Lisa Swabel on Gut Health When Travelling


Lisa Swabel is a Nutritional Therapist and health coach with a busy clinic in North West London.

She specialises in personalised nutrition, using evidence-based science and functional testing for a completely holistic approach to nutrition and wellbeing.

Clients come to her for support for various issues, including weight management, hormone imbalance, digestive complaints and mental wellbeing. She also works with chronic conditions, including diabetes, ADHD, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

In the first of her series for Berkeley Bespoke, Lisa shares her tips for keeping gut healthy when travelling.

We all love to travel, especially to long-haul destinations, but this can mean many hours spent at altitude in pressurised cabins. The key to feeling our best upon arrival is understanding how this affects our physiology to reduce the impact for better health outcomes, both whilst on vacation and longer term.

Firstly, it is important to understand what happens to our bodies on long-haul flights.

Our circadian rhythm becomes interrupted, causing ‘jet lag’. Our natural body clock regulates everything from mental state to appetite, which falls out of sync with the time at the destination we are travelling to. The lack of natural light exposure on the plane compounds the effects of jet lag. Travelling east is harder than west, as this disrupts circadian homeostasis. In theory, we need one day to adapt to each hour of time zone difference between where we travel from and to.

Travelling at altitude reduces blood oxygen saturation, causing lethargy, mental fog and even headaches. Blood also accumulates in our extremities, causing swelling and an increased risk of DVT.

Cabin air is very dry, leading to dehydration. Furthermore, as the gases in our bodies expand, we experience bloating.

Finally, there is a much greater exposure to infections and toxins because the confined cabin space is ideal for germs to spread. The increased exposure to toxins is from the pollution of the jet engines as well as the higher radiation levels found at altitudes.

Of course, every ‘body’ is different. Understanding our individual detoxification and hormonal signalling capabilities can help further personalise our approach to reducing the impact of travel on our immediate health and our longevity.

This is why, for seasoned travellers, genetic testing and even testing for toxic load in the body can be really beneficial. Understanding where your body needs particular support and addressing areas of weakness can reap real rewards over the longer term.

In terms of what to do before, during and immediately after your flight, there are some simple and very effective ways to reduce the short-term impact of these health hazards.

In the 24 hours before you travel, stop drinking caffeine and alcohol, and increase your water intake to reduce pre-dehydration. Eat a light, protein-packed, unprocessed meal before your flight to ensure steady energy and to avoid overloading the digestive system. Taking some cardio-based exercise can help fatigue your muscles and ready the body for the sedentary hours ahead. Finally, a good night’s sleep before flying to reduce the impact of jet lag

During your flight, wear comfortable, non-restrictive clothes and move at least once every hour for 5 minutes to encourage blood flow and energise the brain. Stretching, even from your seat, will further improve blood flow and reduce the risk of DVT and cramping.

Avoid alcohol (you will feel the effects much quicker due to altitude) and drink a glass of water every hour to stay sufficiently hydrated. Limiting foods to whole foods that are low in salt and sugar will reduce bloating and spikes in blood insulin.

Eat at regular intervals rather than grazing, and keep portions small as your digestive system slows down at altitude.

To protect your skin, apply an organic moisturiser and use essential oils such as an oregano oil for your hands to reduce toxin and germ exposure.

Change your watch by one hour every hour until you reach the time at your destination to help your circadian rhythm adjust smoothly. If you are flying overnight, consider natural sleep aids such as ashwagandha or magnesium to help you have a restful sleep.

Upon arrival, if it is daytime, it is helpful to get outside to get some sunlight on your face. Alternatively, if it is nighttime, go to bed. Adapting to local time as quickly as possible will limit the impact on your circadian rhythm. You can also consider adding foods that help eliminate toxins from the body such as coriander or parsley, to help combat pollution and radiation exposure.

Her Signature Package has been created to help clients achieve their goals and to transform their relationship with nutrition and wellness for life totally. This is a comprehensive and transformational process over a 10-week programme that includes genetic and functional testing with the leading UK laboratories and one-to-one intensive coaching sessions.

You can find out more about her services here: