For some of us, travel means a fun annual vacation. For others, it's an integral part of our lives and careers. Whatever the reason for your travel, it can definitely wreak havoc with your hormones.
There are numerous ways in which this happens. There’s the added stress, for one. Even regular flyers tend to find that simply getting to the airport and on the plane in time can be a stressful experience, but there’s also the change in the type of food you eat and the time at which you eat it, the change to your usual sleeping habits, and the disruption caused by crossing time zones. Just one of these factors can cause hormonal fluctuations, and it's totally normal to find that all of them play a role simultaneously!
We all know that jet lag and "social" jet lag (which is when you lead a chaotic and inconsistent lifestyle by choice) increase the risk of diabetes, hypertension, weight gain, depression, anxiety, and even cancer. When we travel across time zones, we disrupt our circadian rhythm, and this leads to an abnormally high and improperly timed release of the hormone cortisol. This, in turn, affects thyroid hormone production and reception. These hormones alter the rhythm of the release of hormones from our pituitary gland, the gonadotropins, which can alter our estrogen and progesterone output and upset the menstrual cycle—resulting in irregular cycles and missed periods.
Add into the mix the increased stress, the changes in food intake and food timing, and the disrupted sleep, and you have a recipe for hormonal chaos. And we now know that air travel by itself can change the microbiome of the gut, which can cause increased inflammation and affect your hormones. But there’s no reason to despair! By following these tips, you can keep your hormones humming: