By Dr. Angelina Riopel, ND
When travelling, changes in routine, sleep and diet can increase risk of susceptibility to infection, fatigue and digestive upset – the last thing one wants to experience while away. Prevention is key and is possible if you begin by preparing your body prior to departure. Two to three weeks before departure proactively addressing digestion, immunity and stress and continuing the protocol throughout the trip, will improve the likelihood of a healthy and enjoyable time away.
STRESS & IMMUNITY
Follow an immune strengthening diet that is low in sugar and high in anti-oxidant rich fruits, vegetables and quality protein, before and during your trip. Stress can often be high immediately prior to travelling which can suppress the immune system thus increasing risk of catching a cold or flu. Adaptogenic herbs such as Astragalus, Siberian ginseng and Codonopsis, support both the adrenal glands and the immune system, improving resistance to stress and thereby helping prevent colds and flus.
Exposure to new foods and changes in eating schedule can lead to digestive upset, gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Digestive bitters and probiotics help keep the digestive system strong and bowel movements regular. Digestive bitters are taken in water before food and the bitter flavor helps to promote bile flow and increase digestive juices which will reduce gas and bloating. Many probiotics are difficult to travel with as they must be refrigerated. Saccaromyces boulardii is a shelf stable probiotic that can be taken to support healthy digestion and prevent digestive upset and travellers diarrhea.
We often hear about ‘Travellers Diarrhea’, which is mentioned above and is due to a bacterial infection. But Travellers Constipation on the other hand,is not often mentioned and is a big problem for many people. The bowel loves routine and is highly nervous system motivated. Changes in routine, a new bathroom, no bathroom, new food, less fiber and dehydration are the perfect storm for Travellers Constipation! Planning ahead is helpful. A high fiber diet will help with regularity.Consume plenty of fruit and vegetables (caution in countries where water sanitation is questionable), bring a bag of prunes or dried fruit and pack sachets of fiber blends to keep your fiber content high. Probiotics taken ahead of time and while travelling will help prevent both Travellers Diarrhea and Constipation. Magnesium citrate, taken before bed, will help keep bowel movements regular. Stay hydrated. Relax and make time to go to the washroom daily.
Prevent dehydration by increasing water intake a few days prior to departure and during the flight. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, constipation and can exacerbate jet lag. It is suggested to drink 8 ounces of water per hour of flying. If possible, avoid alcohol, caffeine and drinks that are high in sugar when flying. Airplane food is often high in salt and simple carbohydrates, which can lead to water retention, gas and bloating. Plan and pack healthy meals and snacks, as well as your own bottle of water to ensure a healthy and hydrated flight.
Travelling between time zones disrupts circadian rhythm (the internal sleep/wake cycle), resulting in desynchronosis (jet lag). Jet lag is characterized by fatigue, insomnia, irritability, digestive upset as well as other physical and emotional symptoms. These symptoms persist as long as it takes the body to adjust to the new time zone. There are some simple proactive steps that can be taken to lessen the adverse affects of jet lag and acclimate more quickly in a new time zone. Firstly, take a walk shortly after arriving at your destination, ideally in the daylight and without sunglasses. The sunlight and exercise will decrease melatonin and increase serotonin levels which will lessen the feeling of grogginess and help you feel more alert. Supplement melatonin before bedtime to help reset circadian rhythm, thus improving quality and length of sleep and will get you into sync with the new time zone.