Nothing kills the mood faster on a romantic getaway or a vacation with friends than a bout of explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting. Jam-packed travel schedules, awkward sleeping arrangements, experimentation with local cuisine and nasty foreign microbes all increase your likelihood of contracting an uncomfortable illness that will surely put a damper on your time away from home.
Holidays are supposed to be relaxing, fun and stress-free. The best way to make the most of your epic adventure is to be prepared for the worst and try these natural solutions for healthy travel:
- Boosting your natural immune defence is your best bet for prevention against any invading pathogens. If you have no other concerns, I recommend taking 10-15 billion/day for two weeks leading up to your trip, while you’re away and for a week or so after. If an acute infection does develop, you can increase the dose, especially if you’ve been prescribed antibiotics (note: always take them away from each other).
2) Digestive enzymes
- As you scan the Indian menu in front of you for a picture or description of what type of meat you’re about to ingest, go ahead and take a capsule or two of a digestive enzyme formula. Giving your pancreas a hand will decrease your odds of getting heartburn, cramps and gas pains (ie. will make the rest of your day more enjoyable for you and your travel companions). Additionally, peppermint tea or essential oil is easy to carry and helps post-meal GI distress.
- The twists and turns of a motorcycle ride in the Andes or the rocking of a cruise ship trip to Alaska can cause paralyzing nausea and ruin your appreciation of the views. Make ginger tea or chew on the real thing for quick relief of motion sickness and a sensitive stomach, no matter the cause.
4) Electrolyte mix
- When the first rumbles of and unsettled stomach hit, stop eating solid food and get to a restroom. Your body is frantically trying to evacuate anything in there that would make that infectious microbe want to stick around, so let it. But you will get severely ill if you don’t replenish the fluids lost in that tiny tour bus bathroom. Many sports drinks are high in sugar, so make your own cheap alternative using an 8:1 tsp sugar to salt ratio in 1L of clean water. If you can’t even keep that down, get to an ER to prevent dehydration and the complications of electrolyte disturbances.
5) Sleep aids
- Whether due to jet lag, anxiety, or sleep-talking hostel mates it’s important to do all you can to get a restful sleep so the next day you have the energy to climb those 1665 steps up the Eiffel tower. Pack an eye mask, earplugs and sleep formula with anxiolytic, sedative herbs like passionflower, valerian, chamomile and/or lemon balm. Consider melatonin if you’re going to be traveling through time zones. Additionally, a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow or rubbed on your neck and inhaled can induce relaxation and promote a good night’s sleep.
6) Homeopathics are safe, cheap and easy to travel with. Here’s a small summary of remedies that may be helpful on your trip:
- Aconite – panic attacks, shock, acute injuries
- Apis – bites, stings, hives, allergies
- Arnica – trauma, bruising, sprains and strains, any head injury (also useful as a topically cream/ointment applied to unbroken sk
- Arsenicum – violent diarrhea and vomiting, coughs, head colds
- Belladonna – fever, sunstroke, throbbing headaches
- Cantharis – urinary tract infections, any burning, itching pains
- Hypericum – wounds (especially punctures), nerve pain, toothaches
- Nux Vomica/Colubrina – hangovers, indigestion, sleeplessness, flu
- Magnesium phosphoricum – muscle aches, menstrual cramps
7) Rescue remedy
- If you have a terrifying fear of flying or get overly antsy when your husband/wife asks a seedy looking stranger for directions, this bach flower remedy may be just what you need to get through moments of high stress.
8) Aloe vera
- You’ve been good all week slathering on layer upon layer of SPF50, but it’s the last day of your Dominican vacation and you just want to go home with a tan to make your coworkers jealous. Now instead of strolling into the office with a healthy golden complexion, you’re lobster red, blistered and in pain. Cool the skin, ease the sting and prevent days of shedding loonie-sized pieces of skin by generously applying aloe vera (the gooey stuff straight from the plant is best, but a bottle of clear gel with no additives will do the trick as well).
9) Try indigenous medicines
- Get a true feel for the culture and ask a local for advice on whatever’s ailing you. Traditional medicines are often easy to access and work exceptionally well. Try Chinese herbs and acupuncture while traveling through Asia, Ayurvedic foods and medicine in India, or go on a hallucinogenic journey with a shaman in the jungles of South America.
10) Anti-parasitic formula
- If you manage to get through the vacation unscathed but get home and still feel off, you may want to consider doing a parasite cleanse. All too often, the crushed ice in your margarita harbours tiny friends that can take root and cause a range of effects in the body. The herbs in anti-parasitic formulas kill these disease-causing microbes, which also means that they can be pretty toxic, so ask an ND or health care practitioner to help guide you through the process.
There are few things funnier than hearing friends and family recount stories about surviving “that time my bowels failed in the middle of the Gobi desert without a tree or bush in sight” or “when I had to crouch over a hole in the ground in a concrete room while armed African solidiers looked on.” But let’s face it, being sick sucks and being sick in an unfamiliar place, thousands of miles from your bed is downright awful. So this winter, when you pack your bag for that dream vacation, remember that the key is prevention and preparation, and make a little room in your carry-on for some natural medicines.
*The above information is not meant to replace diagnosis and treatment with a qualified healthcare professional. Ask about side effects and drug interactions before trying any new supplement and in an acute situation, always seek medical attention. It wouldn’t hurt to get travel insurance too.
PS. If you’re planning to flee the daily grind but aren’t sure about where to go and what to do, check out my friend Katie’s musings at http://ifiwereyoublog.wordpress.com/ and http://vacay.ca/author/katie-marti/ – they are informative, thoroughly entertaining and slap-your-knee hilarious.