Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A holiday wish for all of you!

Dear Aviation Friends,

Here's to a great start in 2008 and looking forward to many good times shared with all of you in 2009!

Travel safe, and we'll see you here very soon.


PS If you'd like to share this card, you can find it here.

Eat your veggies and sleep!

I've become fascinated with sleep. How much we need it. How little we value it. And what happens to our health when we don't get it. Sometimes I wonder if we should be obsessed with sleep and not worried about what we eat.

Now the two worlds have collided!

It has been found that melatonin is a component of some vegetables. Some Japanese researchers gave a group of women high amounts of six specific vegetables. Another group of women was asked to avoid these same vegetables during the same time period. The women who consumed the vegetables had higher amounts of melatonin by-products in their urine.

Melatonin, as you know from reading this blog, is a sleep enhancing hormone and a very powerful antioxidant.

Of course, the very first thing most people will ask on reading this, is "what vegetables?"

I don't think the power in this study comes from the melatonin content of the vegetables. Melatonin is a highly unstable compound and it would be challenging to have it stay intact in a compound that is harvested, stored, chopped, and cooked before eating.

What may be happening here, is that vegetables are great sources of antioxidants. And since melatonin appears to be the ultimate antioxidant, it is called to duty when other antioxidants are in short supply and cannot do their job. If your melatonin is on cleanup duty, it can't be used to help you sleep!

The melatonin in the urine, I'm guessing, came from the fact that melatonin was allowed to function as melatonin, and not changed as it was used as an antioxidant.

So...the strategy appears to be, to eat as many different vegetables as you can in order to have maximum antioxidant power. And that will give you a better chance at getting a good night's sleep.

I know that it's difficult not to yawn if you see someone else yawning, so on behalf of helping you feel sleepy, here's a wonderful blog a friend told me about yesterday!
It's called Cute Things Falling Asleep.

Oba S, Nakamura K, Sahashi Y, Hattori A, Nagata C. Consumption of vegetables alters morning urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin concentration. J Pineal Res. 2008 Aug;45(1):17-23. Epub 2008 Jan 15.

Friday, December 19, 2008

We're so honored to be partnering with Zing!

You've heard us rave about Zing, and we're not the only ones! They've just been chosen the healthiest nutrition bar by Kitchen Table Medicine.

Remember, all you website readers can get Zing Bars free of shipping charges with the coupon code "flyaway".

We are very honored to not only do business with Zing Bars, but to count Michael, Sandi, Kathleen, and Minh-Hai of Zing as personal friends. Good work dude and dudettes!

Oh! Be on the lookout for more posts. Between a 3 day cat sitting gig that became a 3 week cat sitting gig and holiday celebrations, blogging fell off the calendar here. I know Diane has been clearing her plate to make more Air Vitals room as well. We're excited about everything that's soon to come and hope you come back to visit!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Special offer from one of our sponsors

I hope this e-mail finds all of you well!

We are offering a 10% Discount on all Zing Flavors, good through Dec 31.

For those of you who prefer to order online, enter the coupon code ‘december’ at checkout.

Thank you all for your support this year, it has been a pleasure working with you. We are looking forward to new Dairy & Gluten free flavors early in 2009, so please stay tuned.

Happy & Healthy Holidays to you all!

Dr. Michael Kaplan, CEO

Northwest Nutritional Foods, LLC


(206) 362-3989

(206) 770-7220 fax

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What is depression....really?

Ever had one of those days when you're stuck on approach with too many flights stacked and waiting to land on too few runways? The process eventually happens, it just might be slowed down.

That's really all depression is to your brain. Too much information trying to travel through too few pathways.

Depression is to the brain and nervous system what heart disease is to the circulation--the end result of inflammatory and oxidative processes.

It's kind of like a rusting out process wreaking havoc on your nervous system. As neurons are oxidized, or rusted out, they lose their ability to function. If it's neurons in the emotional center of the brain, you can feel sad. If it's in the sleep center, you may not sleep well. If it's in the reproductive center, it may affect your fertility. When the cortex is involved, you may find you have a hard time with attention span, and making what are normally easy decisions.

