Staying healthy when travelling

Holiday season is upon us and whether you are planning a short break or a month-long trip, travelling is a big change to the daily routine. Whilst away, later bedtimes, increased alcohol consumption and exposure to different microbes in food and water can result in problems – there is nothing worse than feeling run down with a cold or traveller’s diarrhoea spoiling plans. Being prepared can be useful, so here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of your holidays.

Skip to Key Takeaways

Avoid motion sickness

Motion sickness is a common disturbance of the inner ear, caused by repeated motion and a conflict between what the eyes and other senses tell the brain. The eyes adjust to motion but the inner ear, which contains fluid-filled canals that control balance, does not and this can result in a horrible feeling of nausea, dizziness and an upset stomach.

To minimise motion sickness:

  • Avoid eating a large meal before or during travel, but equally it is important not to travel on an empty stomach either. Heavy, spicy or fat-rich foods can worsen symptoms in some people
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Avoid fizzy drinks and alcoholic beverages as these are likely to worsen an already upset stomach
  • Don’t read whilst travelling – your brain is likely to feel disorientated as your eyes focus on the page rather than the motion of the vehicle
  • Try to sit facing the direction of travel
  • Consider the use of acupressure wrist bands; these are available from chemists

Manage jet lag

Travelling between different time zones can disrupt the natural circadian rhythm, resulting in sleep disruption and fatigue. The rhythm adapts gradually to the new time zone under the influence of light and dark. This is mediated by melatonin which is produced during darkness; on the other hand, exposure to strong light switches off production. Therefore, one way to help the body adjust to a change in time zone is to manage exposure to bright light. If it is daytime at the destination, then exposure to sunlight on arrival for as long as possible will suppress melatonin production, and similarly, avoiding light if arriving at the destination after dark will encourage melatonin synthesis. Planning ahead and adjusting to the destination time zone around three days before travel, by going to bed later or earlier depending on the time difference may also help.

Build immune defences

There is nothing worse than coming down with an infection when relaxing. In the build-up to a holiday there may be a flurry of activity, preparation and extra effort at work or home, then frequently at the start of the holiday some people get sick. Sound familiar? Our immune system, energy production and adrenaline levels can all be stimulated by the demands of work and managing home-life and this can help to ward off illness.

Psychological or physiological stress causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline which provides energy and boosts immune function over a short period. At the same time, the body also releases cortisol – a hormone which lowers immune function. As soon as the pressure of work subsides and the stress associated with it lessens, adrenaline stops pumping quite so readily leading to a temporary surplus of cortisol which can weaken the immune system. It is this vulnerable state which can leave people more susceptible to illness.

‘Leisure Sickness’ was described by Dutch psychologist Professor Ad Vingerhoets from the Department of Psychology and Health at Tilburg University. Leisure time and holidays are generally associated with feelings of relaxation and wellbeing. However, there is also evidence suggesting that some people feel particularly ill and develop symptoms especially during weekends and holidays. Vingerhoets’ study demonstrated that the most frequently reported symptoms were headache/migraine, fatigue, muscular pains and nausea. In addition, viral infections (flu-like, common cold) were often reported in relation to holidays1.

Unfortunately, public transport, busy airports and packed airplanes can also increase vulnerability to airborne infections.  Whilst there is little that can be done to change these conditions, proactively priming the immune system prior to travel may help the body defend itself against viral invaders. It’s worth considering an immune support supplement containing key nutrients including beta 1-3, 1-6 glucan for a couple of weeks before, during and for a week after a holiday.

Balance the gut

When travelling we are exposed to different bacteria in food and drink. Many people worry about a change in bowel habits when they go away; both traveller’s diarrhoea and constipation are very common health complaints.

Healthy gut flora play a vital role in boosting defences against infectious bacteria. To support digestion and help prevent infections, supplementing with a good quality probiotic is recommended for at least a week before travelling, as well as during, and for one week after returning. A meta-analysis of 12 randomised, controlled trials of various probiotics (including Saccharomyces boulardiiLactobacilli and mixtures of different probiotic strains) for the prevention of traveller’s diarrhoea found a significant reduction in risk if probiotics were used2.

