What You’ll Learn

Category: Prevention
  • COVID-19 has created a crisis in the travel industry
  • For anyone traveling in the near future, they will have a drastically different experience
  • Why air travel increases the risk of a viral infection
  • Why combatting stress is the key to boosting your immune system
  • The 10 holistic steps to stay healthy during travel in 2020

Millennials love to travel. Research shows that they are 23% more likely to travel for business or pleasure than previous generations. It’s understandable, travel can change your worldview, make you feel alive, and even be beneficial for healing, according to some reports.

But traveling has changed drastically due to the coronavirus pandemic. And while thousands of flights are being canceled and many vacations postponed, some are returning to airports as certain COVID-19 travel restrictions are removed and more countries are anticipating to open to tourists again.

This guide to traveling in 2020 will help keep your mind, body, and spirit in optimal health as you take to the skies. 

3 Key Factors That Contribute to a Weakened Immune System While Traveling

Has the pandemic interfered with your travel plans or made you fearful of traveling? 

If so, then the first step is to take a deep breath and note that fear has a tremendous influence on activating the sympathetic nervous system and triggers the release of stress hormones. The immune system, your first line of defense against external pathogens such as COVID-19, is negatively affected by these hormones. So, Rule # 1 is to combat stress by staying calm!

Why Do Viruses Get Easy Access?

Flying across multiple time zones is enormously taxing on the body’s natural defense system. Let’s take a closer look at why your body is increasingly susceptible to viruses during travel.

1. Flights Are a Hotbed for Pathogens

The mere act of being stuck in a pressurized, low humidity steel tube for extended hours with restricted movement wreaks havoc on your immune system. Add to this, significant exposure to electromagnetic frequencies (EMF), and about a hundred passengers with varying immune levels, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for compromised immune function.

A study by Travelmath has shown that seat pockets, tray tables, and seat belts are the worst in terms of the number of germs they carry.

Protip: opening air vents above your seat will help improve air circulation and reduce the number of germs lingering in your immediate environment.

2. Jet Lag and Loss of Sleep

Jet lag is truly the most harrowing part of traveling, even for you frequent fliers. Sleep and the circadian cycle are strong regulators of immunological processes and disrupted sleep cycles have been found to have a direct correlation to increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These are known to play a role in chronic inflammation and immunodeficiency. Catching a few z’s during the flight is highly recommended to avoid jet lag after landing in a new timezone.

3. Food

We know that certain foods promote mental clarity and bodily health, while others are essentially empty calories void of any benefit. As if airplane food wasn’t already tasteless and nutrient deficient, it also acts as a magnet for airborne pathogens. The bacteria and viral particles circulating within the aircraft will find food to be the easiest surface through which to enter your body. It is best to avoid airplane food altogether, skip the alcohol, and stay hydrated with mineral or sparkling water.

There are multiple FDA reports since 2008 that cite positive tests of deadly bacteria in airline food.
There are multiple FDA reports since 2008 that cite positive tests of deadly bacteria in airline food.

10 Travel Wellness Tips

1. Strengthen Your Immune System Ahead of Time for Staying Healthy While Traveling

You do not have to wait to get 30,000 ft high in the sky to begin immune-strengthening practices. Knowing your travel schedule well in advance allows you to hack your immune system to perform at its best when subjected to travel stress. Here are three immune-strengthening strategies to give you a headstart before your departure.

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

Early civilizations believed that IF has the power to increase life span. Current research supports this belief, as IF is correlated with a number of health benefits including a strengthened immune system, and inducing a state of autophagy that triggers interleukin-6 and other downstream biochemical components of an immune response. Restricting calorie intake in the weeks leading up to travel day, not to mention during your flight, yields a number of benefits.

Alkaline Gem Water

Infusing water with healing gems enlivens it and restores its mineral properties. Drinking water exposed to crystals enhances its alkalinity and helps to remove certain toxins. Cleaner water supports the immune system and ensures no further toxic load will burden your internal organs.

