How to stay well when traveling
*disclaimer - I'm no doctor and I'm sharing here what has worked for me in the past. Use your noodle to decide what's right for you and check with your own doctor if you have questions.*
I've done my fair share of international travel and if there's one thing that I try to avoid at all costs when traveling....it's getting sick.
On a recent trip to Italy, I didn't follow my own advice and got sick within days of arriving. I remember taking a bus into Siena and immediately finding a pharmacy that could sell me a cough suppressant/decongestant. What I didn't realize is that I hadn't specified that I needed a non-drowsy version (how do you even go about trying to say that in Italian, anyway?) and I spent the next two precious days asleep in bed.
So, how to boost your immunity before, during, and after travel.
Obviously there's no sure-fire solution or one-right answer here. But here's what's worked for me and what I'm currently doing in preparation for travel.
1. Take your vitamins.
I'm a big believer in daily vitamins and I always take a whole-food multi-vitamin, a fish oil supplement (I still take a DHA/Fish oil supplement because I have some left from pregnancy/breastfeeding), a vitamin D supplement (this is based on blood test results and family history), and a calcium supplement (I don't consume much dairy, so this keeps my bones strong) daily.
2. Add a probiotic
I haven't always taken a probiotic, but I swear, every time I am regular about taking one, I feel SO MUCH BETTER. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and have been linked to a wide range of health benefits including digestive health and immune function. (src).
I know from past experience that when I travel, my diet gets a little wacky...and so does my tummy. Personally, I have to be careful to make sure I'm not just eating bread and cheese all day and that I'm getting enough fiber. Adding a probiotic keeps things on the reg (if you know what I'm saying) and keeps my immune system up before, during, and after travel.
I start taking a probiotic about two weeks before I leave, throughout my trip, and then for two weeks after I return.
I like Dr. Tobias' Deep Immune Probiotics. Whichever you choose, make sure that it contains at least 1 billion live organisms and that the capsules themselves are acid resistant so all that good bacteria can survive the trip through your stomach.
3. Garlic + Greens + ACV
Thirdly, I add in garlic capsules, lots of greens, and a shot of apple cider vinegar each day.
- Garlic: Studies have shown that garlic reduces the risk of becoming sick in the first place, as well as how long you stay sick and it can also reduce the severity of symptoms (src). Double check this one though as garlic has some side effects that may be harmful if you have high or low blood pressure. I take about 1500mcg/day. You can also eat 2-3 cloves or sliced raw garlic.....but I'll leave that decision up to you. :)
- Greens: I find that I don't always get enough dark leafy greens and before traveling, I want to make sure I'm getting the most bang for my buck in the vitamin department. I mix up a concoction of Amazing Grass Antioxidant Blend and Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides once a day or every other day to supplement my (lack of) leafy greens intake. If you LIKE eating lots of leafy greens, just do that and skip the supplement! You can also get travel-sized packets of Amazing Grass for travel (link to Amazon here, but I've seen them at Costco for a better price).
- ACV: Again with the healthy gut bacteria. There's a whole host of reasons to love apple cider vineger (I also use it on my face mixed with witch hazel as a toner) but my favorite is for the healthy bacteria it contains. Basically, it's like drinking Kombucha or eating yogurt (but a lot cheaper). I mix a tablespoon of ACV with about 6oz of water and chug that down once a day. Note: not all ACV is created equal. Choose one with "the mother" for the most benefits.
Okay, so the pre-travel stuff seems like a lot of things to take. But I keep the ball rolling throughout my trip (for the most part).
1. Pack it
Keep taking your most important vitamins & supplements: multi-vitamin, probiotic, garlic, greens powder (if using). I have a 7-day pill pack that I fill up before I go so that I can make sure I'm taking my vitamins each day. Obviously, if you're traveling for an extended period of time, decide if you want to worry about all of this, but for short trips where getting sick would really put a dent in my fun, I don't take chances and I do pack my vitamins.
I cannot stress enough how disgusting public transit is. Planes, trains, automobiles—it's a breeding ground for germies. I ALWAYS make like it's cold and flu season and pack ALL THE SANITIZER. On the plane, I pack Lysol wipes and wipe down my entire seat/armrest/tray table/screen as soon as I'm seated. I also pack a travel-sized hand sanitizer that I deploy every time I leave my seat or every hour or so (whichever comes first).
For public transit, keep that travel-sized hand sanitizer handy. I keep one in my purse and sanitize my hands every time I leave the metro. I also avoid touching the center poles in the cars if I can.
3. Keep hydrated
It's SUPER easy for me to not drink enough water when I travel (all the coffee and wine, please!), but I know that I feel more run down, tired, and blah if I don't. Lots of water also flushes out toxins and germs, so just keeping hydrated goes a long way toward staying healthy.
1. Again with the vitamins
Shocker. Keep taking those vitamins and probiotics for at least a week after you get home. Any germs you pick up on the plane home can linger and get you if you let your guard down. So stay hydrated at home and take your extra vitamins daily for about a week.
Depending on the style of trip I've just taken (relaxing vs. go-go-go) and how long I've been awake while traveling home, I like to try to plan in 1-2 low-key days at home before I have to go back to work or be "working" in any major capacity. Obviously this is a luxury and I don't always get to do it, but at the very least clocking 9-10 hours of sleep for the first two nights back goes a long way toward recovery.
Moral of the story? Keep your immune system firing on all cylinders, kids. And don't be afraid to be "that person" on the plane if it keeps you healthy.
Got any travel tips of your own? I'd love to hear in the comments!