How traveling can trigger your flare-ups

Long-haul travel and staying in holiday resorts can impact your health. But there are things you can do to reduce your risk of flare-ups.

Here are some things you need to be aware of:

1. Bacterial composition of food and water

Bacteria are ever-present in the food and water you drink, but they can vary in different areas and countries (1–4).

Your bacterial gut composition (aka the microbiome) depends on what you eat and the quantity. Eating different ratios of certain foods might cause a flare-up lasting days or weeks. This can happen due to consumption of new bacteria or a higher amount of bacteria you’re already familiar with.

Overseas travels increases the risk of contracting infections, especially the ones that cause diarrhea. Even if the infection goes without an initial symptom, it can cause a long-term gastrointestinal (GI) flare-up (5).

Symptoms that might intensify:

  • Headache
  • Digestion problems
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Muscle pain
  • Neck swelling
  • Problems with swallowing

Talk to your doctor before traveling and make sure you pack the recommended remedies.

2. Airline food’s high salt content and preservatives

There are a few reasons why the food served in airplanes is high in salt.

Your sense of smell and taste doesn’t work well in a pressurized cabin at 35,000 feet (10km) above sea level.

Also, the cabin is very dry-with levels of dryness resembling the desert (6).

Mass-produced food usually contains salt as a preservative, as salt can prevent the outgrowth of bacteria and other pathogens that might spoil food and reduce shelf life (7).

Symptoms that might intensify:

  • Headache
  • Digestion problems
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Muscle pain
  • Dry skin
  • Neck swelling
  • Problems with swallowing

What you can do: bring your own nutrient dense and fiber rich food to eat during your flight-apples, pears, melons, and oranges are good choices.

3. Sitting, ozone exposure, and lack of fresh air during long-haul flights

When traveling, you might be sitting more than you usually would. The bacterial composition in your body changes depending on your activity (8).

When planes reach their cruising altitude, ozone (a harmful form of oxygen) enters the plane (9). Ozone is an irritant of the respiratory system, causing inflammation in the trachea and lungs.

Plane cabins are extremely dry, to a similar level of an arid environment (10). Long exposure to such dryness can lead to dry skin and irritation, as well a dry throat (11).

Symptoms that might intensify:

  • Headache
  • Problems with memory and focus
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Muscle pain
  • Dry skin
  • Problems with swallowing

What you can do: drink enough water to keep yourself hydrated and move around a bit when allowed.

4. Increased risk of catching a cold

Air is recycled on planes, which might increase your risk of catching airborne viruses or bacteria (12).

If the holidays are stressful for you, your immune system starts to slow down, which permits infections.

Symptoms that might intensify:

  • Headache
  • Problems with memory and focus
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Muscle pain
  • Problems with swallowing

What you can do: try to minimize your contact with surfaces in the plane, wash your hands after touching surfaces, and/or use some hand sanitizer.

5. Disrupted routines

Changes in your routine-including different eating schedules and patterns of sleep-can significantly impact your gut health. These factors can actually alter the type of bacteria living in your gut (13).

Overindulging in food and alcohol can increase the risk of a flare-up (14).

Symptoms that might intensify:

  • Headache
  • Problems with memory and focus
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Muscle pain
  • Problems with swallowing

What you can do: be mindful of how much extra you eat or drink. One day of some extra feasting should be fine, but several consecutive days can start causing problems.

How we write: our information is based on the results of peer reviewed studies using the National Library of Medicine platform. It is written by scientists and reviewed by external experts. If you believe we might have overseen crucial scientific information, please contact us at hello@boostthyroid.com

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, cure or diagnose any disease or condition. If you want to change your treatment, lifestyle, your diet, include supplements in your diet or have concerns about your health, please consult your doctor before trying new approaches.

References:

  1. Suzuki TA, et al. Geographical variation of human gut microbial composition, 2014
  2. Hasan N, et al. Factors affecting the composition of the gut microbiota, and its modulation, 2019
  3. De Filippo C, et al. Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa, 2010
  4. Yatsunenko T, et al. Human gut microbiome viewed across age and geography, 2012
  5. Verdu EF, et al. Chronic gastrointestinal consequences of acute infectious diarrhea: Evolving concepts in epidemiology and pathogenesis, 2012
  6. Spence C. Tasting in the air: A review, in revision, 2017
  7. Henney JE. Preservation and Physical Property Roles of Sodium in Foods Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake, 2010
  8. Backhed F, et al. Mechanisms underlying the resistance to diet-induced obesity in germ-free mice, 2007
  9. US EPA. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone. Federal Register Volume 73, Number 60, Rules and Regulations, 2008
  10. Brundret G. Comfort and health in commercial aircraft: a literature review, 2001
  11. Spengler JD, et al. Air quality in aircraft, 2003
  12. Leitmeyer K, et al. Review Article: Influenza Transmission on Aircraft, 2016
  13. Voigt RM, et al. Circadian disorganization alters intestinal microbiota, 2014
  14. Kushnir V, et al. Event-Specific Drinking in the General Population, 2014

Image: Unsplash; Design: VLM Health

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Dr. Vedrana Högqvist Tabor

Dr. Vedrana Högqvist Tabor

CEO @Boost_HealthApp|| TEDx speaker || Cancer hunter || Hashimoto’s patient|| Parentpreneur || Learning from own mistakes since 1977

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