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News - How to survive long-haul travel!

By Debbie Paddington Dip ION

According to a recent ‘travel trends survey’ by the travel website Trip Advisor, we are likely to travel more often in 2011 than we did last year and 66% of us will take a long-haul holiday. The survey also highlighted a growing concern about becoming ill while abroad. Good nutrition is an important way to ensure a happy healthy holiday. 


According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research, you may be more than 100 times as likely to catch a cold on a plane than in your normal daily life. Close quarters and shared air may be contributing factors to this, but it appears the most likely reason for the increased susceptibility to infection when flying is extremely low cabin humidity. The mucociliary clearance system is our body’s natural defence against colds and consists of a thin layer of mucus that is kept in motion by tiny hair like structures called cilia. This system traps bacteria and viruses and moves them from the nose and throat to the stomach, where they are destroyed. Dry air, however, causes the mucus to become thick and so the cilia can’t move it effectively. The typical relative humidity in aircraft cabins for flights over an hour is below 10% for most of the journey, often dropping to less than 5% on longer flights. Research has shown that under these conditions, the mucociliary clearance system either slows dramatically or stops completely. This leaves us more susceptible to viruses and bacteria that cause upper respiratory tract infections. However, if you do fall foul, the herb pelargonium is very effective at reducing the symptoms of a cold if taken as soon as the first signs appear. 

Drinking plenty of water is one essential way to help prevent the dehydrating effects of air travel. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee and cola, are best avoided as they can have a dehydrating effect on the body. Silver sprayed into the air, or on surfaces, tray tables and food utensils, may be a useful way to destroy harmful organisms. 

Making sure your immune system is in tip-top health before flying may also help. Vitamin C and zinc are important for a healthy immune system, so make sure you eat plenty of foods rich in these nutrients, such as fruit, vegetables, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal and lamb. 

Jet lag

Jet lag, which can last for several days, especially after a long-haul flight, can cause fatigue, irritability and sleepiness, as well as deplete the immune system. 5HTP is a useful amino acid that aids the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle if taken in the evening.

Traveller’s diarrhoea

Traveller’s diarrhoea is usually described as passing watery stools three or more times a day, either during or shortly after travelling. According to the NHS, approximately 30-50% of people travelling from a developed country to a developing country will experience traveller’s diarrhoea. Boosting your population of friendly intestinal bacteria before and during your holiday is a good idea for a happy digestive system. Lactobacillus sporogenes is a friendly bacterium that is not sensitive to heat, so it’s ideal to take on your travels, as there is no need for refrigeration. Grapefruit seed extract may support the digestive system and, taken every day while on holiday, it may help prevent any unwanted bacteria and other organisms from taking hold. 


Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a deep leg vein. Blood normally flows quickly through veins, and does not usually clot. Leg movement aids blood flow to the leg, because muscle action squeezes the veins. Limited movement and often-cramped seating can cause circulation to become sluggish, or damage blood vessel walls, which leads to an increased tendency for a clot to form. Research has shown that deep vein thrombosis is approximately three times more common in the eight weeks after a long-haul flight than at other times. You are most at risk if you are over 40, smoke, are on the pill, overweight or have had the condition before. Recommended advice to reduce the chances of DVT is to drink plenty of water, avoid drinking alcohol, get up and move around as often as possible and wear compression stockings to improve circulation. Studies have shown that fish oils, vitamin E and bromelain may help maintain healthy circulation.


Flying can be a turbulent experience. Even before you get into the air, there are queues, security checks, busy, noisy airports, delayed flights and bored kids. We hope our holiday will help us to escape the stress of our daily life, but flying abroad can be a stressful experience in itself. Taking rhodiola, a traditional herbal remedy, may help with the temporary relief of stress symptoms, such as anxiety, fatigue and exhaustion. Nutrients such as theanine, lemon balm and magnesium may help to support the nervous system, promoting a feeling of relaxation.

Holiday blues

According to the Post Office, there could be as much as £100 million in foreign currency lying about unchanged in households across the UK. The reason we hold onto our foreign currency, the Post Office state, is because we suffer post holiday blues, a condition that leaves us unable to complete chores such as changing our currency back, unpacking and doing the washing. So, as well as checking behind your sofa for all that loose change, consider taking nutrients such as tyrosine and B vitamins after your holiday to help get back your get up and go!

Article References

1) http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/travellersdiarrhoea/Pages/Introduction.aspx 2) http://www.cieh.org/JEHR/cold_transmission_aircraft.html 3) http://www.nhs.uk/news/2007/September/Pages/DVTrisktripledonlonghaulflights.aspx 4) http://www.statistics.gov.uk/StatBase/ssdataset.asp?vlnk=5197&More=Y 5) http://www.tripadvisor.com/PressCenter-i4430-c1-Press_Releases.html 6) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/731927/Get-away.html

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