by Dr. Will Cole
Sometimes you have to travel for work and sometimes you get to travel for vacation. Either way, arriving at your destination with the sniffles or coming home with the flu is hardly an ideal result. Travel exposes you to germs you probably wouldn’t encounter in your normal routine and that can mean everything from an inconvenient cold to a serious infection. I travel frequently for speaking engagements, so staying healthy on the road is something I have had to master. Here are some of my favorite travel-friendly wellness practices. They’ll help keep you in optimal health so your immune system can squash those bugs before they squash your vacation or your homecoming.
1. Supplement with magnesium.
I always travel with magnesium. The pressure in an airplane cabin can contribute to gas and constipation, and magnesium counteracts those uncomfortable effects. Try mixing magnesium powder with water and drinking it right before boarding. Magnesium also has a calming effect and promotes better sleep, so it can help with jet lag, too.
2. Plan for healthier eating.
When you don’t plan your meals and snacks, or at least have some options in mind, you are more likely to resort to junk food. Fortunately, healthier food options are more and more widely available – even Starbucks has kale chips and dried fruit. Check restaurant options at your destination before your trip so you know where to go, and see if you can get a hotel room with a kitchen or at least a refrigerator, so you can make a quick health food or grocery run and have better options on hand for your entire trip.
3. Use a saline spray when flying.
Airplanes have notoriously dry air, which can leave you feeling dehydrated and also compromises the mucous membrane barrier, which could make you more vulnerable to viruses. Stay hydrated, not just by drinking more water, but by using a saline spray in each nostril, once before the flight and once or twice during the flight for longer journeys.
4. Take advantage of the spa.
Many hotels have saunas, steam rooms, and sometimes other spa services. I’m partial to the sauna, which I use every evening when traveling if I can to help de-stress, reduce inflammation, and sweat out toxins.
5. Pack your own airplane food.
Did you know you can bring a cooler of food through security? As long as you aren’t packing any liquids (although do bring an empty, refillable water bottle), you can bring an entire healthy lunch or dinner from home and enjoy it on the plane. You’ll be the envy of all. Here are some of the things I’ve brought with me on a plane:
- Homemade nori tuna wraps
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cut up veggies
- Raw almonds
- Homemade granola
- Tea bags to steep in my water bottle at room temperature, or to put in hot water on the plane
- Collagen powder to mix in water
6. Keep moving.
Even if all you want to do is lie on the beach, or you have to sit in business meetings all day, you can still work in movement along with getting to know a new place better. When I travel, I always try to experience the local history, culture, and sights of the place I am visiting, no matter how far or near from home. Look into walking tours, biking tours, self-guided tours, or hikes in natural areas. You’ll get your heart rate up, your muscles moving, and your circulation pumping, while you also take part in new experiences that help invigorate your brain.
7. Stay balanced with adaptogens.
Traveling can be exhausting, immune-compromising, and stressful, but adaptogens like ashwagandha and holy basil, as well as adaptogenic mushrooms in powdered form like chaga and turkeytail, can help balance the downside of hitting the road by amping up immunity and energy, leveling out hormones, and boosting your brain power. You can add these to your reusable water bottle or sprinkle them on top of food at restaurants so you can keep on top of your game during your trip.
8. Feed your gut with probiotics.
Probiotics give your immune system a further boost, since about 80 percent of your immune system is stored in your gut. Package up those probiotics to keep your microbiome in tip-top shape.
9. Juice your way through security.
Did you know that frozen liquids don’t count as liquids when you go through security? Stash some ziplocks full of frozen healthy green juice in your cooler. When you land, they will be ready to drink or store in your hotel fridge.
10. Meditate through the travel chaos.
Delays, missed flights, and traffic jams can upset even the best-laid plans and can be a major source of stress. Part of traveling is learning to go with the flow, and there is no easier way to practice this than through mindfulness. Use long lines, waits, and other frustrations as opportunities to practice resilience and breath awareness. If you aren’t sure how to start, check out the many phone apps out there that make it easy to meditate on the go.
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