Healthy Travel: Boost Your Immune System

by B. Ready Travel Staff

Nov
2020

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“I hope I have great energy for my trip,” is in the back of your mind as you ponder all that has gone into making your next vacation happen. While taking a trip can be a wonderful experience, being out of a regular routine can throw your immune system off—changes in food, sleep (hello jetlag), being exposed to sick people, and environmental toxins can all contribute to this. Taking care of yourself while traveling is important and strengthening the immune system beforehand can keep you healthy and having fun for the duration of the trip.

The immune system acts as the bodies defense against illness and infection. By recognizing the cells that make up your body, the immune system works to get rid of anything foreign, like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. If the immune system is weak, then germs can take hold and you get sick. But, with a bit of planning and some action steps, you can be at your best and enjoy your vacation from day one. 

How to stay healthy before you travel

Exercise for travel wellness

It takes time and consistency to build a strong immune system. Prioritizing quality sleep, decreasing stress, eating healthy, and exercising regularly at least two weeks before travel can lay the foundation of wellness for your vacation. The sections below take a closer look at how to cultivate immune system health.

Sleep hygiene for wellness

Sleep is when the body repairs itself. Sleep deprivation directly impacts the immune system and can create vulnerability towards getting sick. Most adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Making this happen may take a little planning, but it can become habit, and the benefits are profound. The following tips can help improve both the quality and quantity of sleep:

  • Limit screen time 2 hours before bed and use a blue light filter in the evening. If you watch something, keep it calming and even a bit boring— avoid the news, action shows, or horror movies
  • Take time to unwind by practicing yoga, meditation, or reading a lighthearted book
  • Keep conversation light close to bedtime, hold off on any intense talks
  • Use ear plugs, a white noise machine, or a fan if woken easily by sound
  • Make the bedroom dark—wear an eye mask or invest in blackout curtains
  • Enjoy a warm bath or shower 1-2 hours before bed—this supports the body’s natural drop in temperature that occurs about an hour before going to sleep
  • Have a notepad and pen at your bedside to write those lingering thoughts or to-do’s down and let them go so you can drift into slumber

Decrease our response to stress to increase health

It is all too common to hustle and stress getting work and tasks completed before a vacation. But the hurry up and relax mentality means it may then take several days into the vacation to unwind and feel calm. On top of this, something called the “let-down effect” can happen, when illness sets in not during a stressful period, but after it. This is related to drops in stress hormones like cortisol, which can trigger inflammatory responses, migraines, and immune responses. The best way to prevent this, and enjoy every day of your vacation, is to manage and minimize stress before your trip. This means pacing yourself, not taking on too much, and making time to relax a bit every day. Additionally, keeping a positive outlook and remembering what you are thankful for can go a long way towards creating more gratitude and less worry.

Try this breath exercise while getting ready in the morning, in the car, while cooking, or anytime you can during the day for an instant increase in calm:

  • Notice your breath, focus on an area where breathing occurs—the nostrils, back of the throat, or stomach and chest
  • Exhale completely, then inhale fully for a count of four
  • Hold the breath for a count of four
  • Exhale fully for a count of four
  • Repeat several times as needed in succession and often throughout the day

Stay healthy by making good food choices

Bio-individuality is an important consideration when thinking about the food we eat. This concept means that there is no one-size-fits-all diet, every person is unique and has individual nutritional needs. These dietary requirements can change throughout the life of an individual, varying in what their body needs as a child, in middle-age, and as a senior. However, for nearly everyone, consuming quality food is crucial for optimal health. The tips below offer simple solutions to eating for immune-system health:

  • Choose whole, minimally processed foods. Often this mean shopping the perimeter of the market for fresh food.
  • Read the ingredients list on the label in addition to the hype on the front of a package. Unpronounceable words are usually preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, and highly processed items that are best avoided.
  • Drink lots of water— although not technically food, this is beneficial for efficient body processes like removing toxins.
  • Make eating healthy easy; plan and prep meals for the week on the weekend, cook once and eat twice.
  • Keep unhealthy food out of the house. If it is not available, it will not be eaten.
  • Find healthier options to fill the place of less healthy options, like swapping salted nuts for potato chips, or frozen chocolate covered bananas or strawberries in place of ice cream.

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Should I take supplements to boost my immune system?

Most people live quite differently than how it was living a few centuries ago. Food today that travels long distances or is processed loses much of its nutritional value. Additionally, increased toxins in our environment require robust care to counteract them. For these reasons, a few choice supplements may help keep the body strong and ready for adventure. A whole food supplement is usually the preferred choice, as those not listed as originating from whole foods are usually synthetically made in a lab, not well utilized by the body, and may contain harmful additives. Remember to confirm with your doctor if it is safe to take certain supplements, as some can interfere with medications. Consider the following supplements, which may help support immune system wellness:

  • Vitamin C — with citrus bioflavonoids
  • Multivitamin — food-based
  • Fish oils — the omega 3’s found in fish oils support every system of the body
  • Probiotics — choose one with a diverse combination of strains including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFU). Eating bacteria-fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, unsweetened yogurt, and kimchi also provide a good dose of probiotics

Exercise to stay healthy and boost wellness

Active couples vacation activities for wellness

Regular exercise is a pillar of healthy living and an important pre-travel element. There are endless options for maintaining healthy activity levels. The simplest method is with daily walks. A 30-minute brisk walk or other aerobic activity makes your immune system function more smoothly by increasing white blood cells circulating in blood. Exercise may also help flush germs from the lungs and decrease stress hormones. Daily physical activity does not have to happen all at once to be effective. Taking short 5-10-minute exercise breaks throughout the day can reap equal benefits as the same amount of exercise completed at one time. Research shows this may even be more beneficial for the lymphatic system, joints, and metabolism as you are revving up, moving, and lubricating joints more frequently through movement.

What to include in your travel wellness pack?

Having a healthy and fabulous vacation requires packing travel kit essentials ahead of time. Navigating travel in the wake of the coronavirus means adding a few additional safety products. Protecting you and your family from means curating a well-stocked travel safety pack. Keep these items easily accessible while traveling to your destination and during your vacation:

  • Reusable cloth face masks made of two layers that are comfortable and well-fitted for each traveler. Bring at least two per-person, along with soap or detergent for washing.
  • Hand sanitizer gel or spray containing 60% or more alcohol
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Reef-safe sunscreen and lip balm that are oxybenzone-free
  • Deet-free insect repellent
  • A small first aid kit with bandages, antibiotic ointment, and anti-itch ointment
  • Motion sickness prevention aids

B. ready for a healthy change

Implementing a few new wellness steps into your daily routine can have a significant and lasting effect on feeling good and enjoying life. What better time to start healthy practices than before your trip, keep them going during your vacation, and turn them into life-long habits. At B. Ready travel safety is our mission. Curated travel safety packs can be customized to help be you B. Ready for your next adventure.

Check out our curated travel safety packs now!