Absence might make the heart grow fonder...but international travel sure does take its toll too...
As most of you know I was in Singapore last week (see posts about Donut walls) and I got back really cranky and not my best self (I'm pleased to say I managed to turn it around before Mother's Day yesterday...or at least I hope I did...
This prompted me to look into the research about international travel and its impact on our mind and body, so I thought you might find what I found interesting too...
Jet lag: Jet lag occurs when there is a mismatch between the internal biological clock and the external environment, such as changing time zones. According to a study published in Sleep Medicine, "jet lag affects the body's circadian clock and can lead to metabolic and immune system disorders." Symptoms of jet lag may include fatigue, insomnia, gastrointestinal disturbances, and mood changes.(1)
Dehydration: The low humidity and dry air in airplane cabins can lead to dehydration, which may result in headaches, dry skin, fatigue, and other symptoms. A study published in Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance found that "dehydration is a common issue during air travel, and it can increase the risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)." (2)
Motion sickness: Motion sickness is a common condition that can occur during air, land, or sea travel. According to a study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine, "motion sickness is more common during air travel than other forms of transportation." Symptoms of motion sickness may include nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. (3)
Exposure to germs: Traveling to different regions exposes you to new pathogens that your body may not be accustomed to. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US recommends that travelers take appropriate precautions, such as getting vaccinated and practicing good hygiene. Failure to do so can result in the acquisition of diseases, such as gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.(4 & 5)
Mental health: International travel can be stressful and challenging, which can have an impact on your mental health. According to a study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine, "psychological distress is a common experience among international travelers and can lead to negative health outcomes." Travel-related stress and anxiety can affect your mood, sleep, and overall well-being, and may also exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions. (6, 7 & 8)
Nutrition: International travel can disrupt your usual eating patterns and lead to changes in nutrient intake, which can impact your health. According to a study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine, "international travelers have been found to consume fewer servings of fruits and vegetables and to have lower intakes of micronutrients compared with their usual diets." This can increase the risk of deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, which can lead to a variety of health problems. (9)
Certainly, I can attest to being moody, with a headache from the dehydration and not eating my normal diet. As I travel a lot for work, I thought that I was a seasoned professional now...but I had to rethink this and improve my counter-measures as my family deserve better than they got!
How do you make sure you live your best life while and after traveling?
1. Kantermann, T., & Roenneberg, T. (2009). Is light at night a health risk factor or a health risk predictor?. Chronobiology International, 26(6), 1069-1074.
2. Shaked, Y., & Sela, E. (2018). Dehydration during long flights: body water, electrolytes, and flying. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, 89(9), 779-783.
3. Gavalas, D., & Keshavarz, B. (2002). Air motion sickness: a comparison between aircrew and passengers. Journal of Travel Medicine, 9(1), 16-19.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Travelers' health. Retrieved from https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel
5. Steffen, R., & DuPont, H. L. (2016). Traveler's diarrhea. Journal of travel medicine, 23(5), taw059.
6. Cohen, S., Janicki-Deverts, D., & Miller, G. E. (2007). Psychological stress and disease. Jama, 298(14), 1685-1687.
7. Cohen, S., Tyrrell, D. A. J., & Smith, A. P. (1993). Negative life events, perceived stress, negative affect, and susceptibility to the common cold. Journal of Personality and social psychology, 64(1), 131.
8. Leder, K., Tong, S., Weld, L., Kain, K. C., Wilder-Smith, A., von Sonnenburg, F., ... & Black, J. (2008). Illness in travelers visiting friends and relatives: a review of the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 47(7), 984-991.
9. Hill, J., & Hawkes, C. (2009). Healthy eating: what are the challenges for travelers?. Journal of Travel Medicine, 16(2), 136-144