Traveling can be a lot of fun, but it can also place stresses on your body that are different from those you encounter at home. Lifestyle and nutritional factors can help you manage these challenges and better support your health, whether you are on the road for work or pleasure.

Air travel

Although airline flights save a lot of time and make getting from point A to point B faster and easier, flying in jets can place stress on your body. To begin with, even if you are one of the lucky fliers sitting in business or first class, sitting on a jet airplane is mostly uncomfortable.

If you can, pre-select a seat that gives you the best options for leg room and standing up.

Because different planes have different configurations, check the website SeatGuru, which will show you what to expect on your flight. Also consider aids you can use to keep yourself comfortable – a neck pillow, a blanket, or something to act as a foot rest if you are short.

If you are taking a long flight, then remember to get up and move around every couple of hours to maintain circulation and keep your body from tensing up. Many travelers use compression socks to support blood flow and prevent swelling in the feet that can occur on long flights.

Airline flights also challenge your body in other ways. Being in a closed environment that has recirculated air both dehydrates you and exposes you to whatever germs other passengers near you have brought onboard.

Being at higher altitudes also exposes you to more environmental radiation because you have less protection than from the atmosphere on the ground. Drinking plenty of water (and minimizing alcohol intake) is a good idea.

If you tend to get sick easily or fly frequently, then you should consider some added protection for your immune system,* such as Thorne’s Myco-Immune – which, at two fluid ounces, is compliant with TSA’s carry-on regulations.

Although individuals who fly only occasionally needn’t be concerned about cosmic radiation, frequent fliers might want to take note that each time you zip across the country it’s equivalent to half a chest x-ray.1

Antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and zinc are the natural compounds the body uses to guard against oxidative damage.*

It’s recommended that individuals who are regularly exposed to cosmic radiation (such as airline pilots) maintain healthy levels of these nutrients with a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.*2  Botanical sources of antioxidants, such as those found in Thorne’s PolyResveratrol-SR, could also be considered.*

Sleep and Jet Lag

No matter what mode of transportation you use, if you move across several time zones, then you might find your inner body clock is challenged. We often think of jet lag as only affecting people traveling to far-away locations, but it’s actually a factor if you travel across two or more time zones.

One thing you can do is plan your travel to make adjustment easier. Arriving at your destination early so you can have a full, active day is often advised. If you can, arrive a day or two before you have to work or take a tour so you can adjust in case you are really tired.

The sooner you can get on the schedule of your new time zone the better. You can even start a day or two in advance – while you’re still at home – by adjusting your mealtimes and bedtime to align with your destination. 

Melatonin is the primary hormone that helps maintain the body's normal circadian rhythm.*

Supplemental melatonin has been studied to help with adjusting to a new time zone.* The usual recommendation is to take 0.5 to 5 milligrams (mg) of melatonin one hour before your destination bedtime.

Overall, studies have not shown that any particular dose is more effective, although they do find the 5-mg dose does seem to help people fall asleep more quickly.*3 You can also start taking melatonin a day before you depart or on the airplane if you have a long flight. 

In addition, you can use light exposure to help program your circadian rhythm. Light therapy company Lumie has detailed advice you can follow before and during travel. Finally, there are some good travel apps like Jet Lag Rooster that will help you make a personal plan.

Gut Health

Although you might adjust just fine to faraway locations, your gut might not always follow. There are many reasons for this happening. Most people recognize that drinking water – especially in parts of the world that have different sanitation requirements from those at home – is a risk for acquiring a bug.

Or, water you are not used to drinking could be clean but it could contain a mineral content very different from what you are used to. Some tips for avoiding water-borne illness include:

  • Not drinking or brushing your teeth with tap water (use bottled water that you open yourself; and if you are really unsure of the source use carbonated water – if it has bubbles, then it’s not from a tap)
  • Avoiding ice cubes, frozen drinks, and drinks mixed with water
  • Traveling with your own water filter, such as a filtering water bottle 

Travel can also mean new foods and more alcohol, both of which can predispose you to GI challenges. Try to especially avoid unwashed raw fruits and vegetables, which are the most likely to carry unhealthy microbes.

Fruits you can peel are almost always safe, as are foods that have been cooked. If you are unsure about what you are eating, then don’t over-indulge. It’s never a bad idea to carry a prescription for rescue antibiotics just in case – most doctors are happy to provide one.

Certain probiotics, such as those found in Thorne’s FloraSport 20B® can provide support for individuals who have high demands on their digestive tract or their immune system due to travel, by helping to maintain and restore a healthy balance of the gut’s microbiome.*4

You should also consider bringing a supplement, such as Thorne’s Undecyn, to take along with the probiotic for support of a healthy gut microbial balance.*

Regardless of why you are traveling, having a handful of nutritional and lifestyle tools can help support your health at any destination.


References

  1. Bagshaw M. Cosmic radiation in commercial aviation. Travel Med Infect Dis 2008;6(3):125-127.
  2. Prasad K. Rationale for using multiple antioxidants in protecting humans against low doses of ionizing radiation. Br J Radiol 2005;78(930):485-492.
  3. Herxheimer A, Petrie K. Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2002(2). CD001520
  4. Ouwehand A, DongLian C, Weijian X, et al. Probiotics reduce symptoms of antibiotic use in a hospital setting: A randomized dose response study. Vaccine 2014;32:458-463.