June 19, 2024

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I’m a flight attendant – this is why you should avoid aeroplane food on long-haul trips

6 min read

A flight attendant has revealed why you should skip airline food on long haul plane journeys.

Kris Major, who is based in London and has over 24 years’ experience in the skies on long haul flights, suggested eating before boarding it key.

He claimed skipping the inflight meals will make your long haul trip far more enjoyable if you are on a shorter long haul route such as London to New York.

Speaking to CNN Travel he explained: ‘Most airlines don’t particularly plan their [food] service around the passenger and acclimatisation and time zones crossing.’

Kris, who who also represents European flight attendants and pilots as chair of the European Transport Workers’ Federation’s Joint Aircrew Committee, claimed getting as much sleep as possible on the plane is key.

He added: ‘The seasoned travelers, after takeoff, you go down the cabin and you can see that they’re gone – they’ve covered themselves up and they’re asleep.’

As the cabin food and drink service can take up to two hours, Kris pointed out that travellers are losing valuable time to rest and won’t feel as refreshed when they land.

Eating at odd times compared to your usual routine can also upset your natural sleep/wake routine and your stomach, which can lead to jet lag. 

Trapped wind, constipation and bloating can be exacerbated by dehydration and being sedentary while on a plane, as well as by confusing your digestive system. 

Of course, on a really long flight, it’s near-impossible to avoid the food, but Kris suggested if you are being offered numerous meals, you could consider skipping one of them. 

Gut health specialist Dr Laura Falvey recommended time restricted eating (TRE), telling Metro.co.uk: ‘Although it’s tempting to abandon your routine when travelling, sticking to lighter, easier to digest foods eaten at your normal times will really help to minimise any uncomfortable digestive issues.’ 

It comes after scientists in the US claimed beating jet lag is all about what and when you eat.

They say having a single, larger meal in the early morning for three days after landing can knock jetlag on the head, although the older you get the less likely it is to work.

The experts agree taking a walk in the sunshine is another good tip, so combining this with the new advice puts travellers on the best course for recovery.

It’s already known that one of the worst things you can do for jet lag is refusing to assimilate with your new time zone, such as going to sleep during the day.

The new study was conducted by experts at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico.

What causes jet lag?

Jet lag happens when long haul travel disrupts your body clock – or circadian rhythm.

This internal cycle of bodily functions is synchronised to the 24-hour pattern of the Earth’s rotation.

So when people fly through different time zones, their senses are affected. 

Waking in the night, tiredness, wonky hunger patterns and even digestive problems and severe headaches are all common complaints from jet lag sufferers.

‘Having a larger meal in the early morning of the new time zone can help overcome jet lag,’ said study author Yitong Huang at Northwestern University.

‘Constantly shifting meal schedules or having a meal at night is discouraged, as it can lead to misalignment between internal clocks.’

Jetlag is caused by disruptions to the innate biological clock in humans, called the circadian rhythm, which regulates when we become sleepy and when we’re more alert.

Modern research has shown that circadian clocks are present in almost every cell and tissue in the human body, and can vary from organ to organ.

For instance, the main clock in the brain is a group of about 20,000 nerve cells that form a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which receives direct input from the eyes.

The brain’s clock can be reset by exposure to sunlight, which is why jetlag sufferers are recommended to soak up daylight in their new location rather than succumbing to sleep.

Specifically, sunlight affects the production of a hormone called melatonin (produced by the pineal gland in the brain) which helps to regulate sleep.

When we’re exposed to sunlight, the production of melatonin is suppressed, which helps us to stay awake during the day.

Meanwhile, peripheral organs such as the stomach and the liver have their own separate clocks that are recalibrated by food – namely, what and when we eat.

Jet lag can result when these clocks drift out of sync with each other, the research team say.

‘Conflicting signals, such as warm weather during a short period of light or nighttime eating – eating when your brain is about to rest – can confuse internal clocks and cause desynchrony,’ said Huang.

TIPS TO PREVENT AND TREAT JET LAG

TAKE A WALK 

Going for a walk in the sunshine is better than taking a nap to combat jet lag, airline research in 2019 found.

Qantas and University of Sydney fatigue specialists from the Charles Perkins Centre released their findings into how passengers cope with long, overseas flights.

Specialist sleep researcher Dr Yu Sun Bin, from the university team, said less than half of Qantas passengers surveyed took a walk outside after arriving at their destination.

‘We know that going outdoors for sunlight at the destination is one of the most important strategies for syncing the body clock, but only 47 per cent of passengers made the effort to do it,’ she said.

Sleep experts recommend walking outside after a long flight so a traveller can adjust to a new time zone. 

AVOID BOOZE 

Dr Sun Bin also recommended that passengers cut back on the amount of beer and wine they consume on a long flight.

‘Drinking more than a few glasses of alcohol will make jet lag worse,’ she said.

‘It might make us fall asleep faster but beyond a certain point, it also disrupts the quality of sleep and causes dehydration.’ 

The NHS says: ‘Do not drink too much caffeine or alcohol – they can make jet lag worse.’

EAT SUPERFOODS

Lemons have properties that will help to fight off dehydration, bananas are rich in potassium and magnesium, which act as natural muscle relaxants, and cherries a natural food source of melatonin, a hormone that helps to reset the body’s clock.

Goji berries can enhance sleep quality and fresh ginger is another source of melatonin, according to luxury hotel chain Swissotel. 

If jet lag has affected your digestive problems, munching on super grain, quinoa, can offer some relief.  

…BUT DOES MELATONIN WORK?

Melatonin is a natural hormone released by the body in the evening to let your brain know it’s time to sleep – and it comes in tablet form as a method to reduce jetlag. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, melatonin aids sleep during times when you wouldn’t normally be resting, making it beneficial for people with jet lag.

‘As a jet lag remedy and sleep aid, melatonin has been widely studied, and it’s now a commonly accepted part of effective jet lag treatment,’ Mayo Clinic says. 

‘Your body treats melatonin as a darkness signal, so melatonin generally has the opposite effect of bright light.’ 

However, the NHS says melatonin tablets are not recommended for jet lag because there’s not enough evidence to show they work.

NHS tips to prevent jetlag are drinking plenty of water, keeping active by stretching and regularly walking around the cabin and trying to sleep if it’s night time at your destination. 

When arrived at your location, the NHS also advises changing your sleep schedule to the new time zone as quickly as possible, setting an alarm to avoid oversleeping in the morning and going outside during the day to soak up the natural light.  

Source: I’m a flight attendant – this is why you should avoid aeroplane food on long-haul trips (msn.com)

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