Economy Class Syndrome

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

People who might be experiencing Economy Class SyndromeDeep-vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition where blood clots in the legs. It is usually caused by a lack of leg movement, that leads to stagnation of blood in the veins. This condition is frequently found in long staying hospitalized patients and to an increasing degree in the long distance air passengers; particularly those crammed into the economy class with limited space. It is therefore called “Economy Class Syndrome”.

DVT is a major cause of another more serious condition called Pulmonary embolism. In such a case, the blood clot in the leg has spread and lodge itself in the pulmonary artery. Pulmonary embolism is one fatal disease that claims the lives of about 200,000 Americans every year. The onset can be quite sudden, with shortness of breadth being the most common presenting symptom.

Many research have shown that DVT is related to a high blood level of homocysteine, an amino acid that contains sulfur. The latter is also related to the development of atherosclerosis. A high homocysteine level is an independent and major risk factor of cardiovascular disease from many studies. ( If you have high homocysteine level, it can be bought back down to normal by vitamin B6, B12, folic acid, and L-carnitine)

How well can vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) relieve DVT? At the University of Milano, a study was where 397 patients with DVT were compared to a healthy control group of 585. Comparison was done based on the following:

  1. Blood levels of homocysteine
  2. Folic acid
  3. Vitamin B6
  4. Vitamin B12

After adjustments were made for the confounding variables, the following conclusions were drawn: –

1. The probability of having DVT was two times as high among the participants with high homocysteine level as compared with those with lower levels.

2. No association was made between DVT incidence and blood levels of folic acid and vitamin B12.

3. The association between low levels of vitamin B6 and an increased risk of DVT was high. The participants with low vitamin B6 levels (less than 33.2 nanomol/L of pyridoxal-5′-phosphate [PLP]) had double the risk of developing DVT than did people with PLP levels above 46.5 nanomol/L.

Vitamin B6 supplements had been found to inhibit platelet aggregation and prolong bleeding time. Other natural compounds that have similar effect include vitamin E, gingko, and fish oil. Aspirin also accomplishes the same blood thinning effect but is associated with frequent gastric bleeding.

Adrenal Fatigue and Economy Class Syndrome

When you suffer from DVT or Economy Class Syndrome you tend to have lower levels of B6. In turn, if you have adrenal gland problems or suffer from Adrenal Fatigue syndrome and you may have vitamin deficiencies including B6 deficiency. Vitamin B plays a huge role in metabolic pathways that boost energy levels and even combat against fatigue.This shows that economy class syndrome and adrenal fatigue can correlate and cause even more serious problems. Vitamin B6 is essential to health and vital for many organ system functions, there functions include cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular and nervous system functions.If you look at some of the signs and symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue and add DVT along with it, you can see how a B6 deficiency can dramatically increase some of these issues, especially these symptoms:

  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Lack of Energy
  • Weight Fluctuations
  • Increased or Longing-lasting infections
  • Lightheadedness

NEM Stress Response

Vitamin B Pill helping with economy class syndromeThe NEM Stress Response model shows how stress is like a circuit. If you follow the circuit to where the problem is you will understand which body systems, organs and functions are being affected.The way your body reacts to different stresses is not limited to one set of functions. They all correlate to keep your body functioning and working properly. When it comes to Deep Vein Thrombosis or “Economy Class Syndrome” it shows that your circulatory system is the main system affected however, other systems or organs can be affected as well. Such as your adrenal glands. Which is why lethargy and fatigue can be common symptoms. Vitamin B6 is important to increase energy and reduce the likelihood of DVT. It also aids in relieving some of the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. In other words, if you work towards fixing one area of the circuit, other bodily functions may improve, as well.

Economy Class Syndrome Conclusion

The take home lesson: Take vitamin B6 as a protective insurance, starting one week before you go on a long plane trip if you wish to prevent economy class syndrome. Taking vitamin B6 also has the added advantage in that it also protects against heart attack and atherosclerosis.

Economy class syndrome
5 -
Dr. Lam
Beautiful – Thank you once again. You are a truly AMAZING coach of health and life. I wish every doctor in the health field was even half as committed as yourself. It is extremely hard these days to find even a good doctor…but if a person finds a great one – they need to cherish them.


  • Jenkins Hamptom Long says:

    Does this only effect those who are in bed ? What about setting in an office for 9 hours a day ?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Sitting in the office for prolong period of time will also be problematic. it is always good to stand up and stretch regularly.

      Dr Lam