Natural health: Jetlag and drinking coffee

Boost your intake of high-tryptophan foods such as milk, honey, turkey, egg whites, and tuna to minimise the effects of jetlag, says Megan Sheppard.

Q. I am taking a long-haul flight next week. What do you recommend for preventing jetlag? I have tried natural remedies, but they have not made a noticeable difference.

A. Jetlag can really put a dampener on your holidays abroad, so you are wise to take any precautions that you can. 

The hormone melatonin, produced in the pineal gland, is the main culprit in affecting the sleep-wake cycle.

Travelling across date lines tends to mess with melatonin production and our regular sleep patterns, which is why we tend to feel a bit out of sorts for some days after arriving at our destination.

The logical solution would be supplementing with melatonin, however, it is only available as prescription medication. 

It’s possible to boost brain chemistry by taking tryptophan, which is used to produce serotonin, a precursor to the manufacture of melatonin. 

You can supplement with tryptophan in the form of 5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), or simply boost your intake of high-tryptophan foods such as milk, honey, turkey, egg whites, and tuna.

It is also important to be aware that melatonin production relies heavily on vitamin B6 as a co-factor to optimise the process. 

Serotone 5-HTP from Higher Nature combines 5HTP with the necessary B vitamins and zinc and is sourced naturally from the African plant, Griffonia simplicifolia.

Guarana has also been used for years to boost energy levels and minimise the effects of jet lag, however, this does contain caffeine. 

Guarana supplementation is best used as a short-term solution. Take one 500mg capsule, three times daily from the first morning you arrive at your destination. 

This dosage contains a total caffeine content of 45mg daily, which is still only 35-55% of the caffeine found in a cup of coffee. 

It is important to note that there are other compounds in guarana that help to slow down the assimilation of caffeine to provide a more sustained energy release.

Q. I find that taking two to four cups of coffee in the morning on an empty stomach helps to suppress my appetite and to keep my weight in check. 

But I am worried that I may be doing more harm than good by drinking this much coffee. Please advise.

Natural health: Jetlag and drinking coffee

A. Both coffee and tea are commonly used to replace meals and provide a quick source of energy without the calories. 

Unfortunately, this may be doing more harm than good, since the effect of caffeine on your blood sugar levels is similar to that of sugar.

To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine, a substance made in the brain which slows down nerve cell activity and makes blood vessels dilate, to cause drowsiness.

Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors on the nerve cells, blocking the adenosine from being able to bind to the cells themselves. 

This means that the adenosine cannot exert its action to slow down brain cell activity or make blood vessels dilate, and as a result, cell activity speeds up.

The pituitary gland sees this added activity and assumes that there is a good reason for it, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, in order to respond to the apparent emergency.

This rush of adrenaline makes your heart beat faster, increases blood flow to the muscles, and triggers the liver to release stores of sugar back into the bloodstream for extra energy. 

An increase in blood sugar levels is what you want to avoid when trying to manage your weight, as it is not only used as energy but also stored as fat.

A much more sustainable long-term solution would be to consider something along the lines of a low glycaemic load (GL) eating plan, which helps to balance blood sugar and improve energy levels.

For more information on how to follow a low GL diet, check out Patrick Holford’s best-selling books on the topic — The Holford Low GL Diet and the Holford Low GL Diet Cookbook.

Both are available from 

Do you have a question for Megan Sheppard?

Email it to or send a letter to:

Feelgood, Irish Examiner, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork

NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.


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