by Joan Haynes, NMD
If your vacation plans this summer involve travel to a foreign country, here are some tips to ensure your health stays in tip-top shape while you’re gone. Foreign lands mean foreign bugs, ones that our immune systems are less adapted too. If you are headed to a place where parasites are common, some extra precautions can be very helpful.
1. Prepare your digestive tract & prevent gastrointestinal illness
Increasing your healthy intestinal bacteria for a month before your trip will leave you less susceptible to pathogens. We recommend HMF capsules one cap twice per day. This brand can tolerate room temperatures for up 30 days without refrigeration. If you are headed to a hot area without a fridge or air conditioning, buy a brand that is heat stable.
Make sure your digestive function is strong
Normal stomach acid is our best defense against pathogenic organisms. If you have symptoms such as gas, bloating, heartburn, or indigestion, check with your doctor to see if supplementing with hydrochloric acid is appropriate for you.
Don’t drink the water (or eat the fresh fruit, salad, or drink iced beverages, etc!)
Hydration is very important of course, and if you are travelling to an area that has contaminated water, vigilance is required to avoid gastrointestinal illness. The best solution is to bring your own water filter and treat your water yourself. REI has some great options. If you choose to go the bottled water route, make sure that you are the one opening your bottles and check the seals. It is not uncommon in impoverished countries for locals to refill old bottles with unclean water and resell it. Similarly, do not believe any claims that the water or ice is boiled or treated. Peel your own fruit, insist that your food is steaming hot when it’s brought to you, and turn down raw salads and ice. You will be a less frequent visitor to the latrine.
2. Prepare your circadian rhythm with melatonin
Jet lag can slow down the best of us. If you are travelling across several time zones, melatonin can be extremely helpful in “resetting” the circadian clock. Take 3 mg at the time that locals would be going to bed (and go to bed yourself). This should help induce proper sleep and wake times for that time zone. Read more about jetlag.
3. Support your immune system
Get adequate sleep, and go easy on the sugar and alcohol. If you are concerned about a tendency to get sick, take an immune stimulating product such as Biovegetarian by Priority 1. As a preventative, the dose is 2 tablets per day. To treat acute illness the dose is 2 tablets 3-4 x/day. Another favorite product is Liquid Herbal Resistance by Wellness Formula.
Essential oils have antimicrobial properties. Inhaling and applying them during travel can significantly reduce the number of microbes. Be careful with direct skin contact and some oils can burn and they may need be applied with a carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oils.
Read more about how to create a Travel Kit that incudes natural remedies.