Fly fearlessly

Here are some tips on earning your wings in a healthy way

By Barbara Pierce

Though we’ll be herded like cattle and fleeced like sheep before being squeezed into tiny seats for hours, many of us will get on a plane this summer.

Traveling by air can be stressful, with a tiring string of hardships, adversity, confrontations, humiliations and unforeseen scams. Yet we’ve got to do it to get to where we want to go.

But a long flight doesn’t have to equal suffering. Here’s how expert Crystal Hein, registered dietician and nutrition educator and the owner and operator of Crystal Clear Nutrition in Herkimer, recommends you make the best of it:

— “First and foremost, try to keep to your usual eating habits and patterns. You may want to avoid large, high-fat meals the night before,” she recommends. It’s important to eat a good meal before you fly. Getting on a plane with an empty stomach is guaranteed to make you feel nauseous.

Eat a smaller, filling meal that includes things like eggs and whole wheat toast. Stay away from greasy, spicy and salty foods.

— Take healthy foods to bring to eat on your trip. “Try healthier foods and snack choices,” advises Hein. “High calorie, high-fat foods like pastries, candy bars, soda or fast foods can make us feel lethargic and run down.”

“Look for healthier choices like fruits, vegetables, dairy, and lean protein, which can’t always be a last minute purchase at the airport. Plan and bring your own nonperishable snacks — trail mix, nuts, whole grain crackers or granola or protein bars.”

“If you have issues with motion sickness, I would eat small, frequent meals as you feel able. And keep well hydrated. Dry crackers or ginger ale might help to sooth your stomach,” Hein added.

Drink lots of water, advises Hein — before you board, while you are on the plane, and after you land. It will help to keep you from getting dehydrated and feeling nauseous. The humidity in the cabin is much lower than usual and can lead to dehydration if you don’t keep hydrated.

“Water is the best way to stay hydrated. You will know you are well hydrated when your urine is pale yellow (lemonade color),” Hein said.

Have some fluidity

Purchase your own water bottle at the airport after you’ve gone through security so you don’t have to depend on the beverage service to get enough water.

“Avoid drinking a lot of alcohol,” she adds. “The dry environment of the plane cabin and the diuretic effect of the alcohol will result in quickly feeling dehydrated,” Hein added. Common sense should determine how much alcohol you consume.

Coffee and carbonated drinks can also cause dehydration. If you need ginger ale to settle your stomach, try drinking one cup of water for every cup of soda you drink.

— Dress for comfort. Don’t wear jeans; they’re too restricting. Wear layers so you can take them off, like a T-shirt with a warmer shirt or jacket over it. Keeping cool decreases motion sickness. So does your overhead fan; keep it on if you have motion sickness.

— Take off your shoes for long flights. Wear thick socks or easy-to-slip-on shoes.

Sitting in tight quarters for hours affects blood flow throughout your body, leading to swelling in your feet and ankles. The risk of a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) increases when blood isn’t circulating well. Risk factors for this include being obese, pregnant or postpartum, on birth control pills, over age 40, or having a serious medical illness.

Compression stockings and even the use of anti-coagulant drugs benefit people with underlying risk factors.

Talk to your doctor if you are at risk and planning a flight.

— If you’re short, consider bringing a lightweight, collapsible footstool to put under the seat in front of you so you can stretch out and elevate your legs. If you’re tall, get an aisle seat.

— Airsickness is often caused by a fear of flying, called pteromerhanophobia.

If your anxiety causes you to feel nauseous, reassuring yourself that you’re OK can help calm you down. Lean the seat as far back as it will go. Take relaxing breaths. Deep breaths could make you hyperventilate. Relaxing breaths are a normal inhale and long exhale. Breathing like this sends your body and brain the message that you are OK.

When you look out the window, you are less likely to feel nauseous and dizzy, so choose a window seat. And sit above a wing of the plane or near the front, as you’ll feel less motion in those spots.

— Don’t read. Staring at a stationary page of a book while your body is in motion can cause you to feel nauseous. Even if the chapter you just finished ended with a cliffhanger, try to keep the book closed.