Summer has always been get-away season, be it to a nearby beach, a remote cabin in the woods or a far-off land (borders permitting). After sheltering so close to home for so many months, never has the idea of getting out of town seemed more appealing. But, whether you’re an occasional traveler or frequent flier, your mission, besides some well-deserved relaxation, is to stay well, so you can return home truly refreshed and rejuvenated.
So, how to avoid travel ills no matter where you roam? Think immunity, as in keeping your body – and your gut – fortified so it’s less susceptible to bugs – and better equipped to fight them off should one try to slow you down. A compromised or unbalanced gut sets you up for vacation-disrupting ills like indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, constipation – none of which you want to be dealing with while you’re trying to unwind and enjoy yourself.
Take steps to avoid burnout – before you bust out the suitcase.
When vacation time is fast approaching, often we’ll find ourselves scrambling to wrap up everything that needs to be done before heading out. We’ll shortchange ourselves on exercise, sleep and maybe get a little sloppy with our diets. In a word: don’t. If you want to have an awesome time and avoid ills on the road, you need to up (or at minimum, maintain) your wellness game before you go. Here are some simple pre-trip tips:
- Exercise: If you’re short on pre-trip time, cut yourself a little slack, and trim your more intense workouts by 10 or 15 minutes for a few days prior to departure. For now, think maintenance rather than big gains. On your return, give yourself a day to recover from the journey, then go back to your usual routine.
- Boost pre-travel immunity with lots of good, clean, healthy food – and no processed stuff or sugar-bombs which wreak havoc on your immune system.
- Be good to your gut by supporting it with the terrific two-some: 1) A daily broad spectrum probiotic that seeds your gut with good bacteria that can help repel the microorganisms that can make you sick and 2) Adding some prebiotics that are the fertilizer or food for the probiotics. Eating more stalks and stems of
vegetables or adding some resistant starch to your diet will do the trick.
Get your rest. Travel, particularly for those who haven’t done much of it recently, is taxing and stressful on your system. Leave home rested and fortified for a great time ahead.
Keep food options on track while on the road.
To keep summertime defenses strong, the classic rules that you follow when home-bound apply here as well: eat fresh, whole foods; make time for daily movement/exercise; get quality rest; steer clear of sugar, drugs and alcohol; and supplement strategically to power up immunity along the way. Making smart food
choices on the road can be a bit more of a challenge. If you’re road-tripping, travel with a cooler of healthy snacks and drinks instead of pulling into a fast-food drive-thru or a gas station quick mart, which tend to be long on processed, fiber-free and quick-digesting carbs and short on healthy options. En route, have your co-pilot Google up a few healthy grocery store options like Whole Foods, Wegmans, Sprouts, etc., and pull in to pick up meal ingredients and snacks along the way.
If you’re flying off to somewhere wonderful, chances are, you’re going to need a snack in transit. Instead of grabbing a $25 sandwich at the airport, add a few of these good-for-you, grab-and-go items to your carry-on so there’s always something healthy within reach:
- Organic nut butter packets
- Portions of raw, organic nuts
- Organic, grass-fed beef jerky or biltong
- Meal-replacement protein shake packets (just add water)
- Organic, fair-trade dark chocolate (80% cacao or higher)
Uncrushable, non-perishable, healthy and delicious, a few of these single-serving packs may just save the day when healthy foods are scarce, or when you arrive after every kitchen in town has closed for the night.
Let the only backup you experience be traffic-related.
Dehydrating long-haul flights and cramped car rides can mess with healthy digestion, and more specifically, elimination. Travel stress, excitement and even sleeping in beds you’re not used to can also interfere with smooth digestive sailing. When trouble arises, instead of searching out an all-night drugstore for over-the-counter meds, carry a stash of magnesium, a healthier (cramp-free) alternative to aid with regularity and
sleep. Responsible for the metabolic function of over 300 enzymes in the body, magnesium is a crucial mineral and, in supplement form, offers relief from several of the minor travel ills that can take the fun out of your vacation time. In addition to counteracting digestive slow-downs, magnesium also helps make falling asleep easier. What’s more, it’s great for easing headache pain; relieving muscle aches after a long day of sight-seeing; curbing menstrual cramps and keeping blood pressure down. In other words, hitting the road with a stash of magnesium is like having a mini-medicine cabinet that takes almost no space in your bag.
