Published on December 14th, 2011 | by Nadya Andreeva1
How to Maintain a Strong Immune System While Traveling
Many people get sick after being at the airports and taking long flights. Traveling can be a real challenge to our immune system: stress, breaking the routine, not-so-great food, exposure to sick people, environmental toxins, and a ton of bacteria circling through the A/C. Jet lag and heavy holiday dinners can make the matters even worse.
Of course washing hands with soap and using a hand sanitizer can help, but it won’t save you from getting sick if your immune system is weak. A strong immune system is what will keep you symptom-free even if everyone around is coughing and sneezing. If you prefer to spend the holidays doing what you love rather than being sick in bed, there are a few things you can do to stay healthy even after exhausting travel.
Prepare in Advance
A strong immune system can’t be built overnight. You should try to maintain a healthy digestive system and keep stress levels in check most of the time. Make strengthening your immune system a priority two weeks before holiday travel time. A few things to consider:
- Include fermented foods that contain probiotics, or take a probiotic supplement. Kimchi, kefir (dairy or coconut), miso, sauekfaft are all good options.
- Eat lots of high-fiber, easy-to-digest foods like vegetable soups, curries, and other one-pot-meals. Try this light but very nourishing Kind Curried Cauliflower Soup.
- Be active to keep blood circulation optimal. A lot of people notice immediate improvements when it comes to chronic constipation, bloating, and gas if they start exercising more. Walking counts! So if there is no time for the gym or a yoga class, walk to and from lunch or walk up the stairs instead of using the elevator. I also love this video when I need to shake things up and get the blood flowing.
The Day of Travel
- Take some herbal tea bags with you, preferably something that has dried ginger, echinacea, or Valerian root and organic chamomile. They can all help calm nervousness and restlessness.
- Avoid bad food combinations at the airport or make some food to go if you have time. I always try to make a bowl of quinoa with vegetables or edamame to take with me. Even if the flight is short, you never know how long it might be delayed.
- Drink warm water or spiced milk at the airport. Starbucks has steamed dairy and soy milk. Add a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to increase milk’s grounding, anxiety-reducing properties. A cup of hot herbal tea with cinnamon and lemon will also help.
- Add black pepper or cinnamon to all food to keep circulation to the digestive system abundant. Soups or easy-to-digest grains are the best food options according to ayurveda. Salad or cold sandwiches sold at the airport might upset your stomach by creating excessive dryness and bloating.
- Skip caffeine. Flying can be dehydrating to the body. Most people feel that their skin becomes a lot drier the day after traveling. The same thing happens on the inside. Caffeine will exacerbate internal dryness. Drink milk, herbal tea, or warm water instead.
Nourishing Bodily Systems After Travel
Once you get to your destination, there are a few things you can do to reduce the likelihood of jet lag and rejuvenate your body.
- Drink Triphala before going to sleep. Triphala is a bowel tonic. It is not a laxative. It will help to restore your digestive system and keep it clean before the holiday feasts.
- Do a warm oil foot massage. This technique is the most nourishing and balancing thing that you can do when feeling spaced out or tired. Sesame oil is warm and grounding, but even a body lotion will do if you don’t have oil. I always travel with a small bottle of lavender essential oil and add a drop to the lotion. Massage your feet, knees, elbows, and stomach before going to sleep.
- Relax. Rest is crucial for a healthy immune system. You might have noticed that you often get sick after a few sleepless nights. Our bodies need time to restore and rejuvenate. Yoga nidra or a guided meditation are very helpful if travel anxiety sets in or if insomnia doesn’t let your body rest.
No matter where you are heading for the holidays, stay healthy and well!
PS: If you are an explorer and a traveler by nature, join Nadya for her annual trip to India! Last year’s trip to Kerala was amazing but this year is promising to be even better. It is a dream come true vacation for any yogi. This two part trip is a rare opportunity to combine an exciting adventure with peaceful rejuvenation. A week of studying yoga and Vedanta at an ashram on the shores of the Ganges with an enlightened yoga and Vedanta teacher will be followed by nine days of visiting four beautiful ancient cities. Choose to do both parts, or just one of them. You can find all the info on the upcoming retreat here.