Anyone who has ever flown through several time zones on an international flight may have experienced that your menstrual period literally vanished into thin air somewhere over the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.
There are many different cycles in our body. The so called “circadian” rhythms last 24 hours and respond to external signals. Among other things, they influence our body temperature, our sleep, our hormone production and our appetite.
Our circadian rhythm can also influence the longer cycles of our reproductive function and vice versa. How exactly the two interact is not known, but when circadian processes are no longer synchronized with their environment - for example, due to international flights - reproductive hormones can also be affected.
The menstrual cycle is similar to a relay race: one hormone triggers another, which triggers another, which then triggers the physical response, resulting in ovulation or even menstruation. For example, if you produce less estrogen during your cycle, ovulation could be delayed, which not only affects the fertile window, but also the period.
When we cross different time zones, it is suddenly bright at completely different times than we are used to. This especially messes up our circadian rhythm. Scientists have shown that even the smallest amounts of dimmed, artificial light can cause hormonal changes in our body.
What does that mean for your body?
If your circadian rhythm is upset because of an international flight, your menstrual period may come a little earlier than normal, but it can also come a little later. It can be heavier or lighter and may last a little longer or not quite as long. It all depends on when you travel and whether you have ovulated or not. This can therefore also affect the fertility window. This usually leads to more painful menstrual periods.
It gets tricky...
Without a reliable circadian rhythm, the body has a harder time regulate itself. People who constantly work in shifts suffer more often from endometriosis or painful cramps. They also often do not ovulate as often, which means it could take them longer to get pregnant. There is also evidence of a higher risk of breast cancer.
There is also no point in exposing yourself to constant artificial light because it is not as strong as natural light. But even if you were sitting in a dark room all day, your biological and circadian rhythms would still be running - our brain has some sort of internal clock that controls that.
But light is used to adjust our cycle and synchronize our biological rhythm with our environment and surroundings. When these two factors are out of sync, the symptoms mentioned above may occur.
What you can do to keep your hormones balanced
Support your sleep!
The best and healthiest way to get through a flight is by sleeping through it. In order to support a healthy deep sleep on the plane be sure to bring a sleeping mask, earplugs and warm clothes. Make sure to drink enough water before sleeping and to snack and drink in possible breaks in between sleeping. To stop your skin and mucosae from drying out bring moisturizer, nasal spray and eye drops.
Especially when you’re travelling by plane, your body gets dehydrated. It’s best to bring water or herbal tea with you to avoid dehydration. Stay away from caffeine though, as it messes with your hormone health. A good rule to go by is to drink half your body weight in ounces.
Bring healthy snacks!
Ditch the mostly unhealthy and overpriced airport food and bring some healthy snacks to make you feel good. The best snacks for the plane are fresh or dried fruit or various seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds. To be on the safe side, check out the regulations of your destination country regarding import of food.
Take care of your digestive system!
It’s advisable to start protecting your digestion even a few days before you leave by taking supplements that support gut health and digestion such as fiber and probiotics. Especially when you plan on eating more than usual on your vacation, you might also want to bring laxatives and/or digestive enzymes to help your body digest.
Track your hormones!
See and track what your hormones are up to in real time and watch them adapt to your new environment- nothing beats knowing what’s going on inside your body! Take advantage of our special deals in January and start tracking your hormones now.