Saturday, November 20, 2010

Flying and Frying

So we’re back!

Dave and I got to enjoy a little over a week on a tropical island, exploring the culture, and seeing what island life is like! Oddly enough, where we went, it’s not THAT different from the norm. What began as an island of farmers and fresh produce, has become “Americanized” with fast food and buildings. Due to the war, military personnel brought in white rice and canned meat as staples, and over time, this has now become the “elite” food for islanders. Fresh produce is not commonly consumed as often.

But thankfully, it is still abundant! And hopefully, as nutrition education makes its spread, they’ll refocus their habits towards the blessings of food they have – coconuts, avocados, mangos, papayas, numerous rich leafy greens, and more!

Like being on the set for Jurassic Park!

So, how do you travel healthfully? Before we even got to the island, we had to deal with being bombarded by microbes, dehydration, and dangerous radiation!

No, this isn’t some SciFi plot or crazy takeover. This is something almost everyone faces during their lives – some people more than others.

Airplane Exposure to Dangers

When one gets on a plane, one is preparing to assault their body with many dangers. I’m not talking about potential dangers of malfunctions; I’m talking the constant dangers of germs, dehydration, and radiation.

Most of us are already aware that plane flights can be a breeding ground for disease – many people crammed close together for long periods of time, limited air circulation, and not the healthiest of snack options! So we planned about a week ahead to start boosting our immune systems with extra sleep, water, and vitamin C! (Hooray for lemon water!)

Dehydration was an issue for me on previous plane rides. First off, they swipe your water at the check in, so you have to try to find new water on the other side. This time, I grabbed two bottles, and figured I’d get the stewards to keep the water coming! Well… that worked out somewhat. I don’t know if I got stingy stewards or what, but I drained those two bottles in no time, and then was giving an itty bitty cup of water every now and then. I mean, seriously, I’m thirsty! What’s 3 ounces going to do for a 12 hour flight?! And when I’d try to ask for a bottle, they just smiled and walked away. Ugg! Lesson learned – buy even more bottles next time!

And the one that most people are NOT aware of – when you hop on a plane, you are going to be flying at heights that are affected by various forms of radiation.


Radiation image from

While we are constantly getting a “steady drizzle of rain” of radiation from space, the Environmental Protection Agency states “The atmosphere shields us from cosmic radiation, and the more air that is between us and outer space, the more shielding we have. The closer we get to outer space, the more we are exposed to cosmic radiation. This holds true when we live at high altitudes or fly.”

The Federal Aviation Administration put out a report I believe in 2000, for Aircrews entitled What Aircrews Should Know About Their Occupational Exposure to Ionizing Radiation. In it, they state “Ionizing radiation consists of subatomic particles that, on interacting with an atom, can cause the atom to lose one or more orbital electrons or even break apart its nucleus. Such events occurring in body tissues may lead to health problems. For aircrews, and their children irradiated in utero, the principal health concern is a small increase in the lifetime risk of fatal cancer. For both of these groups, exposure to ionizing radiation also leads to a risk of genetic defects in future generations. The FAA recommends limits for aircrews in their occupational exposure to ionizing radiation and provides computer software for estimating the amount of galactic cosmic radiation received on a flight.”


Now, I’m not saying one long flight is going to necessarily have fatal effects, but low doses over time can add up. And we’re exposed to these forms of radiation constantly, just more so during flight. If they have to warn crew to limit their exposure, maybe it’s something to take seriously.

Looking out the plane window, over the Pacific

So what can you do? The EPA’s opinion says, “There are no practical ways to shield yourself from cosmic radiation during a flight. You can reduce your exposure while flying by taking shorter flights at lower altitudes. This is often not practical, and the risks from cosmic radiation do not warrant changing your travel plans to reduce your exposure.”

But what else? Hmmm… what do I always harp about?? Eat naturally, and keep yourself healthy! :)

So how did Dave and I handle these damaging assaults?

We started our morning with a big glass of lemon water to get a last little kick of vitamin C, then we made sure to get some good antioxidants in us, to help protect our cells! I wanted to do a giant green smoothie to take to the airport, but it was so early, and I ran out of time. So we just munched on some fruits and nuts. But keep it light! No sense weighing your body down with digestive needs when you want to reserve some energy for fighting off germs and radiation! ;-)

The day before our flight, I went to Whole Foods and stocked up on a few snacks: some raw pecans; trail mix of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cranberries, cherries, and other fruits; another trail mix for the way home, full of almonds, apricot kernels, golden berries, and goji berries; a bag of Coco Mole sunflower seeds (sprouted sunflower seeds tossed with agave, cayenne, and cacao powder); and a treat of dark chocolate with over 70% cacao!

Good antioxidant-rich foods, to help keep me from being too hungry! And then I tried to limit my intake of any of the airplane’s foods. Processed, heavy meals that do little to help keep your system running at its ideal level!

So that was the first part of trying to have healthy travels! And things you should consider if you fly often. Holidays are coming up, and those are popular times to travel. These are good tips for car trips, too!

Boost your immune system early; keep water on hand; eat antioxidant-rich foods but eat light. Oh, and make sure you get up and stretch to keep your blood flowing and moving all those nutrients around!

So stay tuned, there’s more Saipan to share :)


Greetings from the other side of the Pacific!


  1. Great post and very informative. I had no clue that you get toxic radiation in small doses from flying. :(

    It disappointing that the locals are eating fast and packaged foods when they have an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies.

    I hope that changes soon.

    Hope you had a fabulous time there.

    Defiant Vegan.

  2. Hi DV! I know, the radiation thing is crazy, isn't it?! I hardly believed it myself the first time I heard it, but then I went searching... I figured if the FAA and EPA talk about it, well, that's gotta mean something!

    Hope your holiday season is going well, and those tasty treats aren't tempting you TOO badly! ;-)