Travelers will have to avoid a variety of pathogens this winter, including the “triple disease” of infections caused by Covid-19, influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).
But there are steps people can take to reduce their risk of disease, say health specialists at Spain’s SHA Wellness Clinic.
The key is to “develop a resilient immune system that can defend itself against attack from viruses and bacteria,” said Dr. Vicente Mera, Head of Genomic Medicine at SHA.
what to eat
“The most important thing is nutrition,” said Mera.
But drastic diets are not necessary, he added. Rather, travelers can simply eat whole, plant-based foods, which can help reduce inflammation, he said.
Fiber in plant-based foods also helps the gut microbiome “fight off pathogens that enter or are activated through the digestive tract,” he said.
Dr. Vicente Mera, Melanie Waxman and Philippa Harvey from SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain.
Source: SHA Wellness Clinic
Eating a nutritious diet is the top recommendation from Melanie Waxman, integrative nutrition specialist and eating coach at SHA Wellness Clinic.
That means eating “lots of vegetables, whole grains, fresh herbs, beans, sea vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and fermented foods,” she said.
What to pack on the plane
Waxman said travelers should eat alkaline foods to combat the acidity often brought on by air travel. She recommended these easy-to-wrap foods:
- Toasted Nori Snacks: “Ideal for traveling as they are lightweight and easy to carry in small backpacks. Nori is alkaline and provides a good source of vitamin C as well as omega-3 fatty acids, protein and minerals.”
- Instant Miso Soup: “Contains all the essential amino acids…and returns beneficial probiotics to the gut…great on flights and in hotel rooms as you just add boiling water to the sachet.”
- Spirulina Powder: “Packed with calcium and protein. It’s high in chlorophyll…is especially beneficial after spending hours in airplane cabins. The flavor can be strong, so add it to a refreshing vegetable juice… [or take] as a capsule.”
- plum balls: “A wonderful travel companion as they are extremely alkaline, full of minerals that help increase energy, aid digestion, boost immunity and improve liver function… the balls come in a container and easy to pack pack in a carry-on bag.”
A fermented plum, called umeboshi in Japanese, can be added to a cup of tea on a flight. It’s a “very sour plum that’s been fermented for at least three years,” said Melanie Waxman of the SHA Wellness Clinic.
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Waxman recommends drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a glass of water before breakfast. The vinegar is “a powerful immune booster … packed with probiotics,” she said.
For breakfast, oatmeal is a “wonderful” choice topped with berries, chia seeds and flaxseed, she said.
“Oats actually help the body produce melatonin more naturally,” she said. “Oats contain amino acids, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium, and complex carbohydrates…berries pack a lot of vitamin C, and the seeds provide extra omega-3s and protein.”
To combat jet lag, Waxman recommends taking more vitamin C.
She recommends eating sauerkraut before and after flying. “Fermenting cabbage skyrockets vitamin C and antioxidant levels,” she said.
Fresh vegetable juice is also great for immunity and jet lag recovery, she said.
get enough sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely linked, Mera said.
“Refreshing sleep boosts nature’s immunity,” he said, adding that poor quality or quantity of sleep increases the likelihood of getting sick.
People who average less than six hours of sleep a night, or 40 hours a week, are “at serious risk of disease,” he said.
Exercise – but don’t overdo it
Moderate exercise boosts the immune system, Mera said.
But “30 minutes a day is more than enough,” he said. “Long intense exercise can suppress the immune system.”
To avoid suppressing the immune system, travelers should avoid exercising to the point of exhaustion, said Dr. Vicente Mera, Head of Genome Medicine at SHA Wellness Clinic.
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Examples of useful exercises include running, walking, swimming and cycling, he said.
supplements, for some
Studies suggest that certain supplements — like vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, garlic, echinacea, and green tea — may boost the body’s immune response, Mera said.
But, he said, they’re not necessary for everyone.
“It just makes up for nutrient deficiencies, which usually occur when the diet is inadequate or the immune system is very weak,” he said.
To boost the immune system, Waxman also recommends Epsom salt baths (“magnesium is easily absorbed through the skin”), using essential oils (“especially lavender, eucalyptus, or tree oil”), drinking plenty of water, and reducing Alcohol. caffeine and sugar.
Mera added that reducing stress and anxiety is vital to immune system health. He recommends meditation, yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness to better manage emotions.
Philippa Harvey, head of SHA’s Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said travelers should start immune-boosting measures about a week before travel.
“In TCM, when someone is healthy and happy, we say they have good qi, pronounced ‘chee,'” she said.
She recommends eating seasonal foods, especially garlic and ginger in the fall and winter.
She also recommends exercise and acupressure to stay healthy.
“Before we travel, a nice, brisk walk in the fresh air is the easiest solution,” she said.