Getting ready for a trip? Whether your trip is long or short, for business or pleasure, you are sure to experience a mixture of excitement and stress. Yes, even the “good” things in life can be very stressful (ever planned a wedding?). Although there are many things to consider as you prepare for your adventure (what to pack, passports, visas, money, flights, etc. etc.), one of the most important things you can do is to ensure that you don’t get sick! Nothing ruins a vacation more than a cold/flu or bout of traveler’s diarrhea. Below are a few tips to keep you well and some advice on steps you can take if you do become ill on your trip.
#1 Immune System
This is one of the most important (and frequently overlooked) factors. Our society has become so fixated on germ-phobia with all of our “anti” measures (antibiotics, antibacterial, etc.) that we have overlooked our most powerful “pro” measure – prevention….our Immune System. When exposed to the same “germs”, not everyone gets sick. Why? What’s the distinguishing factor? Your immune system. Build a strong immune system and you will be far better prepared to handle whatever nasty germs come your way.
Some of the most powerful ways to boost your immune system include your diet, sleep, and emotions.
- Diet: Plain and simple, eating garbage depletes your immune system. The worst offenders are white sugar, processed foods, and food chemicals (artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, msg and it’s multiple derivatives – just because it says “no msg” does not mean it is safe – alcohol and drugs). Some of your best immune boosters are fresh fruits and vegetables…especially in their raw, unprocessed state. Focus on the red and golden-orange colored produce for extra vitamin C.
- Vitamin C: Although this is part of diet, it deserves it’s own bullet point. Vitamin C is super important, and it comes from fresh fruits and vegetables! Did you know that vitamin C supplementation is commonplace in our society due to the fact that most people’s diets are deficient in fresh fruits and vegetables? So you get a double benefit when you follow the diet advice above and supplement with a good bio-available form of vitamin C, such as this one.
- Sleep: Sleep is so simple (and enjoyable) that most people overlook this powerful immune booster. With the accelerating stimulation of smart phones, endless media streaming and increasing “do-do” mentality (pun intended), people simply are not getting enough sleep. One clear sign of sleep deprivation is going unconscious the minute your head hits the pillow. There should be a natural unwinding time once you lay down as you drift off. Before your trip, make it a point to start going to bed at least 1 hour earlier….extra credit for engaging in a restful activity (such as yoga, soft music or meditation) before going to bed. Contrary to popular belief, reading is not a good bedtime activity. It stimulates the mind, stresses the eyes and exposes you to artificial light. Even worse is looking at any screen (t.v., computer or smart phone). The lights from these devices (vices) foul up your brain chemistry and bio rhythms making restful sleep much more difficult. The “optimal” situation would be to not expose yourself to any artificial light after sundown. This allows hormones, like melatonin, to be secreted properly inducing a natural deep restful sleep. And of course, avoid all stimulants such as coffee, tea and yes, chocolate!
- Emotions: Cultivating positive emotions, like gratitude, has been proven to boost your immune system. The contrary is also true…dwell in negativity and you are depleting your vital life force and resilience. We all have bad days, but don’t make a habit of hanging out in those dark places. This includes avoiding negative draining people, places and activities. Try this experiment: spend a few minutes telling someone about something you really appreciate in your life. Then, check-in to see how you feel inside. (You may also observe the energy of your listener.) Next, call up the biggest complainer you know and ask them to tell you all about their problems. I’m confident you will quickly observe how positivity vs. negativity affect your overall vitality.
#2 Stress – The Immune Buster!
Did you know that the likelihood of “coming down with something” skyrockets just after a stressful event (such as post-finals for college students)? Usually your system allows you to run on adrenaline just long enough to accomplish your stressful task, then as soon as you get the chance to relax…whamo, you get sick. Life has it’s challenges and stressors, but you can do a lot to minimize their impact on your health.
- Plan Ahead: One of the best ways to reduce pre-travel stress is to plan ahead. (This is more challenging for some personality types than others.)
- Make a Checklist: As soon as you make travel plans, start a list including “to-dos” and what to pack. You will likely add to this list as you go along. Having a visual helps you to plan and greatly reduces stress. It also reduces the need to “think” about the same information over and over. Just right it down and check it off as you go.
- More Time: Another low-stress tactic is to allow extra time. If you think you should be at the airport by 2pm…arrive by 1pm instead. I actually start packing a week before-hand. I set out the suitcase and put everything I plan to take in there, to be sure it fits, then I take out the things I use daily. This makes the night-before so much easier because there’s nothing left to “pack” other than my daily items.
- Acceptance: My final tip is to accept whatever happens and move on. Things are going to “go wrong”…in life, and that includes your travels. Learn to adopt an open attitude and take things in stride instead of getting all freaked out. Don’t be so rigid in your planning that there’s no room for flexibility (ever seen a bridezilla?). No matter what happens, there is always a way to take care of it. And, remember to think long-term….In a year from now, your troubles will never be as devastating as they seem in the moment.