Immune Boosting Supplements

In the wake of the pandemic, the consumption of immune-boosting supplements has skyrocketed, particularly for travelers. “What are the best immune-boosting supplements?” you may be wondering. Fortunately, we at Innovative Medicine have published a list of well-researched supplements known to have a notable effect on building your immunity from the inside. These include Mushrooms, Collagen, Probiotics, Elderberry, and Influvin-T, to name a few.

Travel Friendly Clothing

If you have a long flight coming up, you’re going to want to dress comfortably. Small, cramped spaces and lack of regular movement often leads to problems with circulation and blood flow. But what if your clothes could actually help hack these issues? Compression socks and pants have long been used by athletes and biohackers to increase circulation in the legs and feet and prevent deep vein thrombosis and swelling. In addition, new companies are producing EMF protecting clothing and headphones to wear on flights.

2.  Sanitize

Per CDC travel recommendations, the single most important step in controlling the spread of COVID-19 or any viral infection is to wash your hands. The pandemic has seen unprecedented growth in the sales of hand sanitizers, creating a market flooded with new products that may be ineffective and in some cases, toxic. We recommend using Durisan hand sanitizer, a safe and effective alternative to alcohol-based sanitizers. Wiping down surfaces and avoiding the urge to touch your eyes, mouth, or nose, are also recommended to mitigate the spread of viral infections while in transit.

3. Stay Hydrated

Approximately 70% of your body is composed of water. So it’s only logical that adequate water consumption forms the basis of health. Yet, proper hydration is often neglected by busy travelers. And unlike the United States, clean water is not always accessible, especially in the majority of developing countries. Drinking the local tap water poses serious health risks if it is contaminated with bacterial toxins or heavy metals. It is also recommended to avoid ice in cold beverages as it is likely from the local tap. Despite the environmental implications, bottled water is often your best bet to ensure proper hydration.

“I avoid food and caffeine during long flights (but drink lots of water), until eating a large fast-breaking meal (along with a cup or two of coffee) the morning after I arrive (or just upon arrival, if I arrive in the morning).”

Max Lugavere, health and science journalist

4. Don’t Forget Your Vitamins

Vitamin C is generally the staple of immune-boosting supplements, with Vitamin D a close second, as we now know the important role it plays in regulating immune function. Shockingly, 57% of adults in the US are deficient in Vitamin D. Given this figure, carrying your vitamins with you during travel is essential. In addition to vital nutrients, adaptogens are invaluable immune-boosting agents that occur naturally in herbal medicine. A few that we frequently recommend at Innovative Medicine are Ashwagandha, Holy Basil (Tulsi), Astragalus, and Ginseng.

5. Sleep, Sleep and More Sleep 

Traveling is harsh on the body. It wears us down and causes fatigue, especially when flying through time zones. A few hacks to avoid jet lag and preserve your circadian rhythm are sleep masks, blue light blocking glasses, and avoiding sleeping pills. Nadovim, Innovative Medicine’s NAD+ supplement, has been found to help with resetting a disrupted circadian rhythm.

6. Quiet Time

Your body needs rest and relaxation to recharge, both physically and energetically. To avoid burn-out and over-stimulation as a busy tourist, make sure to pace yourself. Meditate, engage in breathing exercises, and give your mind time to unwind, decompress, and basically do nothing.

Grounding or earthing is another helpful way to recharge after a flight. The simple act of walking on the ground barefoot does just that — grounds you back to earth, and resets your circadian rhythm while absorbing the negative ions (antioxidants) that naturally occur on the earth’s surface.

7. Eat Local Foods (Wisely)

Healthy eating travel tips to avoid traveler’s diarrhea

Much like water, precaution needs to be exercised when consuming foods when traveling, particularly in India, Southeast Asia, and many tropical countries. To avoid gastrointestinal disorders, it is best to stay away from unpasteurized dairy products, raw seafood, unwashed fruits, and vegetables, or those washed with local water. Eating food that is thoroughly cooked is the safest way to prevent GI issues abroad.