A lot of every day factors can accelerate the processes that are the stepping stones into depression. Stress. Sleep disruption. Lack of exercise. Diet.

You don't have depression because your body has a deficiency of psychiatric medication. If the factors causing the problem aren't addressed, medication may be what it takes to jump start your nervous system out of its funk. But there are a lot of things that can help, way before you get to that point.

The first step is to understand what depression is, and what it isn't. It is a condition largely affected by lifestyle choices. It isn't a character weakness. It is very similar to heart disease, only it is affecting a different organ system--the nervous system.

Depression isn't an indication that you're crazy. It may be an indication that your body is having a hard time keeping up with all of the physical and emotional demands it is being asked to absorb.

Nutritional strategies for depression are kind of like opening up more runways...they make information flow more easily. It's not that medication doesn't, but that strategy is more like trying to force all those extra landings in the same limited space. Pilots are no different than non-pilots in this regard; it's just that they have a unique, career-related reason to build the runways that other people don't.

It is something I am excited to talk to you about, because I've seen people achieve great things with a few small changes.

Stay tuned, or subscribe to this blog, as I'll be getting into more details in later posts.

Friday, December 5, 2008

We are in Arizona Woman this month!

Just a quick mention, but Air Vitals is mentioned in the 2009 calendar edition.

If you go to this link, and flip to the January page, look in the apple in the upper left hand corner.

Thanks, Arizona Woman! We're honored to serve your readers.

Are you a flight attendant?

You are equally important to Air Vitals. Our market research survey three years ago gave us some great insight into your needs. And they're different from what pilots need.

Please talk back to us and let us know what you need, what you'd like to learn, and what you'd like to see! We'll do our best to have it here for you.

One thing Diane and I both have experience with is eating disorders. That's not to say our assumption is that flight attendants have them...but we've both seen how the intensity of the job and a work environment without a lot of options for healthy stress outlets can make it easy to use food as a stress buster.

I recently chatted it up on a PHX-LAX flight with a group of flight attendants on their way to catch their flight to Narita, Japan. I very much appreciated their willingness to share their job stresses, and their health concerns, among other things.

One flight attendant shared in our survey that she is on her feet so much while working, she simply doesn't have the energy for a cardio workout when she gets to her destination. Many of my pilot friends can't wait to move after sitting for hours, and it's easier to talk them into the hotel gym. That's an important difference to note, and illustrates why we need to hear from you!

If you'd rather share your comments off-blog, you can write directly to myself at monika@afterthediet.com, or Diane Whelan at whelanmphrd@roadrunner.com. We are independent professionals with no connection to any airline, health provider, or union. Your information is simply that--information we use to better serve you, and it goes no farther than our personal e-mail boxes.

Look forward to getting to know you!

Note about the photo: I spent a whole lot of time on both Google and Flickr looking for a photo that included both male and female flight attendants. It was not that easy to find! I ended up filing through a whole lot of historical photos of interesting uniforms in the process...have to say, you all have come such a long way! I'll try to incorporate some of those in future posts, I just wanted the first post to all of you to be a little more respectful.

Monday, December 1, 2008

FAA regulations and medications--maybe it doesn't have to be so depressing

Several years ago a flight instructor friend of mine told me that she had been grounded from her passion. Why? Because her physician had recommended an antidepressant to manage her PMS, and the FAA does not allow pilots to simultaneously use antidepressants and fly.

She had a sense of humor about the situation, rationalizing that the FAA guys simply did not understand that her PMS was much more of a safety issue than the potential medication side effects. Even so, she was working to resolve the situation so that she could be back in the skies.

This issue is important, for several reasons.

1. Most importantly, being diagnosed with depression and then being told you have to take a prescription medication for the condition can cost you the livelihood you've worked very hard to have.

2. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers (medications approved to treat bipolar disorder) are prescribed for a whole lot of "off-label" uses. That is, physicians are using them for a lot of diagnoses, such as PMS and certain pain conditions, that have absolutely nothing to do with depression. It is so important to know your options, and to be educated on which natural options are consistent with FAA regulations. Some are not.

3. The origin of depression, (which I'll get to in a post I'm working on for later in the week), is such that pilots, given the nature of job demands, are particularly prone to developing it. It's not about a character weakness in a whole lot of cases, but how the nervous system breaks down under certain kinds of stress, such as sleep deprivation.

