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The secrets to staying well on your travels

23 Aug 2016

Travel HealthPlane, sky

No-one wants their holiday ruined by ill health, but each year thousands suffer with upset stomachs, sunburn - or even something more serious like a travel-induced blood clot.

The good news is that there are easy ways to reduce your risk of common health hazards, so you can make the most of your holiday.

For many, a holiday means time off to relax and indulge yourself.  But while you are unwinding, your immune system will actually be working overtime to keep you well, fighting foreign bugs, the sun's rays and even cramped travelling conditions.

The secret to staying fit and healthy when travelling is to support your body's natural defences before, during and after your trip.

These are some of my recommendations to ensure optimum health on holiday.

Upset stomach upsetting your holiday?

upset stomach, tummy painYour digestive system and immune system are put under greater strain when you are away from your normal environment. Exposure to different foods and foreign bacteria make your chances of picking up a stomach bug far more likely than at home. However, you can prime your body to reduce your risk by making sure that your levels of probiotic bacteria are sufficient (that's the good guys in your gut) - and the best time to start is before you even leave your front door, here’s how:

Eating fermented foods such as live cow, goat or soya yoghurt, Japanese miso paste and pickled vegetables will all help, as these are natural sources of the probiotic bacteria that line your intestines to ward off bugs and aid proper digestion.

You can also eat plenty of prebiotic foods; that is, foods that feed the probiotic friendly bacteria. Prebiotic foods include leeks, garlic, onions, jerusalem artichokes, chicory roots, bananas and rye.

Watch out for the premium-priced, sugar packed 'health drinks' which claim to contain beneficial bacteria - their high sugar content (some brands contain more per weight than cola!) depletes any probiotic level. Top up your levels with a good quality probiotic supplement.  You can now get these combined with antibacterial plant extracts such as oregano, to give your immune system even more of a helping hand. For the best protection, start the week before you go, continue while you're away and for one week after your return. 

Concerned about DVT when flying?

DVT - Deep Vein Thrombosis or, more simply, a blood clot, is a very real concern when faced with cramped flying conditions, especially for people with poor circulation, pregnant women, or those who suffer from the genetic condition thrombophilia, which increases risk of blood clots.

Standard advice focuses on getting up to exercise mid-flight, and wearing flight socks that help to boost circulation to the legs.

There are also certain nutrients that go one step further to increase your protection against this potentially fatal condition.  Pine bark extract, for example, helps to maintain blood flow, while grapeseed extract is rich in flavonoids which have been shown to help boost circulation. Certain supplements now combine these nutrients with other antioxidants to help you stay healthy in the air.  Always check if there are contraindications with any medication you are taking before using a supplement.

Suffer from sun burn?

It's wonderful to feel the sun's warmth, and most of us want to return from holiday with a healthy tan.  As in last months blog sun exposure is also necessary for manufacturing vitamin D - increasingly recognised as being an essential nutrient in helping to prevent chronic degenerative conditions and osteoporosis.

So how do you manage to benefit from the sun without getting burnt? safe, sunbathing, hydration, lemon tea

Sunscreens help, but these can have their downsides - for example, they limit your ability to manufacture vitamin D and standard formulas contain harmful chemicals which carry their own health concerns.

To avoid the downsides, choose instead a more natural formula (see last months blog for information on those) and of course as we said sunscreen is in fact just the one step towards safe skin in the sun.  You can protect yourself from harmful UV rays from the inside out too. Certain nutrients such as lycopene, a type of antioxidant from the carotenoid family which is particularly rich in cooked tomatoes, have been proven to help your body's natural defences against sun damage. In fact, eating a tablespoon (15g) of tomato puree a day in the months preceding a sunshine holiday was shown in one study to reduce skin damage by as much as 30%!

Beta-carotene, another carotenoid antioxidant, is also important in skin health, and vitamin C, normally known only for its cold-fighting powers, also plays a key role in collagen production, so helping to maintain soft, supple and wrinkle-free skin. 

Eating a diet rich in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables will help to boost your levels of these skin-friendly nutrients but a targeted supplement to provide therapeutic, active levels is also advisable for anyone with sensitive skin or who is planning to return with an impressive sun tan.  Speak to your nutritional therapist to ensure you have the right supplments for you.

Feeling thirsty?

Finally, keeping hydrated is also vital on holiday.  Yes I know this is one of my favourites, water water water!!  It's not just for skin health, but also for a well-functioning immune and digestive system..AND  when it's hotter, you'll sweat more so your requirement for water increases.  Aim to drink 2 litres of pure water by having a regular intake throughout the day to maintain hydration.  If you're concerned about the tap water, buy bottled water - but ensure if it's in plastic bottles that they have not been sitting in the sun.

drink, water, hydrate

Next month I'm talking cravings and how to cope with them, happy travels till then!