It’s no secret that traveling can increase your risk of getting sick. But even though you might not be able to avoid every infectious pathogen while you’re on vacation or a business trip, you can lower the odds of becoming ill. Read on for three proactive strategies to prepare your immune system for maximum protection during your trip before you hit the road.
Reduce Your Risk of Infection
To keep yourself healthy while you’re away from home, you’ll want to address three key factors to reduce your risk of catching whatever’s going around.
- The quality of your sleep
- Your hygiene
- Immune system support
Each of these factors plays an important role in decreasing your risk of infection while traveling. By planning ahead and taking concrete steps to bolster your immune defenses, you’re strongly tipping the stay-healthy odds in your favor.
Get Ample Restorative Sleep
From the toll of jet lag to trying to sleep in an unfamiliar bed, it’s tricky to get solid shut-eye when you travel. Lack of sleep can tax your immune system. Research shows that when you get inadequate or low-quality sleep you have a higher chance of getting sick if you are exposed to a virus. You also tend to stay sick longer when you do succumb. Sleep deprivation can decrease the production and function of protective immune cells, making you even more vulnerable as you travel. You can increase your ability to sleep well by taking a melatonin supplement an hour before bedtime.
Minimize Contact with Potential Pathogens
With the crowded airports, shuttles, restaurants, and public restrooms, travel exposes you to many more pathogens than you would face at home. To stay healthy, it’s important to upgrade your hygiene beyond simply washing your hands more frequently. Other ways to protect yourself include avoiding or limiting contact with high-touch surfaces such as elevator buttons and check-in kiosks, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for times when soap and water aren’t available, and disinfecting frequently handled items in your hotel room, including TV remotes, light switches, and doorknobs.
Proactively Prime Your Immune System
Your immune system is your best ally when it comes to fending off infection. While traveling, you’ll be exposed to more and different germs, so your immune system will need a higher level of support to fight off those extra threats. Luckily, you can count on nature to provide that support with two antimicrobial herbs and two immune-supporting minerals.
Andrographis. For thousands of years Ayurvedic medicine practitioners have relied on andrographis to prevent and treat a wide variety of infections. This botanical helps your immune system better shield your body against viruses and bacteria by increasing your defenses at a cellular level. It does this thanks to key compounds called andrographolides. New research confirms the herb’s antibacterial and antiviral benefits, and reports that andrographis takes on pathogens by enhancing immune cell activity, disabling viral replication, and limiting virus cells’ ability to enter healthy cells. For the best results, look for a clinically studied supplement that’s standardized to contain at least 80 mg of andrographolides.
Elderberry. Both empirical and scientific evidence has demonstrated the strong antiviral properties of elderberry. It’s so effective that natural medicine practitioners have used it to fight colds and the flu for centuries. Elderberry effectively blocks viruses from entering healthy cells and capably thwarts bacteria as well. It’s been shown in several studies to significantly reduce upper respiratory symptoms in people with viral infections. In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in Nutrients, researchers found that elderberry reduced the incidence of colds, and significantly reduced cold duration and symptom severity for intercontinental airline travelers. For proactive protection, take 450 mg of elderberry daily to guard against a viral invasion. If you do fall victim to an infection, you can safely take 450 mg of elderberry every four hours to reduce symptoms and heal faster.
Selenium. This critical immune-building mineral works through the creation of special selenoproteins, which consist of selenium combined with amino acids. Selenoproteins help coordinate an appropriate immune response and increase the body’s antiviral activity. Along with its immune-boosting properties, selenium disables viruses by blocking their ability to enter healthy cells, neutralizing the pathogen’s effectiveness. Selenium is so important that even small deficiencies can lower immune function and make you more susceptible to viral infections. Yet it’s estimated that up to a billion people worldwide are deficient. This means that supplementation is essential. For the best results, seek out a supplement that contains selenium yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), which offers immune and respiratory support.
Zinc. Your immune system needs zinc to function properly, especially when it comes to the frontline immune cells that protect against infection. Zinc also helps your immune system pump the brakes, ensuring that you don’t experience an overreactive inflammatory response that can be provoked by viruses. What’s more, zinc helps stop viruses from entering the body, inhibits viral replication, and encourages a balanced immune response if pathogens do take hold. One meta-analysis of 28 randomized, controlled clinical trials published in BMJ Open found that zinc prevented respiratory tract infections, shortened the duration of viral infections, and significantly reduced symptom severity by day three of the infection. Look for zinc bisglycinate chelate for superior immune support.