Just as you start to unwind on your much needed holiday, you feel that dreaded lump in your throat when you swallow. Or you sense your back is about to go out. Suddenly, you’re sniffling, searching for a box of tissues, or looking for that heating pad and reluctantly canceling long anticipated plans. Sound familiar? During this holiday season, many of us will be on the road to visit with family and friends or just get away on an adventure. Acute illness can dampen the spirits and decrease the pleasure of holiday travel. As a licensed naturopathic physician, I offer patients a number of approaches to both prevent ailments, boost the immune system or decrease inflammation should illness strike.
Many of us can start off on the wrong foot by being stressed to get everything done before we even leave home. Then we may be exposed to all kinds of new germs as we travel in public places and are unable to keep up with healthy habits related to food and exercise.
Some people are nervous travelers and have anxiety about health, where being in a far away place, or even just a place that is not home, is a stress to the system. That stress impacts the nervous system, which in turn impacts the immune function and the patient may fall ill. Other people do not have this tendency but find themselves, exposed to illnesses and would love natural medicine support in terms of both preventing or addressing first aid and acute issues on the road.
Here are some general recommendations for your time en route, as well as specific tools that can help you fight digestive tract, cold and sinus, and muscle/joint issues if they come up. Following these tips and using these tools when needed can help stave off common ailments.
When you’re en route:
•Hydrate! Staying hydrated helps all our body systems. You want to drink water even before you feel thirsty (1).
•Take a B complex vitamin to help with the stress of travel (2).
•Bring tea bags you enjoy for on-board an airplane, to use at a rest stop. This way, first off, you have what you like. Secondly, you can pack teas with licorice root which is soothing to the throat and digestive system and helps reduce stress (3). Ginger helps with nausea and is anti-inflammatory (4).
•Pack healthy, nutrient- dense, high fiber or high protein snacks like whole grain crackers and cheese or apples and almonds, to help you avoid the temptations of sweets and simple carbohydrates which contribute to inflammation and blood sugar swings which can make people moody.
•If you drink alcohol, remember, it’s dehydrating, so chase it with a glass of water.
•If on an airplane, get up every hour or two and take a lap up and down the aisle to pre-empt joint swelling and stiffening. If you’re driving, stop every hour or two to walk and stretch.
•Bring low-chemical hand sanitizer and use consistently.
For prevention/treatment of digestive tract issues:
•A probiotic in the morning helps create and maintain healthy flora throughout the gut, and also helps to prevent infection. Find a brand that does not to be refrigerated (5).
•To help prevent or treat diarrhea, use activated charcoal capsules or tablets to help absorb illness-causing bacteria. These are available at most pharmacies and health food stores. Note that these may interfere with absorption of pharmaceuticals including the birth control pill. To be safe, check first with your pharmacist, naturopathic physician or other care provider.
•If you feel you are getting constipated, eat natural oatmeal mixed with ground flax seeds. Purchase each in small packets, which are easy to bring along.
For prevention of cold/flu/sinus issues: •Take Vitamin C-, please discuss dosage with your health care provider.
•Take Bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple, with your Vitamin C. This helps to thin mucous and decrease inflammation (6).
•Use a nettipot or salt water sniff to help rid the nose and nasopharynx of bacteria and viruses that can cause infection.
•Suck on a charcoal tablet (not capsule), to help absorb and flush out any “invaders.”
•Suck on zinc lozenges to help kill germs and also raise the lymphocyte count in your blood, which supports your immune system.
•Drink ginger tea which helps to clear the sinuses and is an immune system supporter.
For issues of muscle/joint soreness or stiffness due to sitting too long, a fall or overexertion:
•Use Vitamin C to decrease inflammation.
•Take Bromelain, which also decreases inflammation
•Bring Zyflamend (by New Chapter) to help reduce inflammation, soreness and stiffness
Once you’re at your destination, keep up with an exercise routine. This helps to release stress and helps circulation. Ditto for any relaxation or calming approaches you use such as prayer, meditation or yoga.
By being prepared you can prevent or treat symptoms or treat common to travelers, so you can enjoy your time away. Happy holidays!