Staying Healthy: No Matter Where Your Travels Take You
With school out and the heat of summer in full effect, we all look forward to getting away with friends and family. Whether your destination is a river, a concert venue, or another country, the goal for all of us is making the most out of our vacation time. The key to maximizing this fun is staying healthy. The recipe for success while traveling is one part lifestyle, one part supplementation and one part healthy mind-set.
The concept of self-care may seem challenging to many of us when it comes to traveling, eating out and generally enjoying life in ways that we typically don’t at home. I’m here to tell you that, despite letting loose, you can still fulfill some of the most essential items on this list without too much effort or difficulty.
Proper hydration, restful sleep and considerate preparation are essential factors in preventing yourself from becoming sick or depleted. Drink water frequently throughout the day; a good target is half your body weight in ounces. If you’re going to be outside and/or consuming alcohol, consider increasing this amount and adding an electrolyte tablet or two into your bottle to replenish what you lose through sweat and urine. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Sleep can be a challenge in a foreign environment and that much more elusive if your plan involves late night festivities. Despite breaking from your routine, allow yourself the luxury of sleeping in if needed or catching a nap when you feel run down. You should aim for 8 hours per night, but never less than 5 ½ hours. Bringing your own pillow, diffusing essential oils, drinking calming tea, quieting your mind with phosphatidylserine or taking melatonin can all be used to minimize issues around insomnia.
Regardless of your destination, take into account the environment you will be visiting and prepare adequately. Give your itinerary to someone you trust, consider insect spray, sunscreen, a water purifier, iodine and/or grapefruit seed extract, and black walnut capsules if parasitic infection is a concern. Nothing can ruin a trip and affect your health like finding a bulls-eye rash from a tick bite or the sudden gurgling of acute gastroenteritis from the local water.
Supplementation is a broad topic, and I would encourage anyone with unique needs such as traveling to a third world country to first speak with a Naturopathic physician. This being said, I do recommend travelers take a few basic items to appropriately support their immune system. Chief amongst these suggestions is a quality Probiotic. Studies have shown that taking Lactobacillus starting a week prior to travel can boost the immune system as well as discourage colonization of many harmful GI infections such as Giardia. Additionally, both vitamin D3 and Zinc are needed for over 85% of our immune function. An adult dose of at least 5000 iu’s of D3 daily and 20-30mg of Zinc twice per day can help to both prevent and minimize any potential infections. Astragalus at 5-600mg 2-3 times per day can also help to avoid catching a respiratory transmitted viral illness. Indirectly, a good B complex will also minimize the effects of stress on our immune system.
One of my favorite and yet most overlooked topics in medicine is called psychoneuroimmunology. This is in short saying, you are what you believe. The stress of long hours of travel, children fighting, unpredictable weather, spousal conflict, less than ideal dietary regimens and recreational substances can all take a toll on our stress tolerance and adrenal reserves. Remembering to find time to breathe or meditate, take a quiet walk and speak in positive and reinforcing ways to those around you can all help ensure that you don’t let frustrating situations affect the bigger picture of your trip.
While there are no guarantees, following these recommendations can stack the proverbial immune deck in your favor!