Is Your Jet Lag Really Altitude Sickness?

Those with health conditions may be more prone to symptoms of Jet Lag, which are remarkably similar to Altitude Sickness. The common explanation for Jet Lag is Time Zone changes. Here is a different take on it. For the duration of the flight, you are sitting in a Hypobaric Chamber. That is the opposite of the Hyperbaric Chamber used to push oxygen into the body.

For the duration of your flight, you are sitting in a Hypobaric Chamber.

Jet Lag Symptoms

Symptoms of jet lag can vary. You may experience only one symptom or you may have many. If you have ever experienced higher altitude, you may have experienced symptoms similar to Jet Lag. The symptoms of Jet Lag may include:

  • Disturbed sleep — such as insomnia, early waking or excessive sleepiness
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or functioning at your usual level
  • Stomach problems, constipation or diarrhea
  • A general feeling of not being well
  • Mood changes
  • Symptoms are worse the farther you travel

Amazing similarity in symptoms between Jet Lag and Altitude Sickness.

Time Zone Jet Lag Theory

Let me ask this. Have you ever had to get up early or stay out late for some event? Essentially, having to get up early or staying out late is the same as changing time zone. Another example would be Day Light Saving that just occurred. You gain or lose an hour every year. Yet, you do not experience Jet Lag. Something else must be occurring.

Hypoxia Jet Lag Theory

If you have ever experienced higher altitude, you may have experienced symptoms similar to Jet Lag. But you knew you were at a higher altitude and knew that when you returned home the symptoms would disappear. Some reading this will claim they feel better when flying or vacationing at higher altitudes. That is indicative of having low blood pressure and the gas in the body expands increasing their blood pressure. I have several patients that go to mountain retreats or visit relatives at higher elevations reporting they feel better. Again it is always attributed to the meditation or relief from daily stressors and never the altitude changing their physiology.

If you experience Altitude Symptoms in Denver, you will experience the same symptoms flying.

Jet lag symptoms usually occur within a day or two of travel if you’ve traveled across at least two time zones. Symptoms are likely to be worse or last longer the more time zones that you’ve crossed. Said another way, the more time zone you cross, the longer you are sitting in a Hypobaric Chamber. Airline Cabins are pressurized to 8,000 feet. It usually takes about a day to recover for each time zone crossed.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness —also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), altitude illness, hypobaropathy, the altitude bends, or soroche —is a pathological effect of high altitude on humans, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. It commonly occurs above 8,000 feet (2,400 metres).

What causes altitude sickness?

Air is “thinner” at high altitudes. When you go too high too fast, your body cannot get as much oxygen as it needs. If you are hiking or vacationing at high altitudes, the symptoms may be worse if your body is slow to acclimate. It takes hours to get to the high altitude. However, if you are flying it takes minutes to arrive at 8,000 feet.

What are the Symptoms?

Mild- to moderate- instances of altitude sickness are very common among travelers to higher elevations: at 4,900 feet (Denver is 5280 ft.) and above, 75% of people will experience at least mild altitude sickness. Altitude sickness has a wide range of potential symptoms and has often been described as feeling like a hangover or the onset of the flu. Symptoms can appear as early as two hours after arrival and can include:

  • A headache, which is usually throbbing. It gets worse during the night and when you wake up.
  • Not feeling like eating.
  • Feeling sick to your stomach. You may vomit.
  • Feeling weak and tired. In severe cases, you do not have the energy to eat, dress yourself, or do anything.
  • Waking up during the night and not sleeping well.
  • Feeling dizzy.

Your symptoms may be mild to severe. They may not start until a day after you have been at a high altitude. Many people say altitude sickness feels like having a hangover.

Altitude sickness can affect your lungs and brain. When this happens, symptoms include being confused, not being able to walk straight (ataxia), feeling faint, and having blue or gray lips or fingernails.

Airline Cabin Air Pressure

Although aircraft cabins are pressurized, cabin air pressure at cruising altitude is not at the air pressure you took off at or at your destinations. At typical cruising altitudes in the range 33,000 – 40,000 feet (11,000–12,200 m), air pressure in the cabin is equivalent to the outside air pressure at 6000–8000 feet (1800–2400 m) above sea level. As a consequence, less oxygen is taken up by the blood (hypoxia) and gases within the body expand. Have you ever noticed the need to pass gas occurring more often when flying? The effects of reduced cabin air pressure are usually well tolerated by healthy passengers.

Oxygen and Hypoxia

Cabin air contains ample oxygen for healthy passengers and crew. However, because cabin air pressure is relatively low, the amount of oxygen carried in the blood is reduced compared with that at sea level. Passengers with certain medical conditions, particularly heart and lung diseases and blood disorders such as anemia (in particular sickle-cell anemia), may not tolerate this reduced oxygen level (hypoxia) very well. Those with Insulin Resistance and/or Autoimmune conditions may also experience symptoms.