Most people are already chronically dehydrated and flying exacerbates this even further. If you are well hydrated before, during and after your flight you will feel a million times better upon arrival. One of the best ways to hydrate is through your diet….in other words “eat more water”. With a conventional diet of bread, meat and cheese, cookies, chips, crackers and other dry fare… loaded with sugar, salts, spices and who-knows-what-else, the body is forced to pull it’s vital fluids to hydrate all of those drying foods and to dilute consumed toxins. As a remedy to this disaster, people are recommended to drink 8 glasses of water per day. But this does not totally rectify the situation. It’s like hitting yourself with a hammer and then applying ice. Why not just eat a hydrating diet instead?
A water-rich diet is a far superior way to hydrate. That means eating more fresh fruits and veggies, freshly made vegetable juices and green smoothies, and steamed veggies with water-rich starches like quinoa, beans, lentils, etc. What a difference! Even if you eat the most water-abundant diet, it’s still a good idea to increase liquid intake 24-48 hours pre flight. Raw vegetable juices are an excellent first choice (esp. cucumber juice), and pure water with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice added is a good second choice. (Please do not drink tap water unless you know it is of exceptional quality.)
Circulation is an important part of staying well. It is what brings oxygen and nutrients to your cells and helps remove wastes. Sitting in the airport for a few hours, followed by getting crammed into an airplane seat for several hours more, is a sure way to get stiff and achy. I always find a private corner by my flight gate to do some yoga stretches pre-flight. Then, once on the plane, I stand as often as reasonable (don’t want to irritate my neighbors too much). And if I’m stuck in my seat, I do ankle circles, arm stretches and buttocks squeezes every half hour or so. Every little bit of movement helps.
#5 Bio Rhythms
When traveling across time zones, your bio rhythms can get out of whack. Of particular importance are the circadian rhythms that adjust your body’s sleep/wake cycles. Some things you can do to help your body adjust are getting plenty of sleep the days prior to your trip (follow the good sleep tips above), earthing (a.k.a. grounding) and melatonin (the natural hormone secreted by your pineal gland which is responsible for deep sleep).
Earthing helps your body sync with the rhythms of your destination. When you arrive, take a few minutes to touch the ground barefoot on any piece of earth (can be dirt, sand, gravel, even stone). To enhance the bio rhythm synchronization, hug a tree…seriously! This is due to the harmonizing effect of the tree’s electomagnetic field (EMF), also known as the tree’s aura. The bigger the tree, the bigger the EMF and the more powerful the synchronizing effect. Eating locally grown, freshly picked foods will have a similar effect, though to a lesser degree.
Melatonin can be purchased at any health food store (see image below). It’s best to start low and increase the dose as needed. I personally have never felt “groggy” using melatonin. Also, meditation is an excellent way to harmonize your bio-energetic field, induce deep restful sleep and get your rhythms in sync.
Supplements (See Images Below)
Here are a few supplements you may want to consider bringing with you when you travel: (Be sure to keep all supplements/herbs etc. in their original packaging to avoid problems going through security.)
- Vitamin C: Immune system support
- Parasite Pills: (I like Markus Rothkranz’s Parasite Free). These are especially important if you are traveling to a destination with a high incidence of parasitic infections. (Although this includes most developing nations, parasitic infestation is also problematic in so-called developed regions such as the U.S. and Europe….far more than people realize.) . It’s a good idea to begin the herbs a week or two before you go and continue throughout the duration of your trip.
- Probiotics: These help keep your microbiome balanced and happy, which effects your immunity as well as mood and bowel regularity. (Take apart from any anti-parasitic herbs…usually before bed.)
- Digestive Enzymes: You will probably be eating “weird foods” wherever you travel. Digestive enzymes are actually a good idea all the time, but especially helpful when you throw your system a curve ball with new and exotic foreign foods (many of which are difficult to digest).
- Activated Charcoal OR Bentonite Clay: These are for “in case” you ingest something bad and get a stomach ache. I have had great success using activated charcoal after ingesting something that really threw my system for a loop. I got relief within 15 minutes! (Note: Both of these work by absorption power…However, they absorb toxins as well as nutrients. After use, be sure to increase nutrition with either fresh organic vegetable juices, fruit, raw or lightly steamed veggies and/or a good organic greens powder…see below.)
- Psyllium Husks: This is to help combat traveler’s constipation. Take with plenty of water!
- Triphala: A good Ayurvedic digestive support formula for gentle regularity and detoxification.
- Antidiarrheal: Although I generally avoid all “medications”, this is one instance you want to be covered. If you are on a 6 hour bus ride in India with a major spell of diarrhea …you want to take something that works…fast! Best to carry something like Imodium (a drug store anti-diarrhea medication) just in case. Charcoal/Psyllium combo is a natural alternative, though I have not tested it personally (see instructions below). You can bring both, reserving the Imodium for emergencies only. (Note: If possible, it is best to allow diarrhea to run its course and clean out whatever is disturbing your system. Just rest and drink extra fluids.)
- Greens Powder (or liquid): (Chlorella, Spirulina, Wheatgrass etc.) This is essentially for nutritional support and gentle daily detoxification. There are plenty on the market. Look for a well respected organic brand.
All of these supplements are optional. It depends on your system and how cautious you want to be. Here are some images of brands I like:
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Travel Well & Enjoy the Ride!