13 Natural Ways to Handle the Health Strains of Travel6 min read
The dry, recirculated air of the aircraft cabin, sitting next to strangers in cramped spaces, active exertions at your destination, and trying exotic foods can all take a toll on the body during travel. Sometimes, it can make you feel like you need to take a vacation after your vacation. Ironically, most of what is involved in recovering from the strain of travel actually requires preparation ahead of time to avoid feeling miserable later. Try these natural remedies as a precaution the next time you go on a trip to limit the damage to your body and feel your best during your next getaway.
Prepare Before Travel
1. Natural supplements: In the roughly two weeks or so leading up to your trip, take vitamin
C and zinc tablets to boost your immune system. On planes and in new environments, you’re bound to encounter new germs. Fortifying your immune system ahead of time will help stave off illnesses that you’re more likely to catch in a foreign place—or in that stuffy aircraft cabin, according to Mandi Palmer, a certified health and wellness coach based in Asheville, North Carolina. As a postscript to Palmer’s advice, I also personally recommend taking the zinc tablets with food, as I have noticed it can sometimes cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach.
2. Stretch and exercise: If you are out of shape and plan to walk a lot during your trip, start an
exercise routine a couple weeks in advance—even 20 minutes of moderate exercise and stretching a day will make a big difference. If you are going to be hiking during your trip, try to get in a couple shorter trails before your trip. I have found I log the most miles walking when I’m on vacation versus during the workweek at home, even when I exercise, so my calves are usually shot after touring a city all day. (Of course, it helps to wear comfortable walking shoes.)
For stretching, try deep yoga forward folds to stretch the calves, hamstrings and open the hips.
3. Plan to unwind: Travel for leisure is meant to be relaxing, so when putting your itinerary
together, build in some time to de-stress. Palmer even suggests selecting a few outings that take you to relaxing places outdoors—maybe near a body of water or to a garden. She says getting to that relaxed state is important for the body, so plan to spend time in nature if you can.
4. Pack the essentials: You’ll want to pack these essentials for the first stage of your travel.
- A pillow for lumbar support to be carried in your carry-on bag
- Oil of oregano capsules, an antimicrobial that can help fight infections
- A water bottle with a built-in filtering system
- Dry snacks like fruits and nuts
- Hand sanitizer
5. Just breathe: Sometimes, simply being in a different country—while exciting—can be stressful.
It’s important to have the right attitude and be able to handle situations with resilience.
For instance, lost baggage, delayed flights and missed connections, language barriers and simply being out of your usual environment can increase stress levels. In those moments when you feel overwhelmed, try deep belly breathing: inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. Focus on filling up your belly with each inhale. At any point in your travel if you feel stressed, try meditating for a few minutes to clear your mind and using this form of breathing to return to a state of calm.
6. Sanitize your seat: As soon as you get into your seat on the plane, wipe down the belt buckle,
the tray table, the armrests, and any other portion of your seat with the hand sanitizer you’ve brought. Some people opt for alternative, homemade versions of hand sanitizer that are gentler on the hands and include colloidal silver, which has anti-bacterial properties. Whichever you choose, wash your hands often and sanitize your space.
7. Carry healthy snacks: To avoid eating junk at airports, on the plane or even at your destination
while on the road or hiking, pack some dried fruit and nut mixes in your carry-on. This will help curb cravings while also keeping you away from junk food.
8. Circulate blood: Carry a pillow in your carry-on to support your back. Then, while on the flight,
get up and walk around often to keep your blood flowing. Some people also take an aspirin or two as a blood thinner for the flight, or carry compression socks to reduce ankle swelling but these may not be for everyone so check with your doctor first. Instead, Denise Leslie, owner and lead practitioner at Medical and Sports Massage in Sandy Springs, Georgia, suggests doing stretches in your seat to boost circulation and promote muscle movement: try chin tucks, and forward fold stretches, which involves bending your body downwards toward your feet. To open up your chest, pull your arms behind your back.
9. Settle your stomach: Often when we travel, we encounter new bacteria that our bodies are not
familiar with. This is a natural aspect of being in a foreign place. Of course, you can carry antacids, but Palmer, who believes in natural, holistic remedies, swears by oil of oregano capsules if you’re suffering from diarrhea. Sometimes, antacids can be too abrasive in removing even the good acids for our stomachs. Instead, oil of oregano capsules can be a natural way to help ease the discomfort if you have diarrhea. Also try yogurt, which includes natural probiotics. As a last resort, Palmer suggests activated charcoal, which works well but can be hard on the liver, thus should be taken sparingly.
On the other hand, if you find yourself “blocked up,” or irregular, make sure to eat fiber-rich foods such as greens, legumes and lentils. Drink warm lemon water or celery juice when you wake up in the morning, Palmer advises.
10. Stay hydrated: In the air and with all the walking, it’s easy to get dehydrated while traveling.
Remember to drink water regularly. If you’re worried about water quality, Palmer suggests buying a water bottle with a built-in filtering system.
Try water with lemon or coconut water, both of which have vitamins that help keep your nourished. The vitamin C and natural antiseptic qualities in lemons can help cleanse your organs and boost immunity.
Also, drink enough water to make sure you flush toxins out of your system.
Recuperate After Travel
Whether you have reached your destination and need to relax your muscles or you have returned home from the trip, try these methods to recuperate
11. Relieve your muscles: After a long day of walking or even more physical exertions,
Leslie recommends cold-hot therapy for your muscles. First, use ice on your calves and other tight muscles to help constrict blood vessels and stop nerve pain. Then, after the cold treatment, use heat to send blood back to the muscles, either through a hot pack or warm water bath.
Finally, lie on your back and lift your feet in the air to circulate blood back to the heart, she says.
These home remedies use the same concepts that Leslie uses in more advanced treatments at her practice to treating medical patients and athletes. Using the cold vapor used in cryotherapy chamber, Leslie is able to constrict the blood and stop nerve pain for her clients, allowing her to work much deeper to recirculate blood to the muscles during massage.
12. Foam roll muscles: Additionally, when you arrive in your destination, or even after you’ve returned from your trip, Palmer suggests foam rolling your muscles. This includes working out the kinks in your neck and chest, which can be done using a tennis ball.
13. Juicing: Continue to drink plenty of water, but If you need to detox your body upon return
home, Palmer suggests juicing. Especially if you indulged in heavy or fatty foods during your trip, juicing is a way to get the nutrients of fruits and vegetables back into your diet easily. Just be sure to choose fruits and vegetables that are not too high in sugar.
There’s no need to load up on medicines or give your body a shock treatment during or after travel to feel better. All it takes is preparation for the strains you will likely encounter so you don’t have to recuperate too much afterward.