At the start of your travels, your biggest priorities tend to be packing, not forgetting your ID and actually making your flight. With self-care being hard enough on land, it’s probably a lower priority at 30,000 feet. Staying well when flying in a hermetically sealed air conditioner is probably somewhere lower on your list.
But when you’re at elevated altitudes it should be a top priority.
Speaking with Dr. Johnathan Leary—the first and only Concierge Wellness Doctor whose mission is to bring the care he gave to professional athletes to the average person, he noted that self-care when flying should be a priority because your body experiences a host of stressors. Here are his top to-do’s before, during, and after your flight to combat everything that’s taxing your body.
BODY STRESSOR: DEHYDRATION
THE FIX: DRINK ALL THE WATER, AND NONE OF THE COFFEE, TEA, OR ALCOHOL
Flying is the equivalent to being in a simulation desert with humidity levels plummeting. For every three hours you’re up in the air you can lose up to a liter and a half to three liters of water. This can cause serious dehydration by the time you land. Remember, a sure-fire way to get sick or feel like you just flew cargo class is drinking diuretics. Coffee, black tea and alcohol all speed up water loss in-flight.
BODY STRESSOR: DIGESTION
THE FIX: TRY MAGNESIUM
Air pressure changes with rising altitudes. This pressure builds inside your muscles and intestines, and without getting too graphic, often causes bloating constipation, and gut pain. While you can take a vegan probiotic, Dr. Leary swears by magnesium as it relaxes the muscles (including your intestines). (bonus: also helps with sleep if you’re taking a red eye). Don’t take too much as this can make you run to the bathroom. Dr. Leary recommends starting with 300mg and building or reducing your dose from there (he also recommends discovering your dose pre-flight).
BODY STRESSOR: INCREASED CHANCE OF COLD
THE FIX: EAT ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS AND TAKE VETTED SUPPLEMENTS
Short of wearing a hazmat suit, it’s hard to limit your exposure to bacteria and viruses on a plane. Dr. Leary recommends making sure you treat your body kindly so it’s in the best shape it can be before boarding. Bringing natural supplements and antibiotics on your flight, such as oregano oil, which, as long as it’s pure and USDA Organic Certified, is a natural antibiotic. Put 3-5 drops under your tongue every few hours during your flight.
Another supplement Dr. Leary recommends is CBD. Xanax and more serious medications will knock you out, and as Dr. Leary notes, “you should always try a holistic remedy as the first line of defense– there are side effects to every drug.” CBD is legal in the United States, and safe to bring on planes for domestic flights (if you are flying outside the US, don’t risk flying with CBD!) It’s anti-inflammatory and also has been shown to reduce cortisol or stress hormones which have been known to rise when you’re in-flight. Start with 25-50mg depending on your weight, and use a dropper to put the pure oil under your tongue.
BODY STRESSOR: TIGHT MUSCLES
THE FIX: A LACROSSE BALL
You might see different tools and contraptions to release your tight muscles but Dr. Leary says the best investment is a Lacrosse ball which typically retails for about a dollar. “They’re the perfect size, fit in any bag or pocket, and are better at getting tough-to-reach spots like your hip flexors” Dr. Leary notes. It’s important to reach those flexors as the hip flexors tighten when you’re seated. When you stand up, that tightness pulls on your back and can cause lower-back pain after a flight.
BODY STRESSOR: STILL NOT FEELING GREAT?
THE FIX: GO TO REMEDY
In 2019 Dr. Leary is launching a holistic remedy center called REMEDY where the goal is to find a holistic antidote for every stressor ranging from digestion, to pain, to resetting your circadian rhythm.
While this all may seem like a lot of “work” before taking a flight, preventing a cold or an injury will save you a lot of time once you land as you’ll be able to hit the tarmac running. Staying healthy is just as important as making sure you packed your toothbrush and enough socks, and feeling great is always worth the extra effort.