4. In order to keep flying, there may be a temptation to use someone else's medication who ISN'T flying, which is the most dangerous scenario of all. Two people are at risk; the one who isn't using the medication they've been prescribed, and the one who's taking medication without being supervised for potential side effects.

Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to help minimize your risk of depression, that have nothing to do with medication. You'll feel better, and hopefully enjoy your flying a whole lot more, and potentially extend your career longevity. Most importantly, you'll be safer.

I do need to clarify that this blog is not intended to substitute for any medical orders you have been given. I will be providing information that may help improve your overall health and minimize your risk of actually receiving such medical orders, but I am not advising you to not follow instructions your medical provider has given you.

If depression has been or is an issue for you, please check back, or subscribe in the box you see so you can get the updates as they're written.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Are you on Facebook?

We've got a very fledgling group going there. If you're into Facebook and would like to be part of our activity, you can find us at "Air Vitals".

Or, if it's easiest to stick with this blog, please take advantage of the subscription option. If you sign up in the box you see, you'll get an email anytime we post.

That way we'll be in better touch.

That's what we're about!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another Peanut-Noir, Sir?

Resveratrol is a compound found in red grapes and most notably in red wine. It has been found to help lower blood sugar.

Studies in other species yet to be replicated in humans suggest that resveratrol may also lengthen lifespan. (Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that for pilots this can be important?). It seems to have anti-cancer properties. And, at least if you're a mouse in an exercise lab, it can improve treadmill performance.

Of course, all of these findings have led proponents of red wine to promote a glass or two on a regular basis as health-promoting practice. Unfortunately, for pilots, given the restrictions on alcohol consumption that come with the job, this is not really very practical advice. So here are some ways to get more resveratrol even if you can't imbibe.

1. Let those first class passengers have the pinot noir, just be sure you snag a bag of those in-flight peanuts; they're one of the best natural sources of resveratrol outside of wine. Same goes for peanut butter. I've carried jars with me on extended trips to snack on if I knew I was going to be arriving too late to find an open restaurant.

2. Most bars offer cranberry juice, another good source.

3. Eat more blueberries. Nowadays, blueberries can be found in many restaurants. You can also pack the dried version in your carry-on to snack on. I've seen them cheap at Costco.

Be advised that powdered resveratrol supplements are primarily derived from Japanese knotweed. It is not really known if it is resveratrol alone that has such potent health powers, or if it acts in sync with other compounds in the foods mentioned above. My personal opinion is that it's always best to go with whole foods than it is to assume that a supplement outside of the environment Mother Nature packages it in is equally as productive to use.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Thanksgiving Note From Diane

Originally uploaded by Ted Ullrich
My family lives on the East Coast and so I have spent many a holiday in airports, trudging through the crowds of not so festive travelers. After enduring bumper-to-bumper traffic and long lines to check way too much baggage they snail their way through the long security lines. Crying children, no food and/or way too much alcohol make many quite irritable and sometimes downright nasty!

Yet upon boarding the plane the flight crew always greets each with a smile and a kind word. With good humor they resolve conflicts over seat assignments and manage to stuff most of those "carry on" size bags into the overhead compartments. They listen patiently as we complain about the cost of tickets, the condition of the airport, the flight delays, the temperature, the lack of legroom and airline cutbacks.....like there is anything they can do about any of these things!

It always amazes me how they tolerate all that complaining with a smile on their faces and not a cross word to be heard! This is the case year-round, but I think it is especially true during the busy holiday season.

I just want to take this moment to say "thank you" to these wonderful men and women who bring us safely to our family celebrations. I know from some of my clients who work in the airline industry about the grueling schedules with little turn-around time in strange cities.

This Thanksgiving many of you will be inflight while the country lounges stuffed on their couches. You'll arrive at your destination, not to a home-made feast of turkey and pumpkin pie, but to a hotel room and room service (if you are lucky enough to reach your hotel in time). You will have sacrificed your holiday so that we can have ours.

