Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Healthy Travels

One of my readers asked me to blog about how to prevent getting sick while traveling and how to deal with Jet Lag.

So here we are...

Many people get sick on trips, especially those involving airplanes due to the lack of fresh air, circulating germs (if you buy into the germ theory of illness), poor sleeping, exhaustion, and suppressed immune function.  So what can we do to prevent that?  Plan ahead!

Before taking a trip, buy some Vitamin C, herbal teas, and natural supplements to take on the trip.  Make sure you have enough to last both going away and coming back home and make sure you pack it in your carry-on!

Start boosting your immune system a day or two before you leave on your trip.  I like the Vitamin C packets that dissolve in water because they absorb well and they taste good!  Winning combo!  And no this is not a paid endorsement!

You can take a couple packets per day.  Since Vitamin C is water-soluble, if you take too much, you just pee it out so there is no concern for over-dosing.  And since it is available in many flavors and varieties you can enjoy different tastes as well as additional health benefits such as supporting your joints as well.

If you know you are prone to sore throats, load up on some immune boosting teas.  These can be purchased at Whole Foods and even local supermarkets in the Health Food Isle.  It is easy to take tea bags in a carry-on and ask for hot water on the plane.  You might also consider taking zinc lozenges or herbal cough drops so you have them just in case.

At the first onset of a cold, the Chinese herbal formula Yin Qiao is recommended to nip the cold in the bud, before it develops into something major.  Airborne is a popular product that has some of the ingredients of yin qiao as well as other immune boosting nutrients.  It also dissolves in water, like an alka- seltzer and helps right away.  Another option is Zicam, a homeopathic remedy which dissolves under the tongue and also has a pleasant taste.  Both of these products are readily available at your local drug store.

Sleep is very important for the immune system.  So while traveling, it is best to try to maintain your sleep schedule like it is at home.  Avoid having the air conditioning on the plane or hotel hitting your face, neck, or shoulders directly, this can contribute to colds, sinusitis, headaches, tight muscles, and even bell's palsy (facial paralysis!). 

Another thing is that people often do not exercise when they are on the road, which may also have negative effects on the immune system.  If it is a long flight, get up and walk, stretch, and even do chair exercises to prevent ankle edema (swelling due to water retention and poor circulation). 

Being active on your trip, even walking, helps to improve circulation and prevents stagnation or the accumulation of bacteria and viruses in the body.  Sweating is healthy.  A sauna or steam room creates an artificial fever in the body which boosts the immune system.  So if you have access to a gym or sauna in your hotel, use it!  20 minutes a day of walking and a 10 minute sauna can do wonders for you!

If you can, massage and or acupuncture can also be beneficial for you to prevent getting sick on your trip.  If you go for massage, ask for lymphatic drainage which helps the body to clear toxins and if you go for acupuncture tell them you want to boost your immune system.  If you are in Miami, come to us and we'll treat you right! (okay had to do the plug :-)

In terms of preventing jet lag, melatonin may be helpful to re-establish the circadian rhythm and sleep schedule.  I found the following recommendations by Life Extension Foundation to be on point:

  • Attempt to schedule your arrival for morning or early afternoon, if possible.
  • Attempt to depart fully rested.
  • Expose yourself to (carefully timed) bright daylight.
    • Such light exposure should not commence until two hours before your normal wake time. For example, if you normally rise at 7 a.m., do not expose yourself to light at the destination until the time that corresponds to 5 a.m. at your departure point. Thus on a seven-hour eastward flight, do not expose yourself to light until noon at your destination.
  • Take 0.5 to 5.0 mg melatonin by mouth within three hours of desired bedtime at the destination.
  • Sleep in absolute darkness, to the extent possible.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon.
To beat jet lag on a long-distance eastward trip, consider the following preentrainment procedure. This strategy requires that you take action at least three days before departure. While flights across more than five time zones are of greatest concern, preentrainment may be useful for flights that cross as few as two or three time zones. For two-time-zone flights, begin two days before departure.
  • For each of the three days before departure, set your alarm for one hour earlier than your usual wake time.
  • Immediately on waking each day, expose yourself to bright light.
  • For 3.5 hours after waking each morning, including the morning of your departure, alternate 30 minutes of exposure to bright light with 30 minutes of exposure to ordinary room light.
    • Perform morning chores requiring mobility (e.g., showering, shaving, etc.) during bright-light phases.
    • Tasks such as working on a computer, applying makeup, or gardening outdoors without hat or sunglasses may be completed during bright-light phases, as long as full bright-light exposure is not compromised.
  • Take 0.5 to 3.0 mg supplemental melatonin in late afternoon (3 to 5 hours before desired bedtime).
  • Attempt to retire to bed one hour earlier than usual.
  • Attempt to sleep in absolute darkness.
  • Repeat procedure, again setting wake time another hour earlier than usual, for two more days. By day three you should be waking three hours earlier than usual.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon.
For more information:

Have a Happy & HEALTHY Trip!


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