Before You Leave: Boost your immune system.
Before you leave, you want your immune system strong and ready for the extra challenges brought on by traveling.
I know you are excited about the trip, trying to get a lot done in preparation for it, and packing, but getting plenty of sleep is vital. It is while you sleep that your body renews itself and repairs damage.
I once heard a mom of eight kids say that prior to a trip she removes all sugar from the family’s diet. When I heard this (it was before I started my journey to become a Holistic Health Coach) I was kind of aghast. It sounded so extreme. However, she was spot on!
Sugar drops the performance of your white blood cells (the big guns of your immune system) by 40% for the next five hours. Let me repeat that. Consuming just 100 grams of sugar decreases the effectiveness of your immune system for five hours.
Consuming just 100 grams of sugar decreases the effectiveness of your immune system for five hours.
100 grams sounds like a lot, right? Is it hard to eat that much? A standard lunch for a kid might include a PB&J sandwich (about 60 g of sugar,) applesauce (22 g,) carrots with Ranch dip (3 g,) and a snack pack of pudding (20 g) adds up to 105 grams already. Of course, they’ll need something to drink, too. A boxed juice that is “healthy” with 100% juice and no added sugar is still 25 g sugar and if your child opts for chocolate milk that can be 54 g! Yikes!
Numbers from this article and this one and here.
So, to recap, cut the sugar before your trip.
80% of your immune system is in your gut. So it stands to reason that you should focus on gut health before and during your trip. There are simple ways to do this.
- Chew your food. Most of us don’t grind each bite into mush before we swallow. There are no teeth in your stomach, so do the hard work of breaking down that food before you swallow.
- Eat a lot of whole fruits and veggies. According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should consume between five and 13 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. These foods are full of the micronutrients your immune system needs (vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients) as well as healthy fiber. Here are ten pictures of what your servings might look like.
- Consume probiotics. These are the good guys within your intestines. They inhibit harmful bacteria, promote good digestion, boost immune function, and increase resistance to infection. That’s a lot of work for teeny-tiny organisms. Perhaps that’s one reason you should be consuming billions of them every day. Look for them in things like yogurt, kombucha, kefir, naturally fermented pickles and sauerkraut, and supplements.
- Drink water, lots of water. Adults should aim for half of their body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day. Get a jump start on this by keeping a water bottle by your bed.
When you exercise, you circulate your lymph (the trash collection system of your body.) Exercise also causes you to sweat. This is a good thing! You rid yourself of toxins and impurities as you sweat. Regular exercise is beneficial to the body, but too much is stressful and harmful to the body, so don’t overdo it before your trip.
Our diet has gaps even in our home environment. When you are on the road, or in different places, it is virtually impossible to get the micronutrients our body needs to combat the stress of travel, mixed up sleep, and environmental changes. We need to supplement. A good quality multi-vitamin is vital while on the go.
I use the highest rated multivitamin available (as rated in this book of over 1,600 different multivitamins.) This is the brand I recommend to my friends, family, and clients. You can check it out over in my product store.
Each tip above for staying healthy before a journey is just as beneficial while you are on your trip: get good sleep, cut out sugar, focus on gut health, exercise, and supplementation. In addition to these, there are other things you can add very simply to your travel.
Drinking water is important every day of your life, even when you are traveling. I’ve talked about this several times in my weekly livestreams which you can find in The Whole Health Community or on my page The Whole You Nurse.
You can go old-school and drink 8-cups of water per day, or customize this goal for you by drinking half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day. If you are sweating due to a warm location or physical exercise, be sure to drink more than normal.
Depending on where you travel, you might want to be very careful of the local water. Drink only sealed, bottled water and be sure to also use that to brush your teeth. You don’t want your trip ruined by a bout of diarrhea.
Pack Healthy Snacks
Gas stations and rest areas are doing better, but they are still not an ideal place to find healthy foods. Stock up for your road-trip with healthy snacks like nuts, dried meat, low-sugar granola bars, fruits, and veggies (with nut-butters for dips that don’t need to be refrigerated.)
Wash your hands
It is often the very basic things that can have the most impact. And this is basic. We’ve been told to wash our hands since we were toddlers. We know we should wash frequently and not touch our face or mouth with our hands. I only repeat it here because it is a very good way to get rid of germs before they have a chance to get into your system. Wash your hands.
We are blessed with fast methods of traversing the world. This has a side effect of giving us jet lag as we suddenly find ourselves in a new time zone.
There are several ways to help our bodies deal with this. The first is adequate sleep before travel. Next is to set your watch to the new time zone as soon as you board the plane or, if driving, leave the house. Mentally this allows you to start adjusting.
There is a hormone called melatonin that your body makes to control your sleep/wake cycles. I’ve talked about melatonin and ways to have healthy sleep many times before. But those tips were for your daily life. When you are dealing with jet lag, you might want to use a melatonin supplement. I use the one from USANA Health Sciences; it melts in your mouth and absorbs quickly so the melatonin can start working to help your body get healthy sleep. You can click over to my shop here and grab Pure Rest (melatonin) for yourself.
You are a whole person. Focus on the health of The Whole You. Increase your emotional and spiritual health through journaling. Write about your travel, your feelings, your adventures, your struggles, and your hardships. Write in a notebook or write letters and postcards to others. Learn more about the benefits of journaling from this livestream I recorded.
Walk, Hike, Play
When we were kids, we played hard. We would come inside sweaty with rosy cheeks and big grins. We had fun. We didn’t know we were “exercising.” We were enjoying life.
Travel provides so many opportunities for movement. Take a walk around the city you are in. Explore some trails in nature. Play games. Enjoy life.
When you exercise, you mobilize the trash-collection system within your body. (That’s the lymphatic system.) When you sweat, you remove toxins. Whether you call it exercise, a hike, or play, be sure to move each day to stay healthy.
When you are on the road or on a plane, you are still for long periods of time. Be sure to do some stretching when you get to each rest-area or destination. Get your blood moving and wake up those tired muscles.
Another reason to stretch is all the new movement you might find yourself doing. Travel affords us many opportunities to get out and do out-of-our-routine stuff and your body might be grateful for an extra session of stretching after you hike/play or before bed. I love to open YouTube and do a quick yoga workout. YouTube is filled with options; I like this Travel Yoga playlist.
Only you know if this next tip is feasible for your situation, but have you thought of doing a digital detox? Going screen-free can have many health benefits including:
- Better posture
- Deeper friendships
- Engaging conversation
- Improved memory
- Better-quality sleep
Enjoy Your Trip!
Whew! That was a lot! Which tips will you be able to implement today? Which ones will you use while traveling? Comment below or head over to the Whole Health Community and start a conversation.