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For many years, it was hard for me to admit I was struggling. As I got older, I either became more comfortable in my own skin, or started to care a lot less about other peoples’ opinions. In all honesty, it’s probably a bit of both. Here’s my truth though, though — with six kids and a fear of contamination, I suffer from major travel anxiety. That’s why, in addition to conventional methods, we rely on natural remedies to stay healthy while traveling.
I’ve tried many things over the years to avoid getting sick — especially while traveling! We’ve got a well-established routine (keeping our hands clean, avoiding touching our faces while in public, and social distancing, for example) and “kit” that we don’t leave home without. If you’re interested in more ways to stay healthy while you’re on the road, you may also want to check out the following posts:
- Coronavirus & Travel: Should You Cancel Your Trip?
- How to Avoid Getting Sick During Cold & Flu Season Travel
- The Best Essential Oils for Travel Anxiety
- 7 Carry-On Essentials to Avoid Getting Sick on Your Flight
- 5 Ways to Avoid Germs at Amusement Parks
- The Ultimate Germaphobe’s Guide to Hotel Stays
- Can CBD Oil Help Your Travel Anxiety?
When it comes to natural remedies, some people will always feel the need to question their validity — and that’s okay. We should all do our own research and find the things that work best for us. In this post, we’re simply sharing what we like to do, and what we believe has worked for us. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about how you can stay healthy while traveling with natural remedies!
One of the first natural remedies people reach for are vitamins. Sometimes research supports their use, other times the evidence is conflicting or murky. One thing we believe is that, unless it’s harmful, if something works for you and makes you feel better, then stick with that. Even if it’s just a mental boost, it can improve your overall sense of well-being. Here are a few of the popular choices, along with a few details to help you make an informed decision:
We know that vitamin C can be powerful, but evidence supporting its use to prevent or reduce colds or flu is conflicted. Some research indicates that it can “reduce the duration of a cold by as much as 24 to 36 hours. However, other studies show that even very high doses — 3 grams a day — have no effect.” We take Emergen-C whenever we feel sketchy and call it a day. Food rich in Vitamin C include strawberries, broccoli, oranges, pineapple, and bell peppers.
While zinc can cause stomach upset, taking it by mouth (such as zinc lozenges, zinc tablets, or zinc syrup) within 24 hours of symptoms starting can help reduce the length of colds. Intranasal zinc (swabs and gels) can cause irreversible loss of smell, so use caution. Harvard Medical School researchers recommend 15-25 mg of zinc per day to support immune function. Foods rich in zinc include legumes, seeds, yogurt, red meat, and seafood.
This vitamin can support your immune system to ward off infections such as the flu. People with a vitamin B6 deficiency tend to show signs of a weakened immune system. Food rich in vitamin B6 include chickpeas, potatoes, liver, tuna, salmon, or chicken.
Many natural remedies marketed for cold and flu prevention contain echinacea, but do they actually work? According to WebMD, “some studies do not show that echinacea works as a treatment, others show it can reduce the length and severity of colds by 10% to 30%. Despite the confusion, many experts are fairly sure that echinacea can help treat colds.” The conflicting study results might actually be caused by researchers testing different species of echinacea. So, which one should you look for? The stuff that contains echinacea purpurea.
Magnesium plays a role in heart health, bone formation, heart health, decreasing inflammation, and helping the body manage stress. It may also keep you from catching the flu. Research shows that magnesium plays a key role in the immune response. You can find it in foods including bone broth, spinach, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds.
Much like vitamin C, people often turn to vitamin D for cold and flu prevention and treatment. While it appears to be most beneficial to people who have low levels to begin with, it may give most of us a boost. More and more research is exploring the disease-fighting properties of vitamin D which may boost our body’s ability to fight off infections. Some studies specifically indicate evidence that it has reduced the incidence of influenza in children. Find vitamin D in food like salmon, sardines, and egg yolks, mushrooms, almond milk, soy milk, orange juice, and yogurt. Of course, getting out in the sunshine can also help 🙂
doTERRA is my absolute favorite essential oils company. We buy a lot of essential oils, and doTERRA just seems to be the highest quality. Before you even open a bottle, you’ll get a whiff of the aromatic contents. While there are several products I like, the one I really love is On Guard. We order this essential oil more than any other kind, especially during cold and flu season.
According to their site, it’s a “proprietary essential oil blend, provides a natural and effective alternative for immune support when used internally… doTERRA On Guard protects against environmental and seasonal threats with essential oils known for their positive effects on the immune system when ingested.”
doTerra suggests using On Guard in the following ways:
- Adding three to four drops to a diffuser
- Diluting one drop into 4 fl. oz of liquid to drink
- Applying one to two drops to a desired area topically (dilute with coconut oil for sensitive skin)
When I’m traveling, I’ll put a drop of On Guard under my tongue every day (especially if I’ve been on a plane). I also do this if I’ve been in large groups of people. Yes, it’s a little bit strong but I’ve come to love the spicy flavor. The clove and cinnamon really hit those taste buds immediately!
