Healthy Plane Travel Tips

Healthy Plane Travel Tips

I have a big trip coming up where I will be taking a long plane ride. How can I stay healthy and happy during the trip?

with Dr Marc

Long plane trips generally involve sitting for extended periods in an extremely dry, noisy,  air-conditioned environments in close quarters with lots of people and if you are travelling from Australia, they usually also involve having to adjust to different time zones.

As someone who travels extensively, I have a strategy that involves drinking plenty of water, declining offers of alcohol, limiting food intake, and strategically using dark chocolate-coated coffee beans (I prefer not to drink coffee) to stay awake so that I  can adjust to a new time zone. I also use melatonin (2 mg) or valerian to help me sleep when I arrive at the new location.

Your plane trip can be made more comfortable by taking your own earplugs, neck pillow and comfortable eye mask that provides total blackout and indicates to flight attendants you do not want to be disturbed. I also take a pashimina shawl to supplement the airline blankets as planes can get cold at 30,000ft and you may be seated under a draft. During the flight, take your shoes off, stretch your feet and legs often and take every opportunity to walk around the plane, making sure to wash your hands regularly to help avoid picking up unwanted germs.

While seated there are a number of yoga exercises and meditation practices you can do to pass the time. Having your own MP3 player will allow you to be in control of your entertainment as not every airline offers entertainment on demand. To provide mental simulation and inspiration, I like to download the latest TED talks (see www.ted.com) as well as having tracks that provide relaxing ambient soundscapes that assist in blocking out background noise. Having your own personal noise cancelling headphones is also a bonus.

Sugar Cravings & Blood Sugar Levels

Sugar Cravings & Blood Sugar Levels

Is there any natural supplement that will help me curb my afternoon sugar craving? I’ve read about chromium – is that a safe option?

with Dr Marc

Chromium is an essential trace mineral that assists in regulating insulin levels which in turn controls blood sugar. Dietary sources of chromium include brewers yeast, whole-grain breads and cereals, cheese, eggs, bananas, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli and meats. Chromium supplements are generally considered safe, but before using supplements it is worth considering exactly what you are craving and why. Sugar cravings can be cause by high glycaemic foods that cause a surge in blood sugar followed by a dramatic drop. They can also be caused by medication, hormonal changes and boredom. It is also common to mistake thirst for cravings. You may like to try keeping a water bottle handy and making sure you keep it filled and empty it a couple of times each day.

If you are indeed craving sugar you need to ensure that your diet contains sufficient protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates. Snacking on low GI foods (GI below 35) such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and wholegrain cereals allow the slow release of sugar throughout the day and help avoid the highs and lows in blood sugar associated with consuming refined sugars. Dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa is also a good option as it has a glycaemic index of only 23 and increases insulin sensitivity as well as elevating mood. Including cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, green tea and ginseng in your diet may also assist in stabilising blood sugar. If your cravings persist after implementing the above dietary measures you could consider chromium supplements containing around 200 micrograms per day although long term use should be under the supervision of a health practitioner.

Vitamin D & Sunshine

Vitamin D & Sunshine

 I’m worried that I might not be getting enough vitamin D. How much do i need?

with Dr Marc

 Vitamin D is a critically important hormone that is required for healthy bones and maintaining blood calcium levels and supporting the immune system. Vitamin D also prevents osteoporosis, depression, many forms of cancer and acts to reduce blood pressure. A very small amount of vitamin D is obtained in the diet from oily fish but the vast majority is produced by the skin on exposure to ultraviolet (UVB) radiation from natural sunlight.

You need direct sun exposure to the skin to produce Vitamin D and even weak sunscreens (SPF=8) or glass will block the skin’s Vitamin D production and many people are vitamin D deficient due to our modern indoor lifestyles and overuse of sunscreens. However, it is not necessary to bake in the sun to build your Vitamin D levels. Exposure of the hands, face and arms for around 10 minutes a few times a week will ensure you produce sufficient Vitamin D. It is advisable to get sun exposure in the early morning or late afternoon and to limit prolonged sun exposure and exposure in the middle of the day in summer to avoid sunburn and sun damage.

Despite our climate, many Australians don’t get enough casual exposure to the sun to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D. This is particularly true for elderly people, people who avoid the sun due to skin conditions and people with dark skin. Once produced in the skin, Vitamin D needs to be activated by the kidneys and liver to form the active form called calcitriol, so people with diseases of these organs are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. If adequate sun exposure is not possible, a vitamin D supplement of at least 400 IU (10 μg) per day is recommended.

Green spaces nurture minds

Green spaces nurture minds

Green Spaces Nurture Minds

With Dr Marc

Nature is a physician with seemingly unlimited healing power. This insight, often attributed to Hippocrates who spoke of the vis medicatrix naturae, is now being confirmed by modern science. A review of the literature suggests that “ access to nature plays a vital role in human health, wellbeing, and development that has not been fully recognised” and that “ . . . the positive effects on human health, particularly in urban environments, cannot be over-stated.” A more recent update on the science further concludes that; “access to safe, high quality green space benefits individuals across every stage of the lifespan, enhancing their physical, mental, social and spiritual health and wellbeing.”

Connection with nature is one of the most powerful ways to improve mood, cognition and general health. Our brains seem to be tuned to respond to natural signals and when we are immersed in nature we become healthier, happier, and smarter. A recent article in National Geographic discusses this effect and highlights research such as a University of Michigan study that demonstrate improvements in cognition after exposure to natural environments. Of course doctors who have followed in Hippocrates footsteps have known about nature’s healing abilities for centuries, with Voltaire proclaiming the art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.

What Voltaire, Hippocrates and others recognised, is that through connecting with mother nature we connect with our own true nature; the primordial “deep inner well of our being”, where we can find wholeness, love and peace. Yet, with the bulk of humanity now living in cities and the art of medicine giving way to science and corporate interests, we have become disconnected from nature and human health and our natural environment are suffering the consequences. While it maybe little wonder that the world’s top health and wellness retreats are embedded in beautiful natural surroundings, the sad truth is that there are no truly pristine environments left.

The whole planet is polluted to some degree and the time has come for us to turn the tables and have humans start healing nature. The work of earth repair is an intergenerational project that will require a collective human effort, perhaps aided through the co-opting of artificial intelligent systems and the most talented and innovative human minds. Then perhaps, through reconnecting with mother nature, we can reconnect with and heal ourselves.

Chuck Norris Goes Green

Chuck Norris Goes Green

Chuck Norris Goes Green

With Dr Marc

Chemical companies had better clean up their act. Chuck Norris, the former Texas Ranger has gone green and is now on their case. Who would have thought that Chuck Norris would be promoting consumption of organic food and referring to data from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the World Health Organisation and Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists?

Chuck Norris has yet to be entirely pissed off. Why? Because we would call that event “The Apocolypse”, yet if the man who eats lightning and farts thunder gets serious about reducing chemical exposures, then I think we can expect to see some positive changes a foot . . .

Read more here…