Five Ways to Stay Healthy on Vacation
When I conjure up memories of childhood vacations, I recall my siblings and how we crowded into the back seat of the station wagon, each eating a snack box of cereal for breakfast, me with Sugar Pops, my sister with Frosted Flakes. This memory persists, I think, because under normal, non-vacation conditions, breakfast meant Wheaties back then, the (supposed) health food of the day. Sugar was verboten in my home, and no matter how we pleaded, the cupboard lacked fun cereals, cookies, or treats. We knew vacation had started in earnest when the rules got suspended and we could eat what we craved instead of what Mom prescribed.
We had young, strong immune systems back then, and so two weeks of Sugar Smacks, hot dogs, s’mores, and chips left us happy instead of sick. Had such binges been confined to childhood vacations, there wouldn’t be a problem, but alas! The habit persists for many of us. When the vacation starts, so does the eating, and while we may enjoy those daily happy hours on the beach, we return home from the trip fat, sick, and sorry. Add to the mix the fact that someone on the flight or cruise certainly has contagious sniffles or some ugly virus, and our adult vacation memories are likely not as carefree.
Here are five things you can do to make sure your trip is both fun and healthy.
1. Take probiotics before you leave home…and not just the day before you leave, but for several weeks before you leave so that the good bacteria can take hold in your gut. In fact, you should probably just take them as a daily supplement since you’re always being exposed to things like antibiotics in your food or chlorine in your water—not to mention simple stress—that are wiping out your beneficial bacteria. If you plan to fly or cruise or even take buses, you’ll be exposed to people carrying unwanted germs. Chewing an Airborne in flight is next to useless, and it sure won’t protect your digestive system.
Your digestive system gets particularly taxed when you travel, in part because if you change time zones, your metabolic clock gets thrown off, in part because you’re probably eating out more than usual, and in part because in some destinations, there are unfamiliar pathogens present in food and water. That’s why tourists visiting developing countries so often contract traveler’s diarrhea and other nasty intestinal issues. Probiotics help protect you against both digestive problems and contagious bugs because they maintain health in your gut, where two-thirds of the immune cells in your body originate.
To implement a travel probiotic routine, at the minimum, start consuming extra quantities of fermented foods in the weeks leading up to departure, and take a powerful probiotic supplement that contains acidophilus for fending off pathogens like listeria and staph, as well as bifidus, plantarum, rhamnosus, and FOS for increasing immunity while destroying pathogens. Make sure you pack the probiotics with you and continue to take them daily as your travels continue.
2. Use a High-Quality Immune Formula…and not one that contains sucralose or sorbitol, two potentially harmful sweeteners that counteract whatever benefits immune-boosting ingredients may confer. Check ALL the ingredients on the label, as the leading immune supplements for travel do indeed contain sucralose and sorbitol. Start taking the immune formula at least a few days before travel, and continue throughout your trip, especially if you are going to be spending time in public places and enclosed spaces.
What ingredients should you opt for? Use a formula containing herbal ingredients that specifically support immunity, such as high-quality Echinacea and cordyceps mushrooms, known to Chinese medicine as one of the strongest immune supporters available. Other important immunity herbs include Astragalus, which increases antibody levels, and pau d’arco bark. You can also benefit by taking vitamins A and C, as well as D if you’re deficient (ask your doctor for a blood test).
3. Get enough sleep, even if jetlag interferes. If you’ve gone through a time change in your travel, your sleep rhythm might be disturbed. You might, for instance, find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep if you land in a place where midnight is only 9 pm back home, and the more tired you are, the more vulnerable to disease.
It’s probably wise to expedite the jetlag adjustment period so you aren’t dragging around exhausted. Experts say that for each time zone you cross, you’ll need about 16 hours of recovery time (if flying Eastward).1 If you fly Westward, recovery is “only” 12 hours per time zone. To insure that you sleep through the night and let your body recuperate, you can try taking five milligrams of melatonin before sleep. In fact, you can start taking the melatonin a few nights before you leave home, especially if you plan to cross several time zones in an Eastward direction.
4. Wash your paws, and watch what you touch. You undoubtedly wash your hands after using the toilet, but do you wash after handling money or a pen someone lends you or using the hotel TV remote? Of course, it isn’t convenient to wash up every 30 minutes, but do remain aware of when you’ve touched things that have recently been handled by others and make sure not to absently put your fingers in or near your mouth, nose, or eyes after doing so.
5. Get garlicky. If you feel yourself experiencing even the slightest bit of malaise, if your throat scratches even an iota, garlic is your best friend. Garlic is one of nature’s best infection fighters. It kills both bacterial and viral infections while stimulating the immune system. Research shows garlic can be a better antibiotic than antibiotics. A recent study by the University of Nottingham found that a 1000-year-old garlic and onion formula killed 90-percent of antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria.2 Albert Schweitzer treated amoebic dysentery, cholera, and typhus with garlic.
In a pinch, you can chomp on raw garlic cloves or make garlic tea. Better yet, use a formula including garlic extract along with other natural antipathogens such as onion root, horseradish root, olive leaf extract, and zinc.
Of course, you can also try to curb unhealthy eating on the road. Cramming in the junk food puts enormous stress on a jet-lagged body. But if you must have crepes in France and Belgian waffles in Bruges, fry bread on the reservation and pizza in New York, give your body support by following the tips above.
For Jon Barron approved versions of the formulas I’ve talked about, check out:
- 1. “Jet Lag and Melatonin: Topic Overview.” WebMD. 14 July 2017. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/jet-lag-and-melatonin-topic-overview
- 2. MacDonald, Fiona. “1,000 Year-Old Onion and Garlic Remedy Kills Antibiotic-Resistant Bugs.” 31 March 2015. Science Alert. 14 July 2017. https://www.sciencealert.com/1-000-year-old-onion-and-garlic-remedy-kills-antibiotic-resistant-bugs