My mom and I recently took a girls’ trip to Cuba with my 16 month old – it was the first time I had travelled with my little one and I was nervous about the possibility of her getting sick given an estimated 15-45 percent of short-term travellers suffer from a health problem associated with their trip. As a result, I was determined to do everything in my power to ensure we all stayed healthy.
There’s no denying that the quest for relaxation can be a lot of extra work (ironic, isn’t it?) Packing, flights, hotels, changes in food, climate, time zones and routines can all put additional stress on the body. If you’re travelling with kids, the stress can be magnified while attempting to prepare little ones who may or may not be great travellers.
After all the preparation stress, there’s nothing more frustrating than the body deciding it’s had enough and suddenly being faced with illness before or during a much anticipated getaway. With March break around the corner and so many families potentially heading out on vacation, below are some of my most effective tips for preventing illness before, during and after vacation.
Strengthen the Immune System:
You’ve heard it before, but prevention is key. It’s much easier to keep illness at bay as opposed to try and get rid of something once you’ve already contracted it. Two key strategies we leveraged to strengthen our immune systems before going away included:
Garlic – this food is known for its ability to prevent the common cold, speed up recovery when sick and make it less likely to develop another infection. One large study found that participants consuming garlic daily were 63% less likely to catch the common cold.
In the the weeks before our trip, we started taking Allimax, a high potency garlic supplement containing allicin which is the active sulfur compound responsible for the health benefits of garlic. This, coupled with consuming raw garlic was vital in boosting our immune systems. We’d take three capsules every day, plus one clove of raw garlic right before bed.
Probiotics – it’s estimated that over 70% of the immune system in located within the gut. As a result, gut health is imperative for establishing healthy immune function. Taking a good quality probiotic and eating lots of fermented and prebiotic-rich foods that foster and promote healthy gut bacteria is one of the greatest things you can do for your health. Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles and coconut yogurt were all staples in our diet prior to travelling.
Protect Against Airborne Microorganisms:
I used to travel quite a bit for work and would find that if I was going to get sick, it was always after flying (no surprise after spending hours on a plane within close proximity to 200 other people.) Taking a few precautionary measures before and after a flight can help ward off any bugs you’re exposed to in-flight.
Essential Oils – given the nasal passage is a primary entry point to the body, mixing a bit of coconut oil with an anti-microbial essential oil and applying under the nose can be an effective strategy for neutralizing invaders. Prior to flight we always apply a mixture of coconut oil with thieves essential oil to the soles of the feet (for fastest absorption into the blood stream) and also apply below the nose. Thieves is a powerful mix of clove, rosemary, cinnamon bark, lemon and eucalyptus essential oils effective in killing microorganisms and inhibiting their growth. Thieves plays a crucial part of supporting healthy immune function in our home year-round but is definitely a must have when travelling. A netty pot could also be used immediately after flight to cleanse the nasal passage.
Saline Solution – it can be very dry on planes and most passengers struggle to stay hydrated. When the nose’s mucus membranes dry out, they are unable to filter viruses and bacteria. Saline spray is an easy way to keep your nasal passages functioning as intended. Simply spray solution in each nostril a few times during your flight.
Support the Body While on Location:
Yes vacation can be time to unwind, let loose and even indulge, but too many changes at once can be taxing on the body. It won’t be much fun if you’re forced to observe all the action from your hotel room window or it takes three weeks to recover once returning home. Keep this in mind as you line up for your first mojito at 7 am or pile up yet another plate of sugary treats while passing the buffet table.
We brought the following items with us to our resort to keep us feeling great:
Herbal Tea – it’s amazing how much a soothing cup of tea can help with sleep, combating inflammation, sore throats, aches, pains and intestinal distress. Ginger and turmeric teas are must-haves when we travel. They made a great post-meal digestive aid and helped reduce inflammation associated with eating and drinking foods we don’t typically consume.
Activated Charcoal – is a natural product that traps toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so they are not reabsorbed. It’s commonly used in emergency centres around the world given its ability to be used as treatment for poisoning and drug overdoses. We always select activated charcoal made from coconut shells or other natural sources and have found it to be very helpful in the event of food poisoning etc.
Snacks – I made up individual portions of gluten free granola before leaving that we would throw in a beach bag when we left our room for the day. This helped to ensure we always had a healthy snack option for both ourselves and Jiya and prevented us from snacking on some of the common poolside fare.
Essential Oils – we brought a wide variety of essential oils and diffuser with us to help with purifying our room, aiding in relaxation, supporting healthy digestion, soothing muscles after activity and skin after sun exposure, preventing infections and supporting our immune system.
More Garlic – we continued to take a garlic supplement while away. This ended up being multi-purpose, as my feet endured some pretty bad blisters after the first day of wearing flip flops. To prevent infection, I mixed the contents of the garlic capsule with coconut oil and lavender essential oil to make a paste and apply to wounds. This was very soothing, kept the wounds clean and helped with healing.
Replenish at Home:
Given the digestive system can easily be aggravated during travel, we spent our first few initial days at home consuming lighter, more restorative foods and beverages. Bone broth, smoothies, juices, salads, herbal teas and fermented foods all helped to give our gastrointestinal tracts a break from constantly working to digest food and support our bodies as we assimilated back into regular routines.
Getting away and reducing stress is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Combined with adequate sleep and proper nutrition, taking a few preventative measures can help ensure you get much-deserved vacation time, while staying healthy enough to enjoy it. 🙂