6 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Travel
Being the wondrous woman that you are, I bet that if you're going on a vacation any time soon, you're already totally ahead of the game. You’ve probably already put together a packing list and printed out the flight itinerary; you've checked the weather at your destination and selected your comfy but chic airport outfit. But as important as it is to plan out your trip, I've found in my traveling experience that all the organization in the world can't prevent your body from going through some strange changes while you're en route.
Jeffrey Sventek, director of the Aerospace Medical Association and aerospace physiologist for the Air Force, told Vox that we should expect noticeable bodily changes when we're air-bound (some are significantly more unpleasant than others) because we're exposing ourselves to a very different environment in such a short amount of time. In fact, longtime pilot and doctor Brent Blue told Vox that a single flight is like getting abruptly dropped on a 6,000 to 8,000 feet mountain and just sitting there for several hours. This can be rough on anyone, but is an especially big deal for those of us who live happily at sea-level.
Combine that with the lower levels of oxygen on flights, as well as the acute stress that often comes with getting to the airport on time, and it's no surprise that we feel a bit crappy after the adrenaline wears off. As much as you want to keep up the excitement all the way to your destination, your body might have a different plan in mind. But don't worry — the things that happen to your body on a plane may be annoying, but they're nothing serious.
Here are six things that happen to your body when you travel.
1. Your Next Period Comes Late
Menstrual cycles are sensitive little things that need special care and attention, which means your lady parts are among the first to be affected when you're running from one country to the next. Everything gets thrown out of whack — physically, mentally, and emotionally — when you travel long distances, so don't be freaked out when your period comes a few days late. She's just a bit traumatized, but it's nothing she won't get over.
Your circadian rhythms are off when you're flying a lot, which affects your sleep cycle as well as hormone release; and the rate at which estrogen and progesterone come in and out of the body directly affects your menstrual and ovulation cycle. Give you and your vagina some time to readjust back to your regular internal biological clock, and you'll be back to normal.
2. Your Taste Buds Go Numb
This has to be the only explanation for why people eat every last bite of that microwaved airplane food. A 2010 study by Lufthsana proved that we temporarily lose our sharp sense of taste during a flight. Grant Mickels, the executive chef for culinary development at Lufthsana's LSG Sky Chefs, says the very first thing to go when you're 35,000 feet high in the clouds is your taste.
Remember how numb everything went when you had a cold as a kid, and you couldn't even taste the ice cream that your mom brought you in bed? Well, pretty much the same thing happens when you're on an airplane —perception of saltiness and sweetness drops by 30 percent. It works in your favor, I suppose, as experts say the food will be dry and tough on your international flight, no matter how it is prepared, because food quality automatically deteriorates on those flights due to altitude and length.
3. Your Feet And Ankles Get Swollen
You might experience enlarged feet and swollen legs when you're jet-setting from one place to another, and you can blame it on the blood that collects in the the lower extremities when you're sitting for an extended period of time. While it's briefly gross and amusing to see your feet spilling out of your strappy sandals, it could actually become a serious health concern. If you're not careful, the swelling could lead to blood clots — and those are no joke, as they could lead to heart attack or stroke.
So how do you prevent blood clots? Sventek says the goal is to "push the blood back from your legs into your heart," so get up and walk around as much as you can, rotate your ankles and contract your calf muscles. When you're sitting down, massage yourself every hour or so to promote blood flow. Plus, it just feels good.
4. You Get Gassy — Everywhere
The air pressure in the flight cabin lowers as the plane gets higher and higher. This makes all the gas already present in your intestines expand uncomfortably. You might suddenly feel full, bloated or achy in your tummy, followed by a rumbling sensation that can only be relieved by letting out the flatulence.
Abdominal gas is just the beginning, though. You might get a toothache or sinus headache due to the pressure build-up in your mouth and face. And gas can't pass through your ears normally, especially when you're descending and the air isn't let in and out fast enough for the plane to pressurize. This leads to the pops and clicks many of us feel during take off and landing — and the swallowing and yawning that we often do in an attempt to get that weird sensation out of our eardrums.
5. You Get Dry Mouth
As you fly, your whole body gets dehydrated, and the moisture you typically have inside your mouth quickly evaporates into the air. The humidity level in the cabin drops down to nearly zero after you take off, according to Blue, so it's ridiculously easy to start feeling thirsty, which can then lead to headache and dizziness if you aren't chugging enough water during that in-flight movie.
The trick to avoid this uncomfortable side effect is to bring your own water onto the flight, rather than relying on the attendants to constantly keep you hydrated and happy. Either purchase a bottle or two at the kiosk before you board, or bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at a water fountain at your gate (and make your peace with the fact that you're probably going to have to get up and pee a few times during your flight).
6. Your Skin Loses Radiance
Popping into the lavatory for a quick pee, only to see a massive zit staring back at you in the mirror, can be a scary experience. But! Do. Not. Panic. It's totally normal for your skin to do funny things when you're that high in the clouds. All the dry, recycled air on the plane is sucking the dewiness right out of your face, leaving you with dried-out skin that can lead to zits, as well as flaky bits here and there.
Though you'll probably only get a zit or a dry patch from flying on vacation, people who work on planes deal with some serious skin issues. In fact, pilots and flight attendants who have been on the job for a long time are twice as likely to develop melanoma as people who work on the ground, according to recent research. Apparently, the windows in the aircraft don't keep out the UV rays enough, and they are overexposed to their harmful qualities.
If you find that you always have trouble keeping your skin lovely and full of moisture when airborne, stay away from putting on makeup just before you travel. Instead, just wear a light tinted moisturizer and keep the rest of the stuff to a minimum. The goal is to give your face the chance to breathe — with the limited tools it's given on planes, anyway.
You might feel worse for the wear once you get off the plane, but there's no need to worry about it — no matter what bizarre physical things happen after we travel, it's probably nothing a solid nap and lots of water can't cure.
Images: Remains /Fotolia; Giphy (6)