Saccharomyces boulardii, a non-pathogenic yeast, was first discovered in 1920 within the skin of lychee fruit.  It is often used to help reduce the risk of digestive upset and diarrhoea when travelling.  The anti-infectious properties of Saccharomyces boulardii appear to be in part due to its ability to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria in the gut including Candida albicans, Escherichia coli and parasites, while improving the balance of good bacteria.

A 2015 review3 of Sacharomyces boulardii in relation to intestinal microflora imbalances says “there is excellent evidence from 14 of 17 total [clinical] studies that S. boulardii can prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Also, S. boulardii can be of advantage in preventing or reducing C. difficile-associated colitis or traveler’s diarrhea”.

In the traveller’s diarrhoea study referred to in the review, Kollaritsch et al enrolled 1231 Austrian tourists travelling to hot climates and randomised travellers to receive either a dose of Saccharomyces boulardii per day or placebo for three weeks. The treatment was started five days prior to the trip and continued through the duration of the trip. Traveller’s diarrhoea developed in significantly fewer people given Sacharomyces boulardii compared to placebo2.

It is important to start supplementing with Saccharomyces boulardii prior to the journey, as well as during and for one week after travel.

If particularly susceptible to tummy upsets or travelling to an exotic place, supplementing with anti-microbial nutrients such as garlic, oregano, grapefruit seed extract and caprylic acid may provide additional protection.

Indigestion is another common health complaint. Whilst it’s tempting to try new cuisines, sometimes these can contain unusual ingredients. A digestive enzyme supplement may be helpful in these situations. Plant enzymes are similar to those that the body naturally produces and can help to make sure food is sufficiently broken down.

Protect the skin; safe sun exposure and the production of vitamin D  

Supporting skin health is essential, especially for people travelling to a sunny climate or for those particularly prone to sunburn. Eating foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, selenium and essential fatty acids provides antioxidant protection, so eat a ‘rainbow diet’ of colourful fruits and vegetables to provide an array of food-based antioxidants.

The Aloe Vera plant is incredibly resilient and has the ability to store moisture and survive in very dry environments. Research has demonstrated that Aloe Vera can retain skin moisture and integrity and support wound healing4.

There has been much talk in recent years about growing levels of vitamin D deficiency in the UK population. Fortified milk, egg yolks and oily fish are the best sources, but food alone cannot provide optimal amounts of vitamin D on a daily basis. In fact, the major source of vitamin D is the sun as it is primarily manufactured in the skin in response to sunshine.

Unfortunately, due to the use of sun creams and a modern-day lack of bare skin exposure to sunlight, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is increasing. Vitamin D can be synthesised from late March to the end of September, especially from 11am to 3pm. Between ten to fifteen minutes in the UK summer sun without sunscreen is considered to be safe. The time required to increase vitamin D is typically short and less than the time needed to redden or burn. The more skin that is exposed, the greater the chance of producing vitamin D before burning. Nevertheless, even with frequent exposure, optimal blood levels of vitamin D may not be achieved.

Hydration

Adequate fluids are vital for staying healthy and ensuring the body functions normally. Good hydration improves mood, energy levels, hormone balance, skin condition, immunity, digestion and cardiovascular function. Even mild dehydration can cause symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and reduced physical and mental performance.