I just want you to know how much you are appreciated! And that is why Monika and I launched Air Vitals. We hope that, in some small way, we are able to make your lives a little more healthful, peaceful and contented. I look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts, needs and ideas.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Diane Whelan, MPH, RD
Co-owner, Air Vitals

A Thanksgiving Note From Monika

In the process of getting started in business, I've done a lot of traveling. It has really opened my eyes to the ins and outs of the aviation industry.

On a red eye flight to Shreveport, I learned that due to heat, my bag had been chosen to be pitched off of the regional flight in Dallas...I had to do my professional presentation in the jeans and t-shirt I'd worn for the trip.

Another time I showed up for a Baltimore-Providence flight, the day before the big Red Sox World Series victory party and, feverish with the flu, had to vie for a slot in the security line with every rabid sports fan who was able to get a seat to the big party in Boston. And I, for some unknown godforsaken reason, had packed a SCREWDRIVER in my bag and had to be escorted out of the line for a personal search and to start over again.

These escapades, well, maybe minus the screwdriver, are just every day business for flight crews.

Cranky travel mates.

Weather delays.

Getting to a destination later than restaurants and room service are open.

Coming home wanting nothing more than to eat real food and wash off that "tarmac face" in the comfort of familiar surroundings. Spending one day off catching up on sleep, another running errands, and the other packing for the next trip.

This is just life for pilots and flight attendants. We tend to romanticize jobs in aviation but the truth is, those jobs are, more often than not, grueling, stressful, and requiring a whole lot of sacrifice.

One of my very good friends, midwinter, moved from Phoenix to Barrow, Alaska, when a job came open that would give her the hours she needed for to finally qualify for an airline job.

Another dear friend has made me keenly aware of the challenges of making and keeping close friends when your job has you working most weekends and holidays, and every single merger and cutback threatens to directly impact your day to day life.

Another friend, married to a pilot, happily moves every few years to accommodate the career changes her husband must accept in order to advance.

Still another inspires me with her cheerful attitude and support of her husband, despite the fact that they have to spend so much time apart from each other.

Knowing all of these people has helped me to realize how important life's simple pleasures can be. Routine. Workouts. Homemade coffee. Adequate sleep. Friends and family who are there 24/7.

The people who live like this, the ones who make sure that when I'm in Baltimore, I make it to Providence, and who cheerfully get me home from Shreveport when I'm sleep deprived and cranky, are people I truly appreciate. No matter what time of day, what the weather, what they personally feel like when they show up for work, I get to my destination safely. And for that I am grateful.

I hope that as Diane and I progress with Air Vitals, that we give back to people who are often treated poorly and whose service is not always adequately appreciated. I hope we give you thoughts and ideas and resources that serve and support you in ways you deserve.

I hope that wherever you are when you read this, that you know you are noticed and very much valued for the hard work that you do.

Happy Thanksgiving, flight crews! :)

Monika M. Woolsey, MS, RD
Co-owner, Air Vitals

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Get some sleep!

I mentioned in my introductory post that I had been wanting to start this business for a long time. One of the things that jump started me into considering the importance of actually doing so...was learning a few years ago that despite the rigorous physicals pilots must pass, they only live, on average, about 10 years past the (then) mandated retirement age of 60. That is very similar to what happens with professional football players, another group of people who on the outside look healthy but have interesting things happening under the surface.

I started to study sleep physiology and have become very interested in the effects of sleep disruption on health. It turns out that sleep disruption affects hormones in a way that significantly accelerates aging. I wasn't able to find anyone providing a resource on this for people who needed it, like aviation professionals, which indicated that it was time to act on my idea.

The challenging part of working in aviation is that part of what you agree to, when you agree to work in this industry, is sleep deprivation. I can't change that, but I can devote a big part of this business to finding ways to help aviation professionals maximize their sleep when they can do that.

Two weeks ago I taught a class in Phoenix on the topic of sleep. One of the participants shared that it had been months since she had been able to sleep restfully through the night without some kind of medication to help. Yesterday I asked her if she'd tried anything we'd discussed in that class...and she said she'd not had to use her medication for the past 10 days. So it only took a couple of days for what she'd tried to kick in and start to work.