Side-step traveler’s diarrhea.
If you’re headed to a place where food-borne illnesses may be an issue, like Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, South and Southeast Asia, once you touch down, your best defense is to protect your belly by dining defensively. Beware of raw or uncooked foods or ‘street food,’ as well as the usual suspects like drinking water and ice cubes from questionable sources. Though they might not have much effect on
the locals, your gut may not be up to the challenge, and you may find yourself very sick. To protect your gut in case there’s a slip-up on your part or the chef’s, bring along a supply of a probbiotic that conains Saccharomyces Boulardi, like Florastar, which can be found quite asily. Oil of Oregano, a natural antibiotic and antifungal which helps protect the gut wall and can also reduce ‘infectivity’ of certain types of parasites, maybe worthwhile too. Also consider adding another layer of protection against traveler’s diarrhea – good old-fashioned Pepto Bismol tablets. A tablet or two chewed before each meal may be the difference between being under-the-weather or out there enjoying it. Though the actual mechanism is unclear, studies show that people who add Pepto to the mix have a significantly lower incidence of traveler’s diarrhea.
Power up and protect with powdered greens.
Greens are wonderful for your health, but when you’re traveling, it can be tough to get all the greens you need to stay well, which is why I encourage everyone to bring along greens powders. Greens powders are a great way to stay energized — just add water. Shake one up to nourish every cell in your body. A greens drink will give you a terrific, jitter-free start to your day, and give you a boost when energy flags, especially if you
need to power your way through one more museum. A daily dose is one of the easiest ways there is to supercharge your body with nutrients, prebiotics and digestive enzymes – both on the road and at home – and deliver the added bonus of helping keep your gut balanced and your immunity fortified.
Hydrate with tasty health-boosters.
In addition to carrying greens powder, you can also take along a small selection of ingredients which, when combined with water, make instant healthy ‘drinks with benefits,’ to hydrate while sightseeing or when sitting down to a room service meal. To create your own on-the-road beverage bar, slip a few of these items into your carry-on:
- Organic dried lemon powder, plus stevia or monk fruit packets to make a light lemonade, with detoxifying benefits
- Blueberry hibiscus tea bags which, in seconds, make a delicious fruity drink that’s great for blood pressure and vascular health
- Rooibos tea bags, for a more traditionally tea-like taste, minus caffeine, to be enjoyed any hour of the day
Avoiding contagion on the ground and in the air.
For many people, flying has never felt more fraught. Between the threat of picking up a virus, unruly passengers and other flying-related stressors in the not-so-friendly skies these days, keeping your cool and cootie-free is more of a challenge than it’s ever been. To minimize some of the downsides and keep your exposure risk down, be aware and proactive, by adding the following protective protocols:
- Curb contact with the check-in touch-screen — instead of using the tips of your fingers, use your knuckles or a rubber-tipped stylus to tap in your info. Once you’ve passed through security, visit the loo for a good, 30-second hand-washing with soap and hot water.
- Once you’re aboard and in your assigned seat, do a little DIY housekeeping. To start, grab a few wipes – preferably ones that are biodegradable, made with essential oils and without triclosan – and clean your headrest, armrests, tray table, seat-back screen and any other surface you’re likely to touch frequently.
While it won’t completely strip the area of bacteria and viruses, it will cut down the volume some so it’s worth doing. Among the low-toxin wipes to consider are those made with naturally antibacterial essentials oils, vinegar and/or citrus.
Wear a high-quality mask when you fly, or maybe even two – a surgical mask plus a cloth mask over it – particularly if you are immunocompromised, have co-morbidities or just want to feel a bit more comfortable while in transit.
Give your brain a vacation too.
When you arrive and it’s time to let the unwinding begin, give yourself the gift of good sleep. You’ll sleep better if you put the brakes on the brainwave activity that can keep you over-revved. To begin the downshifting process, close the laptop for the night, take a hot bath or shower before bed, turn the lights down low and set the stage for sleep. If, despite the hour, you’re not sleepy, try a guided meditation to help you drift off. You can also try Brainwave Power Music which utilizes ‘binaural beats,’ a therapeutic collection of meditative sound patterns designed to help encourage deep, restful sleep.
Have a wonderful and enjoyable time out there!