Wellness Tips for Summer Travel
4 Things you can do to ready your immune system
As travel restrictions ease, and we adjust to the new normal of pandemic life, some of us are finally feeling ready to venture from our safety bubbles. But while the risk of getting sick has always been a part of traveling, the isolation of the last few years has left us more vulnerable than ever. Safety measures have limited our exposure to the pathogens and viruses that we’d normally encounter in our daily lives, and this means the adaptive immune system, which depends on that exposure in order to function, isn’t as prepared as it used to be. In addition, viruses that slowed down during the pandemic restrictions have reemerged in new and unpredictable ways.
Getting back out there is an important part of finding our equilibrium, and summer is a great time to start. But a little caution can go a long way to help protect yourself, and others, from the risks. So here are some tips to help you enjoy your summer travel plans while taking steps to give your immune system a jump-start.
1. Eat nutrient-rich foods & stay hydrated
Scientists believe we host about 70-80% of our immune cells in the gut, which is what makes nutrition intake so important. A well-functioning immune system requires essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, B2, B6, and B12, folic acid, iron, selenium, and zinc. But that’s only the beginning. Phytochemicals, which are the non-essential compounds that strengthen a plant’s immune system, have been shown to play a crucial role in immune response.
Prior to your trip, boost your nutrient intake with immune-boosting foods that have high phytochemical content. The best sources of phytochemicals are fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas. Try to include a variety of colors, as each color is associated with different health benefits. Along that same vein, drink plenty of water before, during, and after, especially if your trip involves a flight, as flying is known to increase dehydration rates.
2. Get Good Sleep
Sleep is crucial to a well-functioning immune system. Not only does the body repair and restore while we sleep, but quite a few studies have shown that natural circadian rhythms actually regulate the balance and function of the innate immune cells, which act as an early defense against pathogens.
But before, during and even after a trip, we often forego our natural sleep patterns, which can compromise the body’s ability to protect itself. Instead of getting caught up in the frenzy, consider prioritizing your sleep, making sure to give yourself at least 7-8 hours a night. Not only will this help keep your immune system strong, but you’re more likely to enjoy your waking hours when you’re well rested. If your trip involves a time zone change, it’s a good idea to ease into the transition slowly. Try shifting your bedtime by 20-30 minutes increments every few days until you’re aligned with the destination time zone.
3. Manage Stress
Travel may be worth the work, but getting there can be especially stressful. Not only does stress ramp up anxiety, tension, and inflammation in your body, it also lowers your defenses. Studies have shown that stress actually lowers the number of natural killer cells working to protect you from incoming health threats, which makes you more susceptible to infection and illness.
Before, during, and after a trip, make room for self-care routines that promote stress management. If you find yourself feeling frenzied, take a calming walk or relaxing bath, spend a few minutes in meditation, or, our personal favorite, slow things down with some Zen breathing.
4. Boost with Supplements
Studies have shown that particular dietary supplements may help to give your immune system function an extra boost. For example, a study on echinacea was shown to reduce the severity and occurrence of lower respiratory illness symptoms when taken before and during intercontinental travel. In another study, elderberry supplements reduced the duration and severity of cold symptoms in air travelers.
If you’ve got an upcoming trip, here are some general recommendations from the experts:
To support immune system function, most agree that vitamins C, D, A, and B6, as well as zinc, and selenium, will help to cover your bases. Dosage recommendations vary, so be sure to check with your health practitioner to understand your individual needs.
Prebiotics & Probiotics
A thriving microbiome plays a big role in immunity. Prebiotics help to optimize your gut environment by feeding the good bacteria, while probiotics help to replenish the microbiome by providing live microorganisms. Both work together to keep your microbiome balanced and strong.
Innate Immunity Activators
Your first line of defense against incoming health threats is the innate immune system. The cells in this system work to quickly identify and eliminate pathogens and virally-infected cells before they can multiply. Supplements like Brolico-Immunity support- help to target and increase innate cell activity to keep your front lines ready for action.