I breathed a sigh of relief! Despite having done this for years, I always fear that someone puts their faith in something I suggest and it won't work. But I'm gaining confidence that this one, fish oil for better sleep, has a lot of power in those who can remember to use it regularly.

The main thing she did was use a "therapeutic" dose of fish oil. Meaning not just a capsule, but a strategically dosed amount. Fish oil is incredibly important for brain function, especially in the region that regulates sleep and hormones. It doesn't make you sleepy when you shouldn't be sleepy, like melatonin, it just seems to help the brain work better at orchestrating important functions like going to sleep and staying asleep.

It's a pretty simple strategy, fish oil is relatively inexpensive, and you can easily travel with it.

The dose my student took was the equivalent of 1000 mg DHA per day. You will have to look at your bottle and calculate how many of your capsules equal 1000 mg, as it varies with each brand, but why not try it and see what happens?

Diane and I are working on a companion website to this blog that will give more detailed information on the topics we chat about here. Our business name is officially Air Vitals. While we get up and running, if you're interested in personally discussing anything nutrition, sleep, wellness related in the meantime, be sure to take advantage of the links to our websites, where you can find contact information. We both do individual counseling live in our Los Angeles and Phoenix offices, as well as web-based counseling if you'd like to take advantage of that.

In the meantime......sweet dreams!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Snore no more, thanks to your dentist?

A recent USA Today article reported that the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines is up 96% nationwide since 2004.

I'm not sure if that means our sleep quality has plummeted in just 4 short years, or if the pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries have recognized what I've recognized...that we're sleeping a whole lot less than we used to...and should. Problem is, these industries appear to be viewing this alarming trend as an amazing profit center instead of a huge problem we need to solve in less invasive ways...and they've gone after it full force.

I do know that people who work unusual and erratic hours are more prone to sleep disorders. So anyone reading this blog is likely to be high-risk for having this kind of problem.

I don't know about you, but heading off to bed every night feeling like I've just left the wardrobe room for "Top Gun" doesn't sound like a long-term solution for sleep apnea. As the USA Today article states, sleep disorders are associated with a whole host of other serious problems. So they cannot be ignored. But I just can't accept that these awful masks should be the first line of treatment, or the only option offered to patients, especially those who travel frequently.

Enter the dental profession!

Diane Whelan, my partner on this blog, recently introduced me to Dr. Michael Simmons, a dentist near her, who offers some interesting and more viable options. Dr. Simmons is the Director of Pre-doctoral studies in Dental Sleep Medicine at UCLA, so the topic of sleep disorders is a focus of his practice.

Dr. Simmons provides a CPAP option called Oral Appliance Therapy, or OAT. The device is similar to a retainer, worn at night to help reposition the tongue, which serves to open the airway. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine actually considers OAT to be the best alternative treatment to CPAP for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea.

There are over-the-counter devices purported to be equally effective, but Dr. Simmons advises that studies are showing that in order for these devices to be effective, custom fitting by a trained dentist needs to be part of the protocol. A one-size-fits-all device is not likely to help.

For blog readers working in aviation, the nature of your job automatically places you at risk for sleep disorders. On the ground, the increase in motor vehicle accidents is reported to be 3-8 times more prevalent in those with OSA. It's got to be similar, if not worse, in the air.

For blog readers who also happen to be struggling with infertility, it seems as though removing the mask might help enhance the romance a bit. :)

Given a choice between schlepping with a bulky CPAP machine or slipping a simple dental device into your cosmetic case, I'd be willing to bet a dentist like Dr. Simmons can be a great investment in your own career longevity. Not to mention safety for your passengers like me!

Proper screening, fitting, and followup for OAT requires about 4 visits. You can contact Dr. Simmons at the link above for information on pricing, appointments, etc.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More on Starbucks

