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Wake Up Your Immunity – Travel Wellness

Marcia Zimmerman, M.Ed., CN

My carry-on was safely stowed in the overhead, and I was settled into my seat for the five-hour flight from San Francisco to Chicago. Just then, the worst-case scenario unfolded. My companion sitting in the window seat began sneezing and blowing her nose. “Uh oh, trouble on the immune front!” I thought. I quickly did a mental check to see what measures I needed to take to protect myself.

Travelling during the winter months always brings the risk of infection from colds and flu. The trip can be very short - like going to the grocery store. Or, as in my case, it can be to another location and time zone. Obviously, the stress of travelling anytime of the year brings additional risk of illness from change of diet, hanging out in a hotel and working in a different environment. Consequently, I prepare ahead of time by adhering to my “travelling regime”. It begins with my daily wellness supplementation practice.

Building Maximum Daily Wellness

A daily multiple makes up the bottom tier of my daily regimen throughout the year. My preference is Eco-Green Multi, which contains 800 mg of chlorophyll-rich algae and grasses and a nice combination of digestive aids. The greens help mask the aroma and flavour of B-vitamins in addition to adding some important dietary components. Eco-Green contains 800 mcg of folic acid, 200 mcg of vitamin B-12 and 50 mg of vitamin B-6. These vitamins have been shown to reduce homocysteine levels and are essential for a good anti-aging program.

Additionally, Eco-Green contains an equal ratio of calcium to magnesium and vitamins D and K for bone health. I add Cal/Mag/Trace Minerals with vitamin D caps and Magnesium/Potassium Aspartate caps to maintain my ideal cal/mag ratio. The potassium helps keep my energy up. Magnesium is extremely important for heart health and plays a role in protecting lungs and preventing vascular headaches that often accompany travel. I also take 1/2 teaspoon of calcium ascorbate powder, a non-acidic form of vitamin C, daily.

Before I Leave …

My pre-travel preparation includes at least a week of high antioxidant intake. I choose multiple carotene-rich Veggie Carotenoids and high ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), polyphenol-rich VitaBerry Plus+. ORAC values distinguish foods and supplements with high antioxidant activity. I continue to take these while I’m travelling to counter the added stress of missed connections and negotiating the extra security measures that have become part of the traveller’s life. It’s also difficult for me to get my daily servings of red, orange, yellow, and purple fruits and vegetables. Real Green, Berry and Tropical food bars help supply these missing nutrients.

Winter Travel Extras …

During the winter months, I also add 2 to 4 caps of Immune Renew daily to bolster my defensive reserves and substitute one daily tonic of Effer-C effervescent powder in place of my calcium ascorbate. I take along extra packets of Effer-C to add when my immune system is threatened, such as on my recent flight. Immune Renew is an equal blend of 8 medicinal mushrooms and the Chinese Herb Astragalus membranaceous. Both medicinal mushrooms and Astragalus are known for boosting immune fighting T-cells, macrophages, and natural killer cells.

The smaller travel bag that goes with me to my seat always contains a big bottle of water, organic nuts and snack bars such as the Real bars, Verta and In Your Face Snacks. I also take along fresh fruit and something for my plane meal such as yogurt, soup or leftover casserole from home. Airline food has always been sorely lacking, but now it’s non-existent unless you want to purchase one of the less-than-healthy “snack boxes.”

When An Infection Threatens …

AlliBiotic CF is a relatively new cold and flu product from NOW, and an ideal one to load at the first sign of infection. It contains powerful antibiotic-like herbs including, elderberry (Sambucus nigra), olive leaf extract (Olea europaea), high allicin-yield garlic (Allium sativum), and oregano oil (Origanum vulgare L). This superb formula also contains ImmuneEnhancer AG and Araginogalactan (Larix occidentalis) for stimulating NK-killer cell activity and supporting healthy intestinal flora. I also add two 4X6 Acidophilus caps in the evening. These valuable microorganisms produce short-chain fatty acids that have been shown to activate immune cells and they are effective in reducing the colonization of nasal passages by pathogens.

A number of years ago when I was still working as a scientist, a health food storeowner told me that my annoying nasal and sinus discharge was likely the result of digestive disturbances. I thought she was crazy because at the time, the medical mindset was that what happens in the digestive tract has little bearing on the upper respiratory tract. Now, I know better. Sometimes we need to get older before we get smarter!

Getting a Good Night’s Rest …

This is always important for maintaining optimum health, but it’s top priority when travelling. I’m fortunate in that I can sleep almost anywhere. I also have little trouble adjusting to changes in time zones - at least within the US. Still, I always take melatonin along, not only in case I’m having difficulty falling asleep, but also because it’s such a fabulous antioxidant.

The immune system, like other body systems, follows a specific daily rhythm. Immune cell activity peaks during the night, following the diurnal rhythm of melatonin. Cortisol, the stress hormone peaks during the morning hours and this correlates with a drop in immune competence. I also make sure that I have earplugs, to help buff out the unexpected yells of rowdy late nighters.

Reducing Stress On the Road …

Pass on that amazing dessert following a heavy meal. Otherwise, you may find yourself having a stacked two-pillow night in which your stomach seems to balloon and the only comfort is to sleep half sitting up. It also helps to eat a smaller meal at night and a heartier one earlier in the day. I favour the old adage; “eat like a king at breakfast and a pauper at dinner.” Leave plenty of time in the morning for some meditation, followed by stretching and floor exercises. Use a towel as a floor mat because carpets in hotels aren’t very clean. Most hotels have workout rooms and many also have pools. Take advantage of these but exercise moderately. This is not the time to push to the limit. I love to swim but avoid indoor pools in the winter because they are usually heavily chlorinated and seem to bother my already dry respiratory membranes.

I take along special comfort items including a little voice-activated Braun alarm clock that has traveled with me all over the world since the 1980’s. I have learned to always check the electric alarm clocks in hotel rooms. If I don’t, there’s a good chance that some loud tune will wake me at an inappropriate hour. Housekeeping loves to play music while they work – and who could blame them? It’s just that they sometimes forget to turn off the music alarm. My silk lavender-scented eye pillow is another must. It soothes tired eyes and reminds me of my comfy bed back home. Of course, these are just my own.  But it’s little comforts like these that can help reduce stress to make travelling a lot more comfortable.

Not Just for Travellers …

My travel wellness program works even if you aren’t traveling. Just riding in an elevator can expose you to untold bacteria or viruses if someone next to you sneezes or coughs. These “bugs” are an airborne menace and, short of walking around with a mask covering your face, you can protect yourself with a “supplement mask” to fight off germs or find that your immune system is already challenged.


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