Gas Expansion

As the aircraft climbs in altitude after take-off, the decreasing cabin air pressure causes gases to expand. Similarly, as the aircraft descends in altitude before landing, the increasing pressure in the cabin causes gases to contract. These changes may have effects where air is trapped in the body. Have you ever boarded the plane with a plastic water bottle, drinking it while in flight? Did you notice how the bottle collapses as the plane descends. It was the air pressure that did this.

Passengers often experience a “popping” sensation in the ears caused by air escaping from the middle ear and the sinuses during the aircraft’s climb. This is not usually considered a problem. As the aircraft descends in altitude prior to landing, air must flow back into the middle ear and sinuses in order to equalize pressure. If this does not happen, the ears or sinuses may feel as if they are blocked and pain can result. Swallowing, chewing or yawning (“clearing the ears”) will usually relieve any discomfort. As soon as it is recognized that the problem will not resolve itself using these methods, a short forceful expiration against a pinched nose and closed mouth (Valsalva manoeuvre) should be tried and will usually help. For infants, feeding or giving a pacifier (dummy) to stimulate swallowing may reduce the symptoms.

Individuals with ear, nose and sinus infections should avoid flying because pain and injury may result from the inability to equalize pressure differences. If travel cannot be avoided, the use of decongestant nasal drops shortly before the flight and again before descent may be helpful.

As the aircraft climbs, expansion of gas in the abdomen can cause discomfort, although this is usually mild. This is why people feel the urge to pass gas when flying.

HOW DO YOU PREVENT ALTITUDE SICKNESS?

Though extremely common, it’s impossible to predict how Altitude Sickness Jet Lag will affect you. Your fitness level, age and sex have nothing to do with whether you’ll be more or less susceptible, and your best indicator might be whether you’ve experienced it on previous high elevation trips or air trips. However, there are some behaviors that may set the stage for the onset of symptoms, and avoiding them might ease your transition to high altitude.

  1. Hydrate

This is the best way to help your body adjust to high altitude. Generally the low humidity at altitude keeps the air dry, so you should drink twice as much water as you would at home.

Also keep in mind that you want to add water to your body, not deplete it. At least initially, avoid caffeine and alcohol.

  1. Replenish

Foods rich in potassium are great for acclimating. Some good staples to eat include broccoli, bananas, avocado, cantaloupe, celery, greens, bran, chocolate, granola, dates, dried fruit, potatoes and tomatoes.

  1. Easy does it

You’ve been planning an epic travel vacation for months. But this is the first time you’ve logged any time above 6,000 feet. You will feel the effects of after landing. Movement will help get oxygen back into your system.

  1. Supplements
  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is part of the B-complex of vitamins that are integral to many of the body’s functions. One of the most important roles of vitamin B12 is in the production of red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen throughout the body with the help of a protein called hemoglobin. A lack of vitamin B12 can cause a decrease in the amount of red blood cells and hemoglobin carrying oxygen in the blood stream.

  • Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll attaches to toxins and heavy metals and removes them from your body. It also increases your blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity by stimulating red blood cell production. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of chlorophyll contribute to its cleansing effects.

Chlorophyll is the molecule in plants that traps sunlight and converts it into energy. The chlorophyll molecule is also identical in structure to hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in your bloodstream, with one exception. Where hemoglobin attaches to oxygen, the chlorophyll molecule contains an atom of magnesium. The structural similarity lends itself to functional benefits, as well. Chlorophyll is thought to assist in various aspects related to cleansing and maintaining healthy blood.

All of the health benefits of liquid chlorophyll are easy to get on a daily basis. The simple way? Eat your greens and drink your greens.

I know we are always going on about the importance of greens in your diet, but this is one of the main reasons why – it ensures you’re getting plenty of chlorophyll!

Here are a few sources:

Green Drinks: Juiced yourself or made from powdered greens – green drinks are a dense source of alkalizing, chlorophyll rich greens that are easily assimilated by the body.

Chlorophyll: This is one of my top, top supplements – a concentrated, dense, tasteless (almost) source of liquid chlorophyll that you can add to any drink (water, juice, smoothie) to give your body a constant source of chlorophyll. It is amazing the difference it makes to your energy. Brilliant. And unlike most liquid chlorophyll supplements it isn’t refined and highly processed (killing the goodness) or packed full of sweeteners.

Green Food in General: Eat loads of greens! Think of great big salads and veggies – spinach, lettuce, broccoli, Asian greens, green capsicum, asparagus, peas, beans, kale etc.

Any food that is green is that way because it contains chlorophyll – so eat up!

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