Summer is the time for holidays and some time out from our daily routines, however fully letting go of our daily rituals may be counter-productive and lead to needing a holiday following our holiday! Here is a nutritional guide about how to make the most of your much-needed downtime by being well-prepared and travel smart:
- Be prepared:
- A week or 2 before you are due to leave, start or increase your probiotic intake, especially if you have a history of susceptibility when you travel. Make sure you choose a probiotic suitable for travel and pack extra for any family members who could be subject to traveller’s tummy too.
- Start taking natural antimicrobials before you travel. This will reduce your likelihood of picking up bugs on the plane and whilst away. This is particularly important for those who have been subject to stress, sensitive stomachs and recent infection such as the common cold. Think oregano garlic clove and cinnamon.
- Pre-book your food shopping for when you return, so you know there will be no last minute dash for cat food and milk.
- Pack wisely:
You may need to make room for the following:
- Natural First-aid kit to include immune support, sun and after-sun care, and insect bite treatment and prevention. Key immune nutrients to think of here are vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A, beta-carotene and lycopene. Interestingly, these are also key nutrients vital for maintaining healthy skin integrity. Lycopene is particularly important as it may reduce sunburn by up to 40%. Carotenoids also offer exceptional skin protection. Another reason for following the Mediterranean diet.
- Your regular medications and supplements – there are no restrictions here for flying. It’s best to keep them in their original container and check the laws / restrictions for the destination. If you can continue your usual regimen, then we would suggest continuing so you are not set back on your health plan.
- Snacks – if you are particular about what you eat, have a sensitive tummy or have a condition such as Coeliac’s Disease or allergy which dictates limitation, then make sure you take food so you know you won’t be court short or left hungry. Some ideas would be: gluten-free oatcakes, raw fruit and nut bars, protein powder, packets of nuts and seeds.
- Don’t let the journey put you on a back foot:
- Limit your exposure to germs during travel, where you can. For example; don’t use the overhead cool-air vents and use a hand wash regularly.
- Travelling is not only a great sap on our energy reserves, it is also very dehydrating when it’s air travel, or in air-conditioned coaches, boats etc. Always take in adequate water, and consider delaying your alcohol intake until you reach your destination. Your brain will thank you for it the following day.
- Maintain appropriate alertness. Driving through the night or unsociable flights times can lead to fatigue. Reduce the chance of reaching for stimulants such as caffeine and sugar by getting regular movement, fresh air and water breaks. To boost energy levels think of B vitamins such as B2 and B3, co-enzyme Q10, d-ribose, and n-acetyl carnitine.
- The R&R bit:
- ‘I always get sick when I go on holiday’. During our daily lives, we can often be under the influence of chronic stress (cortisol output). Cortisol protects us from infection. However, when that stress subsides, our cortisol levels drop and it is at this time we are vulnerable to ill-health and infection. For this reason, it is vital we learn how to manage that stress in our lives (hyperlink to another article here), but in the short-term supporting our immune system would be key to preventing having a poorly holiday. Think vitamin C, and zinc for instance.
- Sleep disruption – new environment & daily patterns. Try and maintain a regular pattern and take steps in your new environment to ensure good quality sleep, such as unplugging any light-emitting electrical devices, taking a blackout blind (if necessary) and having alcohol-free days/evenings.
- Choose a good book, preferably not stress-inducing and read it! This is part of your plan, mindful escapism is essential for health and happiness.
- Jetlag / returning to work / routine:
- Try and prepare well for long haul flights. Eat light meals before and during flights, and avoid stimulants and dehydrating drinks 12 hours pre-flight. For long-haul flights the advice is to make steps to manufacture melatonin (our sleep hormone) at the time of the destination bedtime, i.e. it may be 5pm in USA but start getting into sleep-like state as early as possibly as back home you would be bed-ready. To do this you can support with nutrients such as tryptophan, vitamin B6, folate as methylfolate, B12 as methylcobalamin. ,
- If you do travel often, especially long-haul, investing in a pair of blue-light blocking glasses may be helpful to get your body more into a natural rhythm, as they work by blocking the majority of stimulating blue light emitted from electrical devices etc., thus preparing us better to unwind for sleep.
- Another way we can help us rewind is to use GABA-evoking nutrients (our calming neurotransmitter) such as l-theanine, , , chamomile, magnesium taurate, lemon balm, , and phosphatidyl serine from lecithin. Additionally, supporting the nervous system this way may also be helpful for flight fright and anxieties around travelling.
To summarise, be prepared and armed with nutritional support you need to cover any eventuality.
Hoping you have a wonderful summer from us all at BioCare.
Author: Lucy Sparkes BA (Hons) Dip CNM – BioCare Clinical Nutrition Advisor