I agree! It is wonderful-and about time-that Starbucks and other major coffee purveyors recognize the importance of a healthy breakfast! No longer will those of us held captive in airports be forced to choose between sausage and egg concoctions or going hungry!In addition to the "Perfect Oatmeal" you described (which, by the way, you can request be made with fat-free milk instead of water to boost the protein and calcium), Starbucks has added other breakfast items.The Apple-Bran Muffin has 330 calories and 7 grams of fiber, the Chewy Fruit & Nut Bar and Berry Stella are both whole grain and have 250 and 280 calories.If protein is your passion, the "Power Protein Plate" has 16 grams (vs 5-7 grams in the other options). It consists of apple slices, grapes, cheddar cheese, egg, peanut butter and a whole wheat mini-bagel. Both the Protein Plate and Berry Stella have 4 grams saturated fat -not so great, but given some of the alternatives not such a bad choice either.We can talk more about other options later, but these definitely are a welcome addition to airport fare!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Starbucks finally caught on

I occasionally do business in Anchorage, Alaska. A couple of years ago I discovered this great little coffeehouse just around the corner from Humpy's, a restaurant I know is popular with flight crews. I was looking for coffee, and found the greatest breakfast--oatmeal to go, with several choices of healthy toppings. The owner of this place, the Dark Horse Coffee Company, told me she was very popular with pilots.

I also venture to New York on occasion and have spent more than my fair share of time in JFK. There, in Terminal 2, I found another popular oatmeal bar with literally dozens of options for toppings.

Now, fortunately for those of you who travel for a living, the ubiquitous Starbucks has finally realized the potential in this idea. They're serving oatmeal to go.

Here is the nutrition information I was able to find, right off of their website:
Each order can be customized with three different toppings; a portioned 50-calorie pack of brown sugar, 100-calorie pack of dried fruit and 100-calorie pack of a nut medley, and contains 140 to 390 calories depending on topping selections, up to 7 grams of fiber and 1.5 servings of whole grains – half of your daily needs.

I'm quoting them, and am not really endorsing that 7 grams of fiber is half of what you need, but I do want to draw your attention to the fact that you can now get this great breakfast option even if you're not laid over in Palin Country or based out of JFK's International Terminal. I have to take a closer look at the other breakfast options, that's a topic for a future blog post.

And, if you DO happen to find yourself in Anchorage, I encourage you to venture around the corner from the main drag to the Dark Horse. It's got some great down-home local flavor. You betcha!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Note of introduction from the flight deck

Hi there!

My name is Monika Woolsey. I'm a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist, who has always had a fascination with aviation. My grandpa had his own Cessna way back when, my cousin is a retired captain who flew for years with Continental, and my uncle was a military pilot.

When I was a kid, one of my grandpa's favorite things to do on Sundays was take us to the end of the runway at Deer Valley airport here in Phoenix, so we could watch the gliders take off and land. I also remember the big deal it was when the 747 finally came to Phoenix Sky Harbor, so much so that people would come hang out on the top of Terminal 2 just to watch its arrival.

During college I had a summer job at Tucson International Airport, working for Sky Chefs. It was my first reality check as far as how stressful an aviation job can be. Even in the kitchen, a flight delay or cancellation meant last minute changes. And those came on a daily basis. I've never forgotten that, and have always thought there had to be a way to combine my nutrition and exercise training and my interest in aviation.

Full time work in airline catering didn't seem to be my answer, but I never lost my interest in flying. I made it as far as ground school...but I couldn't quite muster up the courage to solo. Even so, my instructor thought I had what it took to become a Navy pilot. He'd never seen me attempt to parallel park, so I chalked up his confidence that I could land a plane on a boat in the middle of the ocean to pure uninformed enthusiasm. I continued my search for a better fit.

My personal aviation dreams are more vicarious at this point. I have several friends who fly for a living, and I really feel for what their career choice brings them in terms of stress. After over 20 years of thinking about launching a business that would provide support to those friends, their friends, and anyone else who might be interested, I finally found the perfect partner to launch that business with. This blog is the first phase in the project.

Hopefully we'll hear back from those of you who we can help--what are your barriers to wellness, what are solutions you've found for yourself, how we can help, whatever you have to share gives us an idea of what we can do to make this a truly pertinent service.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you again sometime soon.

Oh! Just for fun, the photo here is a piece of aviation history, this is the plane Jimmy Angel was flying when he discovered Angel Falls, in Venezuela (the tallest waterfall in the world). Actually, he discovered it by crashing his plane right into it. I still don't quite get why he had to navigate right into something that big in order to find it, but I did enjoy seeing both the waterfall and the airplane.