To help maintain hydration:

    • Drink at least six to eight glasses of still water (or herbal teas) a day. Air travel can contribute to dehydration so staying hydrated before, during and after a flight is important to avoid air travel related nausea, fatigue and headaches
    • Add refreshing lemon, lime, orange or other fruits to flavour water and make it more appealing to drink
    • Avoid alcohol whilst travelling

Three foods to rehydrate:

  • Watermelons are an excellent source of water, so are great for rehydrating the body. They are also packed with vitamin C, beta carotene and lycopene to support the skin
  • Celery is rich in potassium and sodium, making it ideal for electrolyte replacement
  • Cucumber has both cleansing and cooling properties.  As well as a high water content, cucumber also contains minerals including silica, potassium and magnesium

Key Takeaways

  • Motion sickness is a common disturbance of the inner ear, caused by repeated motion and a conflict between what the eyes and other senses tell the brain
  • To minimise motion sickness avoid eating a large meal before travel, drink plenty of water, don’t read whilst travelling and sit facing the direction of travel
  • Travelling between different time zones can disrupt the natural circadian rhythm, resulting in sleep disruption and fatigue. To help the body adjust to a change in time zone, manage exposure to bright light
  • ‘Leisure Sickness’ was described by Dutch psychologist Professor Ad Vingerhoets. His study demonstrated that the most frequently reported symptoms were headache/migraine, fatigue, muscular pains and nausea. In addition, viral infections were often reported in relation to holidays
  • Proactively priming the immune system prior to travel may help the body defend itself against viral invaders
  • Healthy gut flora play a vital role in boosting defences against infectious bacteria
  • Saccharomyces boulardii  is often used to help reduce the risk of digestive upset and diarrhoea when travelling
  • Foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, selenium and essential fatty acids provide antioxidant protection to the skin
  • Vitamin D deficiency is increasing – food alone cannot provide optimal amounts. Vitamin D is primarily manufactured in the skin on contact with sunshine
  • Adequate fluids are vital to ensure the body functions normally. Mild dehydration can cause symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and reduced physical and mental performance

If you have questions regarding the topics that have been raised, or any other health matters, please do contact me (Clare) by phone or email at any time.

[email protected], 01684 310099

Clare Daley and the Cytoplan Editorial Team


Relevant Cytoplan Products

Foundation Formula 1 – A food state multinutrient ideal for menstruating women

Foundation Formula 2 – A food state multinutrient ideally suited to men and post-menopausal women

Acidophilus Plus – Contains nine probiotic strains in capsule form. Does not require refrigeration making it an ideal travel companion

Saccharomyces Boulardii – A unique live yeast to support intestinal health. Does not require refrigeration making it an ideal travel companion

Cyto-Zyme – A high potency digestive enzyme complex providing broad spectrum plant-sourced enzymes

Caprylic Acid Plus – Combines caprylic acid, garlic powder, oregano extract, grapefruit seed extract and green tea extract

Psyllium Husk – A form of dietary fibre to help maintain regular bowel movements

Phytoshield – A potent phyto-antioxidant formula, containing high levels of flavonoids and carotenoids

Immunovite – Includes 1-3, 1-6 beta glucan along with vitamin C, selenium and zinc which contribute to the normal function of the immune system

Kids Immunovite – Provides immune support for children; suitable for use from 3 years of age

Biofood Magnesium – A food state supplement providing 100mg of magnesium per tablet

5-HTP Plus – Combines vitamin B6, magnesium and 5-HTP

High Potency Vitamin D – A wholefood vegan vitamin D3 supplement from lichen

Aloe Vera Gel – Free from perfume and parabens and comes in a 100ml-sized tube – ideal for travelling


References

  1. Vingerhoets AJ, Van Huijgevoort M, Van Heck GL. Leisure sickness: a pilot study on its prevalence, phenomenology, and background. Psychother Psychosom. 2002 Nov-Dec;71(6):311-7.
  2. McFarland LV. Systematic review and meta-analysis of Saccharomyces boulardiiin adult patients. World J Gastroenterol. 2010 May 14; 16(18): 2202–2222.
  3. More MI and Swidsinksi A. Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 supports regeneration of the intestinal microbiota after diarrheic dysbiosis – a review. Clin Exp Gastroenterol, 2015 8, 237-255.
  4. Hekmatpou DMehrabi FRahzani KAminiyan A. The Effect of Aloe Vera Clinical Trials on Prevention and Healing of Skin Wound: A Systematic Review. Iran J Med Sci.2019 Jan;44(1):1-9.

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