A diet based on whole, natural, local produce supports the proper functioning of the body’s defense systems and helps your gut and other internal organs adjust faster to the local time zone and climate. Nuts, fruits, and vegetables rich in polyphenols, antioxidants, and phytonutrients support health and wellbeing. Eat the rainbow to ensure that your body gets the full range of bioactive compounds present in foods of different colors.

If you’re a bit adventurous or do happen to eat something risky, our medical team advises taking a homeopathic medicine called Pleo-Oku. It is a natural remedy derived from Okoubaka aubrevillei and often used to relieve symptoms of the digestive tract and food poisoning (as well as side-effects of chemotherapy).

8. Be Open to New Experiences

Unconsciously, humans gravitate toward that which is predictable, because our conditioned mind perceives it to be safe. If new experiences are labeled as “unsafe” and treated as a threat, your sympathetic pathway triggers the release of stress hormones, and travel will be associated with stress and overwhelm. Approaching new experiences with an open mind significantly contributes to reduced stress. Joe Dispenza suggests that a component of novelty helps with reprogramming the mind and breaking the habit of being yourself.

9. Detoxification

We have discussed that pathogens are likely to accumulate during a flight. Depending on the region or country visited, you are at an increased risk of exposure to local pathogens. A regular detoxification routine is essential for the upkeep of proper health during travel. Quick-fix liver detoxes with milk thistle are what many people use to detox, but adding an activated charcoal supplement is a great way to rid your body of toxins following a flight and ward off a number of diet-related GI issues.

An additional way to detox after a flight is to sweat. Whether it be yoga, jogging, cycling, or resistance training, exercise helps to resync your circadian rhythm, ward off muscle fatigue, and improve blood flow to reduce post-flight inflammation. That said, conserving your electrolytes after a long flight is crucial for ensuring rapid jet lag recovery. To this effect, mild exercise (total body stretch or yoga) is far more beneficial than intense workouts.

At Innovative Medicine, we believe in the barrel analogy of toxicity whereby, once toxins fill up within the body, they spill over from organs to interstitial cavities. Unresolved toxic burden forms the foundation of all illness and disease. Establishing a holistic detoxification routine (oil pulling, magnetic clay baths, eating a rainbow) routine soon after landing is a good way to counter toxic buildup.

10. Make the Most of Your Mask

Even with limited flight capacity, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask during travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between passengers, and many airlines are requiring it. We recommend wearing an activated carbon or activated charcoal mask with replaceable filters to further reduce airborne particles as well as carbon emissions.

In addition, you may choose to apply essential oils by your nostril or onto your mask to stimulate the immune system, reduce jetlag, and ease cramped muscles on long flights. Some essential oils can even be used as a hand sanitizer. One we recommend is the Essential Travel Kit from Elizabeth Essentials.

Safe and Healthy Travels

Travel can be medicine. Put together, these 10 steps work synergistically to form a holistic approach to staying healthy while traveling. If you would like to stay informed about the science behind coronavirus or would like to learn more about how to optimize your health and wellness during this pandemic, subscribe to our monthly newsletter in the form titled “Redefining health and medicine” below.


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About Anupama Sataluri

Anupama began as a clinical researcher with a Master’s in Biochemistry & Molecular Genetics. Working in healthcare for the past seven years gave her a bird’s eye view of how the industry operates. She worked with state-of-the-art diagnostics and witnessed the tremendous progress made by western medicine in robotic surgery, but also noticed disappointed patients walk away with minimal relief because of symptom based treatment. Her work in healthcare combined with her personal interest in ancient holistic practices has urged her to believe in a future of integrated medicine. As a content writer at Innovative medicine, she strives to make IM readers aware about their health & well-being. Through her articles, she hope to encourage them to rethink their beliefs about disease & healing, with a goal to ultimately empower individuals to become self-healers.
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