My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery
Flying can wreak havoc on your body between the stress of prepping and packing, dealing with airport chaos, flying fears, recirculated air and jet lag. There is lots of advice on the internet about things that you can do to combat the risks and symptoms during traveling itself (drink water on the flight, get up with the sun at your new destination), but like most health related concerns, no one talks about the elephant in the room: preventing the issues before they occur.
As a busy mom and business owner, I am absolutely horrible at remembering to take care of myself. It’s hard enough taking care of…. The best that I can manage is eating a relatively processed-foods free diet that is low on animal protein. Vitamins? Lol. 8 glasses of water a day? Does black tea count? Alcohol? Yes please! Exercise? I bought this really great gym set about a year ago, it’s called “Toddler”. 25 lbs of weight resistance baby!
All that changes about a week before we fly anywhere though. Then it’s all about health. There are four major enemies when it comes to travel: dehydration (which could possibly be the root of all other evils), jet lag, stress and germ exposure. In order to stay healthy you need to strengthen your immune system by making sure it has the resources it needs to stay balanced and soften the blow of time changes on your biological clock. I do this in three ways:
8 16oz glasses of water a day is great, but when you have a deficit to make up starting to drink water on the plane is too late in the game. Don’t get me wrong: be sure to drink water while you travel, but go into it properly hydrated as well. I remember being 3 hours into a flight and almost clawing the flight attendant’s eyes out on a trip when I watched her pour water from a normal sized bottle into one of their shot glass sized airplane cups and hand it to me. Seriously? I wanted to cry but there were no tears left.
Not only is water a good source of hydration, but it is also excellent in helping to fight water retention. Water retention not only makes you bloated, but it harbors toxins in the body instead of letting them be flushed out of your system by your urinary tract. In addition to drinking water, I load up on water from fruits and vegetables. High water containing fruits like melons and vegetables like cucumbers have diuretic characteristics. This is your body’s naturally built in detox mechanism, because, let’s face it…one week away from vacation is no time to go pissing your system off with whatever fad of lemon/cayenne/cranberry aggravation “detox system” du jour.
Detox “systems” introduce natural elements into your body at unnatural amounts, which in turn triggers your body’s Immune System. Your Immune System recognizes the introduce elements as toxic “foreign invaders” and does it’s thing to expel them. This makes detoxes bad: they cause your Immune System to freak out and wear itself out. Your immune system will do it’s own freaking out in a week when you expose it to all that recirculated air/germy surface airport goodness. If it is already exhausted from whatever internet trend you put it through a few days before, it won’t be able to work as strongly. I.E. You will get sick.
Do not confuse when I say “diuretic” with the diuretic pills you can buy, which are the equivalent of wringing out a sponge and super dangerous: pill goes in, no new liquids are introduced, liquids come out. Foods high in water are similar to rinsing a sponge under a facet: liquid goes in, liquid and toxins come out. They offset, the pills create an unhealthy deficit.
In addition to hydrating, which helps remove toxins and provides neutral resources for you body to balance it’s own chemicals, you need to strengthen your immune system by loading up on the minerals and vitamins that your body needs. If you aren’t currently on a vitamin regimen, talk to your doctor and try out new vitamins waaaay before the one week pre-travel mark. This close to travel is not the time to find out about that weird allergy you never knew that you had. However, one week out (or more) start taking them religiously.
Additionally I load up on Vitamin C via supplements and in my diet. You can find a list here of the top 10 foods highest in Vitamin C. I make sure to include strawberries with breakfast, lunch and dessert, plus replace at least one meal with a salad full of multi-colored goodness a day. I also drink orange juice and herbal teas with a few drops of Echinacea and Elderberry Tincture.
You can pull a band aid off one of two ways: quickly so that all the pain happens all at once but at least it is over and done with, or a little at a time. There is still sensation with the slower method, but the pain isn’t as intense and the area isn’t as tender afterwards. Jet lag is the same way: you can Hell Mary it and just be out of it for a few days until your body acclimates, or you can deal with it a little at a time until it isn’t an issue. The difference between the two is that waiting until after you arrive puts unnecessary stress on your body. It is much easier and healthier to adjust your waking and sleeping times little by little through out the week before you leave. Even if you can’t match the new schedule exactly before hand due to work and school schedules, a two hour time shift is a lot less difficult than a 5 hour shift.
To Sum it Up
- Drink 8 16oz glasses of pure water a day.
- Eat fruits and vegetables high in water content like melons, cucumbers, celery and onions.
- Take your vitamins.
- Load up on High vitamin C foods.
- Replace one meal a day with a salad.
- Start to acclimate your sleep schedule prior to departure.
I was able to come out of an 8 hour transatlantic flight a few months ago escaping the dreaded Norovirus thans to these simple steps. My husband and son weren’t so lucky, so I extended my Travel Diet routine a few more days after we got home while taking care of them and getting puked on by an infant a few times a day and still managed to not catch it. I jinxed myself for this trip now though, you know?