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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Babayode

Airline Food – Its Impact On Healthy Flying & Jet Lag

KLM joins the list of airlines trying to entice us with appetizing meals at 36,000 ft. From September the airline will offer upgraded meals in economy, for a fee if ordered in advance.  It joins British Airways, All Nippon Airlines (ANA) and many others  in tinkering with its meal offering to try and entertain its passengers.

ANA reintroduced its classic burger on routes to Europe and North America.  British Airways enrolled Heston Blumenthal, a Michelin starred chef to improve meals on board its aircraft. Heston’s quest made entertaining TV and little else. The challenge  presented by the pressurized aircraft cabin proved to be too much for the taste buds! The pressurized cabin is impactful whether it be airline food, healthy flying or jet lag.

The type of foods served on planes is as much an important part of the quest to encourage healthy flying as anything else. Airlines serve a lot of crap, there is no way around it!  What may surprise you is that there is good reason to do so. Airlines recognize the link between creating emotional certainty (through food) in an uncertain environment ( flying is unnatural). They offer you sugar and carb laden meals to put you at ease while you fly – and if you travel in first class, all I can says is some of you need more emotional certainty than others!

Pressurized aircraft cabins adversely affect human physiology. Factors like humidity moisture and ambient air oxygen are all reduced. This causes difficulty in normal functions we take for granted on the ground including digestion. Food digestion is not optimal.  Acids build up quickly, these conditions set the scene for fatigue, lethargy, indigestion and other symptoms related to jet lag. It is important note that acidosis is never a good precursor for jet lag.

If you observe any healthy frequent flier you will notice they dine sparingly if at all. Most prefer to eat  in the lounge on the ground. These are good habits to cultivate if you can. Alternatively meals that  are more alkaline in nature are the perfect antidote. Eating them before during and after your journey can help you combat jet lag and any symptoms you encounter (depending on your baseline acidity from your lifestyle). Most fliers dehydrate quite rapidly when travelling, the dehydrated state is a forewarning of a build up of acids in the body. Drinking plenty of quality water and alkalizing fruits and vegetables will help reverse this. Educating fliers of the consequences of certain types of foods at altitude should also be mandatory. At the moment most people are unaware and might make better choices if they were explained properly.

Going even further, the link between acidosis and increased stress is firmly established.  Flying is stressful and physically demanding without loading bad airline food into the equation. A stressed body is prone to a low running immune system which undermines health and can feature in chronic and acute health challenges. Hormone challenges, adrenal fatigue and complications of the auto-immune system are some I have come across in clinical practice.

The often quoted maxim “You are what you eat” is particularly relevant when it comes to eating at altitude and it can have immediate and long term effects  on how healthy a flier you are.

Photo attributed to Like_The _Grand_Canyon. Creative Commons License.



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