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How to Steer Clear of Jet Lag
by Chris Kilham
A couple days ago, I received a somewhat sobering piece of mail from a major U.S. airline, congratulating me for having flown over a million miles with their frequent flier program. They seemed jubilant. Given that they are one of several carriers I use, I grasped just how much I fly – a lot.
But here’s the truth. I haven’t had jet lag in decades. In 1984, I returned from a trip to India and was so wiped out, I lay around for a couple of days, trying to get back to U.S. time. After that, I pledged not to go through that experience again. And since then, I have steered clear of jet lag. Send me to Chicago or send me to Delhi, I’ll arrive in good shape and in that time zone. Do I have some recommendations to share? Of course.
With travel, many things make a difference. Start out rested, if possible. If you are flying, try to get a decent night’s sleep the night before. This will help everything. No matter what, we need rest for recovery and repair.
Regular exercise, including walking, will help to reduce stress hormones in your body and keep you in better shape. I see a lot of beat-up people on planes who obviously don’t take time to stay in shape. That immediately puts travelers at a disadvantage. Take care of yourself.
Water is your friend. Drink plain water, in adequate enough quantities, to keep yourself well-hydrated. Dehydration on extended flights unquestionably contributes to post flight funk. Green tea is also your friend. High in super-protective antioxidants, green tea enhances immunity. That matters when you are up in the air breathing everybody else’s exhalations.
Drink little or no alcohol on planes. Oh, traveler, heed this advice. Those who imbibe liberally on flights usually pay for it in the form of fatigue and jet lag later. A glass of wine? Alright. But keep it at that. At 35,000 feet, alcohol is not your friend.
Meditate on flights for at least a few minutes. Sitting quietly with your eyes closed, relaxing as fully as possible, you will slow down your entire body/mind system and find the flight more easy. You’ll appear to be peacefully napping.
Okay, now on to some supplements. I have used many different natural aids over the years and have made a lot of recommendations. Assembling all feedback in a totally ad hoc manner, here are my top picks:
Rhodiola rosea is numero uno on my list of jet lag fighters. If you will take 300 – 400 milligrams per day of standardized Rhodiola extract, you will greatly reduce the likelihood of jet lag. This is the big botanical, and if you have read my previous articles, you know I mention it regularly. Rhodiola enhances stamina and endurance, and provides enormous benefits to the brain and nervous system. It crushes stress by reducing stress hormones in the blood. It makes you feel very, very good and has powerful mood-enhancing properties.
Melatonin is a natural hormone manufactured in our brains. Melatonin plays a key role in sleep, time perception and the setting of our inner time mechanisms. Melatonin provides numerous benefits to the body and can aid the air traveler in sleeping on a plane, or regulating inner time in general. One or two milligrams per day of melatonin will do it. If you want to sleep on a flight, try melatonin before boarding.
Emergen-C is a branded product that exists in a class of its own, so forgive the plug. This unique blend of vitamin C and electrolytes in the form of mineral ascorbates revives you quickly, gives a quick shot of non-caffeinated energy and benefits the entire body. Just pour a packet of this effervescent C into water. Do that before and/or after flights, and you’ll notice a positive difference in how you feel.
Schisandra berry is high on my list of best-ever jet lag fighters. This northern Chinese medicinal berry imparts benefits to body and brain in a manner similar to Rhodiola. Found on the training tables of athletes throughout northern Asia, Schisandra, also known as Wu Wei Je, or five-flavored berry, enhances overall mental function, including alertness, memory, thought-formation and mental energy. Two-hundred milligrams of the standardized extract daily will keep you in fine fettle.
Ginseng, another northern Asian plant, has been proven to impart benefits to the brain, improve mental function, enhances stamina and increase oxygen utilization. You know those little ginseng vials that sell at cash registers? They work. Look for ones that contain 500 milligrams of ginseng each. Grab a few of those, and supplement your flying experience with the same thing the emperors used to keep vital.
Appropriately, I am writing this article on an airplane right now. The recommendations I have provided here really work. There is simply no good reason to suffer from jet lag, when you can eliminate that from your life and feel appreciably better. I wish you happy trails.