist. Dietary and lifestyle choices can support the work one does in this area but are most useful once a baseline has been established with a competent practitioner.
Taken together, these challenges to frequent flyer health point to one conclusion: staying healthy while traveling is a marathon not a sprint. The tools chosen to deal with this challenge should be healthful and compatible with a healthy lifestyle,nothing less will do.