Obviously, you need to exercise caution when using essential oils or any natural remedies with children. The following is what we do for our children and is not a recommendation for what you should do. To use OnGuard with the smaller kids, we create a mixture with coconut oil and a few drops of On Guard. Then, we apply to their wrists, backs, or the soles of their cute little feet (one of my twins really, really loves this). I do this while we are traveling, or if it seems like they are coming down with something.
Another thing we do is add a few drops of On Guard to a diffuser and let it run in our hotel room as we sleep overnight. This can be particularly helpful when you’re trying to stay healthy while traveling during flu season. Around the holidays, it adds a wonderfully warm and festive scent to the air, too!
Have you heard about the healing power of elderberries? If not, it’s time to do some research! The Cleveland Clinic has a great overview in case you don’t want to go digging through scientific journals. By the time I learned about this, my two oldest children were already adults. Sigh… Now that I know, this has become one of my favorite products ever. I definitely turn to it to help stay healthy while traveling.
One proprietary blend sold as Sambucol has shown an ability to fight the flu, so you might want to put it on your radar. We always make sure it’s among the essentials we pack in our carry-on bag (especially on long haul flights)! We also keep it well-stocked during peak sick season. Here’s why:
- In one randomized study, a group of 60 adults with flu-like symptoms took 15ml of elderberry syrup four times a day.
- Their symptoms cleared up four days earlier than the group that took the placebo. Think about what you could do with four days of wellness!
- In another study, air travelers who took elderberry syrup experienced shorter, less severe cold symptoms than the control group.
There’s a low risk of side effects associated with taking elderberry syrup, but overall results suggest it’s safe. TSA doesn’t allow you to take large quantities of liquids (even if you have TSA Precheck) so the syrup might not make it through security. It’s not cheap, so you won’t want to have to through it out.
Fortunately, we’ve got a solution. Sambuccol is also available in small, dissolvable tablets. Now that I know about these, I safe the syrup for moments when I really need something that packs a punch. Otherwise, I rely on the tablets. I’ve even taken these as a precautionary measure while traveling. Of course, feel free to talk to your healthcare professional before adding anything to your routine.
Raise your hand if you enjoy having a stomach bug! No one? Yeah, that’s what I thought. It’s bad when it happens at home, but it can be a nightmare while traveling. More than half of food-borne illnesses around the world are caused by Norovirus. For a long time, it seemed like there wasn’t much we could do to protect ourselves. Well, maybe there is.
Some studies have explored the impact of grape seed extract on Norovirus and they’ve discovered that the natural product can actually disable the virus. In fact, adding a drop of GSE to a cup of water has the potential to dramatically reduce the chances of catching it — just be ready for your mouth to protest. It’s not great, folks. I’ve gotten used to it, but I’ll never think GSE tastes good.
I’ve never been one to force natural remedies on others, so Josh skipped this foul-tasting drink on a trip to Montreal once. I’ll spare you the horrific details, but he ended up catching something and spent a long, miserable time in the bathroom while I sat in the hotel bed trembling. I really, really didn’t want to catch whatever he had, especially because we were flying home the next day. I kept taking my GSE while I took care of him and we made it home without further incident.
One thing many travelers struggle with is getting a good night’s sleep. Along with being stressed about germy hotel rooms, they can be loud and sometimes it’s hard for us fall asleep. This can be especially challenging if you’ve changed time zones. If your body is going to stay healthy, it needs rest. To help things along, some people take melatonin supplements.According to the Mayo Clinic, “melatonin is generally safe for short-term use. Unlike with many sleep medications, with melatonin you are unlikely to become dependent, have a diminished response after repeated use (habituation), or experience a hangover effect.” So, it’s something many people take to help get the rest they need on vacation.
I’ll say, though, that’s it’s not a bad idea to test this out at home before you use it while traveling. On a recent flight home from Japan, my daughter and I each took one and we slept the entire flight. She couldn’t even stop herself from drooping onto the stranger next to her. While I think it’s great to catch some shuteye on long haul treks, it was too strong for me in that type of environment.
Foods That May Fight Infection
Finally, it’s always a good idea to eat a healthy diet, but there are some foods that are commonly listed among the natural remedies for colds and the flu.
- Garlic: Along with onions and leeks, garlic belongs to the allium family and may give your immune system a boost during cold and flu season.
- Colorful fruits and vegetables: One study showed that mice were less likely to develop the flu after being given quercetin, a common compound found in fruits and vegetables.
- Chicken soup: It’s more than an old wive’s tale that chicken soup can help you get over a cold. A study in the journal CHEST concluded that chicken soup can boost antioxidants and provide valuable fluids, among other perks.
- Fish oil (omega-3): DHA, the type of omega-3 found in fatty fish, can increase white blood cell activity and help you fight off infection. One study found that it can cut cravings for nicotine which can help smokers reduce (or eliminate) cigarette use while they’re healing from a respiratory illness.
Have a Healthy Trip!
We’re always working on finding new ways to stay healthy while traveling, and we prefer to keep things natural when we can. That being said, we also believe that striking a balance between modern medicine, a positive lifestyle, and natural remedies work best for our family. Ultimately, you need to do what’s right for you.
Again, it’s important to do your own research about any product you’re considering using. We have found it beneficial to experiment with the natural ways to keep our bodies healthy and thriving while we’re away from home. Consider doing the same and let us know what has worked for you. Happy travels!
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