l
Healthy eating, healthy living.

Publish date

07/06/2023

Post author

Dawn

The Power of Nutritional Therapy for Pilots and Cabin Crew

Ahoy there! Welcome aboard the nutrition express! We all know that aviation roles like pilots and cabin crew require a comprehensive approach to health and performance. But hey, let’s not forget about one important aspect that often gets overlooked: nutrition. That’s where nutritional therapy swoops in like a superhero! It can work wonders for your overall well-being, help you tackle the challenges of working at altitude, and optimise your performance. So buckle up and join us on this light-hearted journey as we explore the scientific evidence supporting the benefits of nutritional therapy, with a focus on food and lifestyle interventions and how they impact working at cabin altitudes of up to 8,000 feet!

Fuelling for Success: Ah, the magic of nutritional therapy! It understands that food isn’t just a source of energy, but a powerful tool for supporting your body’s functions, cognitive performance, and overall health. To meet the physical and mental demands of your aviation adventures, it’s crucial to maintain a well-balanced diet that includes macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants). When you’re soaring high in the sky, your body is under stress, and feeding it the right nutrients at different stages of the flight can help you find that perfect balance.

Effects of Working at Altitude: Working at altitude brings some unique challenges for pilots and cabin crew. You’ll encounter reduced oxygen levels and increased oxidative stress. Climbing a mountain to 6,000 feet on foot would take hours, but in an aircraft, it only takes about 30 minutes to reach 36,000 feet, with a cabin altitude between 5,000-8,000 feet, depending on the aircraft. The reduced oxygen levels in the cabin can significantly affect your body. In fact, a study showed that passengers at cruise altitude had an oxygen saturation of 93%, which would make doctors consider administering supplemental oxygen to hospital patients. Plus, the humidity inside the aircraft is drier than a desert, which can impact your mucosal membranes. Those membranes are your body’s first line of defence against pesky pathogens and contaminants in the air. But fear not! Nutritional therapy interventions can come to the rescue by optimising nutrient intake, boosting antioxidants, and fighting oxidative stress, inflammation, and free radicals.

Hydration: Stay Refreshed and Alert: Ahoy, thirsty travellers! Keeping yourself properly hydrated is crucial for optimal performance in aviation. Dehydration can mess with your cognitive function, concentration, and reaction times, and those are all essential for safe operations. Nutritional therapy highlights the importance of staying hydrated by keeping an eye on your water intake, avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption, and munching on hydrating foods. Adequate water intake also helps prevent dry skin and keeps your mucosal barriers healthy and happy throughout the flight.

Meal Planning and Timing for Optimal Performance: As air-crew, your schedules and time zone changes can play havoc with your eating patterns. But fear not, nutritional therapy to the rescue once again! It can guide you in planning and timing your meals to ensure a steady supply of energy and nutrients throughout the day. This means chomping down on balanced meals and snacks, incorporating protein-rich foods for that sustained energy boost, and considering the timing and composition of your pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight munchies. The cabin altitude can increase oxidative stress and inflammation, so choosing the right meal options can help minimise the negative effects of the challenging cabin environment.

Gut Health: Nurture Your Microbiome! Did you know that your gut microbiome plays a crucial role in various aspects of health, like immune function, mental well-being, and cognitive performance? It’s like having a tiny universe inside you! Nutritional therapy wants you to have a diverse and fiber-rich diet to support a healthy and harmonious gut microbiome. Just like us, the trillions of bacteria in our gut need the right kinds of foods to keep us in tip-top shape. A nutritional therapist can suggest dietary modifications and recommend strategies to combat bloating, constipation, or any other digestive discomforts that may arise during your travels.

Detoxification Support: Working at altitude can potentially impact liver health, as evidenced by a study on Wistar rats. The research revealed increased levels of liver and kidney biomarkers and decreased antioxidant levels at high altitudes. Molecular changes, including upregulated gene expression, were observed, emphasising the need for prioritising liver health when working at altitude. Optimal detoxification pathways become crucial, and nutritional therapy can lend a hand in supporting your body’s natural detoxification processes. A nutritional therapist can recommend specific foods, nutrients, and lifestyle practices that enhance detoxification and minimise the impact of oxidative stress on your health. 

Personalised Nutrition: Ah, the beauty of being unique! Nutritional therapy understands that each individual is like a precious snowflake, and it knows the importance of personalised nutrition plans. By considering factors like age, gender, body composition, activity level, and specific health conditions, nutritional therapy can provide tailored recommendations to optimise your nutrition and support your individual needs and goals. It’s like having your very own nutrition superhero by your side!

To wrap it all up, nutritional therapy holds incredible potential for pilots and cabin crew to enhance their health, well-being, and performance. By focusing on nutrition and lifestyle interventions, you can tame the effects of working at altitude, keep yourself hydrated, battle oxidative stress, boost cognitive function, and improve your overall resilience.

Flight schedules can take you from India to San Francisco in the same week, so having route-specific and nutritious meals planned, while considering security and immigration restrictions, is a breeze when someone has got it all figured out for you!

If you’re eager to chat about your diet or need help creating a plan to achieve your health goals, click the link below for a FREE chat and get your health back on track! Investing in nutrition is like a superpower for aviation professionals, keeping you healthy on and off the aircraft! So hop on board and let’s soar to better health together!

References:

  1. Chao, Wei-Hsun, et al. “Oxidative Stress in Humans during Work at Moderate Altitude.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 129, no. 11, 1 Nov. 1999, pp. 2009–2012.
  2. Gropper, Sareen S., and Jack L. Smith. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Google Books, Cengage Learning, 1 June 2012, books.google.co.uk.
  3. Humphreys, S., et al. “The Effect of High-Altitude Commercial Air Travel on Oxygen Saturation.” Anaesthesia, vol. 60, no. 5, 9 Apr. 2005, pp. 458–460.
  4. Koivisto, Anu Elisa, et al. “Effects of Antioxidant-Rich Foods on Altitude-Induced Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Elite Endurance Athletes: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” PLOS ONE, vol. 14, no. 6, 13 June 2019, p. e0217895.
  5. Lobo, V, et al. “Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Functional Foods: Impact on Human Health.” Pharmacognosy Reviews, vol. 4, no. 8, 2010, pp. 118–126, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/.
  6. Matu, Jamie, et al. “The Effect of Moderate versus Severe Simulated Altitude on Appetite, Gut Hormones, Energy Intake and Substrate Oxidation in Men.” Appetite, vol. 113, June 2017, pp. 284–292.
  7. Nazarali, Samir, et al. “Aircraft Cabin Pressurization and Concern for Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy.” Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, vol. 91, no. 9, 1 Sept. 2020, pp. 715–719.
  8. Oniszczuk, Anna, et al. “Role of Gut Microbiota, Probiotics and Prebiotics in the Cardiovascular Diseases.” Molecules, vol. 26, no. 4, 22 Feb. 2021, p. 1172.
  9. Rodrigues, Luís, et al. “Dietary Water Affects Human Skin Hydration and Biomechanics.” Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, vol. 8, Aug. 2015, p. 413.
  10. “The Humidity Paradox.” CTT Systems, www.ctt.se/about-ctt/the-humidity-paradox/.

    11. Althobaiti et al. (2022). ‘Characterization of the Impacts of Living at High Altitude in Taif: Oxidative Stress Biomarker Alterations and Immunohistochemical Changes’, Current Issues In Molecular Biology, 44 (4), pp. 1610–1625. 

l

Return