A "Natural" Travel Guide

Published on July 04, 2018 by Dr. NavNirat Nibber

As naturopaths, our goal when our patients ask us for support with traveling is to improve the quality of their experience. This begins with helping patients prepare their bodies for the toils of travel itself- from swollen legs, jet lag, to recycled air traveling. It’s also very important to supporting your immune system from the invariable barrage of assaults from new exposure to bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections. And finally, we want to mitigating the adverse effects of prophylaxis (ie. travel immunizations), or potentiating the benefits of these immunizations.

Here is some advice to help you get the most from your next vacation:

Planes, trains, and automobiles: No matter what mode of transportation you are taking, its pretty likely that you will be either sitting for long periods, confined to a small space with poor air flow, or even some motion sickness.

 - Promote Circulation: Get some compression socks for long haul flights and make sure you are doing simple leg exercises ever 45 min to avoid varicose veins. Other foods that promote good circulation include: fish, garlic and onions, blueberries, grapes, and herbal remedies such as gotu kola, gingko, and horsechesnut.

- Motion sickness: pop some ginger chews to help with nausea and vomiting, especially on choppy boat rides.

 On arrival: Prepare for drastically changing timezones or environments in a short period of time with simple behavioural modifications:

- Regulate sleep patterns by sleeping earlier or later (depending on the direction of travel) BEFORE you leave.

 - As soon as you arrive, try to get as much natural light as possible if arriving in the day. In the evening, minimize ambient light and supplement with melatonin to reset your circadian rhythm. (For some more information, check out this cool infographic from Thomas Cook)

Smart sight seeing: A little bit of research and planning can help you avoid unwelcome souvenirs you may pick up.

- Understand risks: It is important to understand what diseases are endemic to the region and climate you are traveling to. Health Canada, the CDC, and many other public organizations track hot pockets of many serious illnesses. This research will help you choose the most appropriate immunizations and gauge your risk. Once you know this, make sure you get recommended travel vaccines, and be compliant! Follow instructions for the prophylaxis exactly and if you aren’t sure about something get some clarity from your local travel clinic.  For high risk areas, certain vaccinations may be required for visa approval so make sure you check before you fly!

-  Avoid Exposure to pathogenic vectors. sometimes pathogens hide in a host that will transmit it to humans. For example malaria is transmitted to humans through a mosquito vector. These vectors can be ticks, mosquitos, wild game, fish, etc. Some bugs can directly infect through air droplets, blood, food, and water. The easiest approach to management is: avoid, fortify and eradicate.

  • Avoid: Use mosquito nets, buy appropriate clothing (light and long sleeved), cover your feet. Some research also suggests that vitamin B5, lavender, and citronella essential oils are effective, less toxic options for deterring mosquito bites.
  • Fortify: Give your immune system a fighting chance with:
    • Adequate protein: 1.2/0.8 g/kg of protein for males and females respectively
    • Zinc and Vitamin C lozenges: make sure you take zinc with food or you risk nausea.
    • Andrographis: While there is a long list of immune boosting herbs, andrographis stands out for its effectiveness, tolerance, and rapid action in combating infections and supporting the immune system. This “cooling” herb and has been traditionally used in ayurvedic medicine as an anti-fever, anti-bacterial and digestive tonic.
    • Saccharomyces boulardii is a live yeast probiotic strain that has specifically been studied for the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea.
  • Eradicate: Many of the more common travel related infections are self-limiting- meaning in individuals with a functional immune system, they will clear on their own. But, you need to make sure you are replenishing electrolytes and fluid. Try getting a UV filter for your water bottle, and have a recipe for electrolyte solutions.
    • Antibiotics: fluoroquinolones and azithromycin are often first choice however there are growing concerns of antibiotic resistance.
    • Anti-microbial foods and herbs, such as: Artemesian, Oregano oil, berberine, black walnut, thyme, and lipid rich foods can be beneficial for acute infections.
    • Consider a prebiotic, such as XOS after eradication to increase beneficial bacteria growth.