Holidays mean more travel—and spreading more than cheer. Whether taking a road trip to visit family or flying to a far-off locale, travelers encounter many obstacles to maintaining overall health: Confined and crowded areas, unexpected delays, and departure from healthy routines can quickly lead to a compromised immune system and impending sickness. Follow these tips from those in the know to fly through this festive season in good health.
Susan Farewell, editor in chief, farewelltravels.com
Eat well and often.
Exhaustion and anxiety can derail your normal healthy eating habits, inclining you to grab junk food from the nearest airport kiosk. Not only will the energy from fat and sugar be short-lived, but sound sleep may become more difficult. Eat high-protein foods like nuts to keep energy levels steady. Avoid alcohol, refined carbohydrates, processed sugars, and caffeine.
Acknowledge travel challenges.
Regardless of how planned a trip may be, travel
is never effortless. If you become homesick or disappointed with the way a trip is going, talk to someone about it. If you are anxious while traveling, stop and take several deep breaths to regain composure.
Rest whenever you can; even a ten-minute nap can make a huge difference in your well-being. Wear loose-fitting clothes, eliminate stimuli by wearing earplugs and a sleep mask, and pack a neck pillow to prevent a stiff neck. Abstain from coffee six hours before nighttime flights.
Karen Ansel, RD, spokesperson, American Dietetic Association
Sneak in produce.
While traveling, it’s difficult to get enough fruits, vegetables,
and whole grains—a lack of which can cause bloating and lethargy. At breakfast, skip the nutritionally empty pancakes; opt for energizing whole-grain cereal or oatmeal with berries and bananas for a serving of fruit and grains. Drink fresh-squeezed orange juice for a blast of immunity-boosting vitamin C.
Pack a large, reusable, BPA-free water bottle to stay hydrated and to avoid sugary drinks. Bring healthy snacks, such as whole-grain cereal or crackers
and sturdy fresh fruit like apples and oranges. Fill small bags with dried fruit and nuts.
Combat motion sickness. If you’re susceptible to motion sickness when you travel, a little all-natural ginger soda can help, as can ginger tea or ginger chews. Take a few small sips every 15 minutes to lessen nausea and calm an upset stomach; carry ginger chews in your bag to have on hand when you need them.
Eric Yarnell, ND, Bastyr University, Kenmore, Washington
Handle jet lag.
Traveling long distances and changing time zones can lead to sleep deprivation, which can compromise immunity. If you arrive in the morning, try not to sleep until night. Sunlight largely dictates the body’s circadian rhythm, so when you suddenly change time zones this input is disrupted, causing you to feel groggy and disoriented. Take 3 mg melatonin, a naturally occurring sleep-promoting hormone, at bedtime. Taking 1,000 mg valerian with the melatonin can help deepen the sleep you do get.
Build immunity with herbs.
For sickness prevention, take 1,000 mg echinacea root (E. pallidaor E. angustifolia) three times daily with food, starting at least two days before traveling. Look for hand sanitizers with ethanol, or pure grain alcohol, plus antibacterial thyme and cinnamon bark oils for additional natural protection.
Anxiety reduces the fun of any trip and can wear down your body’s defenses. Adaptogenic ashwagandha offers powerful stress-relieving properties. The herb can soothe adrenal glands, diminishing negative effects of the stress hormone cortisol, and relax you without causing sleepiness. Take 500–1,000 mg in capsule form three times per day.