Leave it on a Jet Plane!
It had been over a week since I had returned from France and I had lost interest in the pleasures of daily life. I was tired and withdrawn. What was wrong with me? Was I clinically depressed? Had I somehow damaged my thyroid? Fortunately, a photographer friend, Anja Hitzenberger, who often travels internationally for work, pointed out that my malady was probably jet lag. Jet lag occurs when the body's circadian rhythms are out of sync with the environment causing us temporary mental and physical dysfunction. What a relief! However, this year I am taking out my naturopathic tool kit and preventing jet lag altogether.
Melatonin the Timing
One way to reset our body clock across time zones is melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that controls our sleep and wake cycle. It's released from the pineal gland at night to induce sleep. To get the maximum benefit from melatonin, you will want to start before you fly. If you are traveling west to east, take 0.5 mg in the middle of the afternoon the day before your flight (which should be about 2 hours later than the time you will be hitting the hay at your destination). On the day of the flight, take 3mg of melatonin 2 hours earlier than you did previous day. When you arrive at your destination make sure to spend some time in natural sunlight as soon as possible. For the first few nights, take 3 mg before bedtime. This should reset your rhythms fast!
There's no Place like Homeopathy
Do you wish you could take a magic pill and make jet lag go away? Homeopathy, a system of medicine based on the concept of "like cures like" could be the answer. A specific combination formula of the remedies: arnica, bellis, chamomilla, ipecacuanha, and lycopodium, enables the body to ease back to its normal circadian rhythm. For example, arnica helps to relieve fatigue and head fogginess as well as fluid retention and muscle soreness. The chamomilla component addresses the stress and disorientation of travel and sleeplessness and anxiety. Both ipecacuanha and lycopodium help to get our digestive system back on track.
Feast, Fast, Buzz
The Argonne Diet aka the "Anti-Jet Lag Diet" was developed by Dr Charles Ehret, a chronobiologist, for the US Air Force in the 1980s. The basis of the diet is alternating heavy high protein/carbohydrate days with lighter lower calorie days leading up to the flight. You always start with the heavy meal day first and end with a high protein breakfast at your final destination. Depending on how many time zones you will be crossing, you will start 2-4 days before your flight. The way it works is that the high-protein meals stimulate the body's active cycle and the high-carbohydrate meals stimulate sleep. During the "fast" days the liver's store of glycogen (a main muscle fuel) are depleted and prepare the body's clock for resetting. For an added effect, my favorite herb, coffee, is drank only in the late afternoon or evening depending on which direction you are flying. This helps the biological rhythms to shift forward or backward. Not sure if I am ready for this one but click here for the full diet if you are braver than I.