Winter is the time of year when many of us become travelers. We travel by rail, by bus, by plane and by car. We travel to get away from the cold, to visit with family and friends and to take advantage of the periodic holiday stretches and long week-ends that pop up during the winter months.
When we travel, we never travel alone – we are always traveling in the company of countless cold and flu viruses, temperate or tropical parasites, fungi or stealth bacteria. So, how do we stay healthy while traveling? While it’s not always possible to to have perfect health on the move, it is possible to take some preventative measures which will dramatically reduce your vulnerability to many of the most common (and undesirable) travel companions. Below are 5 essential health tips for the naturopathic jetsetter or natural global wanderer.
Always Bring (and Take Daily) a Probiotic.
This is a supplement which contains strains of friendly bacteria (like the good stuff in yogurt, but much stronger). These probiotics or friendly bacteria will work to maintain your immune system, offer some protection from the countless types of bacteria found in unfamiliar food or water and help prevent constipation. Make sure to choose a ‘shelf-stable’ probiotic. This is a probiotic which does not need to be refrigerated and yet still maintains its potency. Look for a probiotic which contains a number of different strains and one with a potency of at least 15 billion CFU’s (colony forming units). Another useful type of probiotic is a strain called saccharomyces boulardii. This is a type of fermented yeast from the lychee or mangosteen fruit which helps to protect against traveler’s diarrhea. It tends to be expensive but it works very well. Start taking the saccharomyces 5 days before your trip and every day while traveling (250 mg once daily). If you do experience travelers’ diarrhea then increase your dose to twice daily for 5 days.
Prepare Your Immune System
Keep your immune system running at full strength before, during and after your trip. You can do this in several ways but a fast and simple way to do this is to use an immune-boosting herb such as Astragalus or Echinacea. Both herbs have been shown by research to increase the immune system’s capacity to fight off bacterial or viral infections. In tincture form they can be added to water, tea or juice or squirted directly into the mouth. Absorption of herbal tinctures is very fast as they don’t require digestion so they can get to work quickly.
First Aid Kit
Pack a small first-aid kit with band-aids, natural antiseptic hand gel, homeopathic remedies and creams for bumps and bruises (such as Arnica) and a bottle of Colloidal Silver. Colloidal silver is a multi-purpose, non-stinging liquid that can keep wounds clean, chase away a sore throat if used as a gargle or nip an eye infection in the bud if used as an eye wash.
Keep your digestion working the way it should. In addition to a probiotic it is a good idea to bring along digestive enzymes and a fibre supplement to keep things moving. Staying well-hydrated is also vitally important for preventing constipation.
Get Your Sleep
Proper sleep and rest will do wonders for your ability to stay healthy while traveling. For jet-setters experiencing time zone changes, Melatonin does a great job at re-setting your body clock. A dose of 3 mg 30 minutes before bed-time when you’ve reached your destination will help tell your body that it’s time to ‘log-off’ and get some shut-eye. Take the melatonin for a minimum of three nights for maximum effect. If you’ve traveled to a warmer climate, it’s also very helpful to expose the backs of your knees to sunshine. Receptors behind your knees help to signal melatonin not to be released until it’s dark. Getting outside and taking your sunglasses off as much as possible also re-sets your body clock. And for those not dealing with jet-lag but just wanting a good night’s sleep, supplements such as Magnesium (200 mg at bedtime) and 5-HTP (1-2 capsules 45 minutes before bed) or tinctures such as Passionflower, Skullcap, Valerian, Linden, or Lemon Balm are all excellent sleep aids.
Bon voyage – have safe and healthy travels. We would love to hear how you made out health-wise once you get back!