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HOW FLYING AFFECTS YOUR BODY

Have you ever wondered why flying leaves you feeling a bit off? 

It’s not just the cramped seats or the toddler kicking your back. 

Believe it or not, soaring through the skies at 35,000 feet does some pretty wild things to your body. 

From your taste buds pulling a switcheroo to your feet deciding they need extra room, flying is a whole-body experience. 

1. It Causes Jet Lag

Sure, Taylor Swift said, “Jet lag is a choice,” but for us mere mortals, it feels more like an unavoidable curse. 

When you zip across time zones in a metal bird, your body’s circadian rhythms—those natural, internal processes that regulate your sleep-wake cycle—are left scrambling to catch up. The result? You’re wide awake at 3 a.m., craving breakfast at midnight, or dozing off during your adventure-packed tour. 

Jet lag is your body’s response to rapid environmental changes, and countless strategies exist to manage it.

From reducing caffeine intake, avoiding alcohol, or adjusting your sleep schedule before your flight.

Read More: The Best Ways to Manage Jet Lag

2. Your Taste Buds Change

At cruising altitude, your dining experience is literally elevated, but not in the way you might hope. 

 At about 30,000 feet, the humidity is less than 12%, which is drier than most deserts.

When you combine it with the cabin pressure, it all works together to dull your taste buds, particularly numbing your sensitivity to sweet and salty flavors by as much as 30%

But it’s not only your taste buds that are acting up. It’s also your sense of smell. The dry cabin air affects your odor receptors, making food taste twice as bland.

Airlines are aware of this aerial anomaly and give their food an extra kick with more salt and spices.

So, when you wonder why your airline curry tastes exceptionally good (or your chocolate dessert less sweet), it’s the high-flying culinary science at work.

3. Your Skin Becomes More Sensitive

The cabin’s low humidity is akin to being in an arid environment, rapidly drawing moisture from your skin, leading to dehydration. 

This moisture loss can make your skin feel tight, flaky, and more sensitive than usual. 

Moreover, this airborne aridity can aggravate conditions like eczema or psoriasis. 

The solution to counteract the in-flight desert conditions?

A good moisturizer, hydrating face mist, and lip balm.

Psst… Remember to stay hydrated throughout the flight. A little water goes a long way.

4. You Get Swollen Feet and Ankles

Have you ever taken off your shoes mid-flight only to find they’ve shrunk by the time you land? 

What you’re experiencing is edema—swelling caused by fluid trapped in your body’s tissues. 

This not-so-comfy phenomenon is caused by prolonged sitting, which hampers blood circulation and encourages fluid to pool in the feet and ankles. 

The cabin pressure doesn’t help either, adding to the fluid build-up. 

To keep the swelling at bay, flex and stretch your legs, take occasional walks down the aisle, and consider wearing compression socks to encourage blood flow and reduce discomfort.

5. You Get Dehydrated

The air up there in the friendly skies is anything but moist.

 This dry air saps moisture from the cabin and your body, leading to dehydration. 

This can manifest as dry eyes, a parched throat, and general lethargy. 

Combat these high-altitude dehydration blues by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your flight. 

You’ll also want to avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can contribute to dehydration.

Another tip? Pack a reusable water bottle and your favorite moisturizing essentials to stay hydrated and feel fresh from takeoff to touchdown.

6. It Gives You Bad Breath

Nobody wants to be a passenger with bad breath, yet flying and oral hygiene don’t seem to go hand in hand.

The main culprit? Dehydration again. 

Saliva acts as a natural mouthwash, washing away food particles and bacteria, thus preventing bad breath. 

However, saliva production slows in the dry cabin air, leaving your mouth vulnerable to bacterial growth and bad breath. 

You can combat this by staying hydrated, chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production, and packing a small travel toothbrush and toothpaste in your carry-on. 

7. It Affects Your Mood

Have you ever found yourself bawling over a romcom mid-flight, something that would never happen on the ground?

It’s not just Hollywood playing tricks on your emotions.

The combination of oxygen fluctuations, cabin pressure, and the overall stress of traveling can heighten your emotions, making you more susceptible to feeling sad or anxious. 

The physical discomforts of flying, such as fatigue and dehydration, can also significantly affect mood fluctuations. 

According to Virgin Atlantic’s 2011 Facebook survey, 41% reported hiding their tears under a blanket, while 55% of passengers reported that flying intensifies their emotions.

What should you do when you cry on a plane?

Or you can follow the advice of your fellow travelers and cry it out. 

8. You Feel More Drunk on a Plane

Enjoying a drink or two might seem like a good way to kick off your vacation or relax during the flight, but alcohol affects you differently when you’re up in the air. 

Due to the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes, alcohol is absorbed more quickly by the body, intensifying its effects. 

This means that a relaxing glass of wine can lead to intoxication more rapidly than it would on the ground, affecting your hydration levels sleep quality, and even intensifying jet lag symptoms. 

9. It Changes Your Eating Habits

It’s not uncommon to notice a change in your eating habits while flying. The stress of travel, disruption of your regular meal schedule, and the body’s heightened state of alertness can suppress your appetite. 

This fight-or-flight response releases adrenaline, preparing your body to respond to perceived threats. In the modern context of flying, this means a temporarily reduced interest in food. 

Listening to your body and eating small, nutrient-dense snacks can help maintain your energy levels without forcing yourself to eat out of routine.

10. It Causes Bloating

Flying can turn your digestive system into a drama queen. The change in cabin pressure causes gases in your body to expand, leading to uncomfortable bloating and sometimes even pain. 

This is compounded by sitting still for long periods, which can slow digestion. 

To reduce the risk of bloating, avoid carbonated drinks and heavy, fatty foods before and during your flight. Opting for light meals and regular walks up and down the aisle can also help keep things moving smoothly, ensuring a more comfortable flight experience.

Wrapping It Up

Flying is nothing short of a miracle, allowing us to explore new continents in only a few hours. 

Yet, it’s fascinating how our bodies react to this unnatural situation.

Understanding these effects can help you prepare better for your next flight, creating a more comfortable journey. Remember, a well-packed carry-on and stretching your legs can make a world of difference. 

Got any questions? Let me know in the comments below.