Travel can be rough on the immune system – but there are some smart, easy ways to build it up
by Caitlin Sakdalan
From the physical toll to the mental fatigue, it is no secret that traveling taxes your body. You also encounter masses of people in an airport and airplane, thrusting your body into battle. Nevertheless, travel is embedded into many of our job descriptions.
Thanks to the biggest global pandemic in decades, an activity that has always been considered a work perk has quickly become a sobering reminder that we need to keep our immune systems strong. So how do you prepare properly and travel confidently? We’ve gathered an armory of foods and drinks to increase your immunity and combat sickness.
BEFORE TAKEOFF Fresh Produce It becomes more difficult to stick to a healthy routine when in transit. With that in mind, take extra steps before your flight to bolster your nutrition with vitamin-rich, colorful fruits and vegetables like berries, citrus fruits and leafy greens. Jordan Andino, celebrity chef and restaurant owner of Flip Sigi, suggests, “Plan your diet and make sure you are in the position to eat well a few days before and after your travels. Healthy and immune conscience foods can be hard to come by during travel, so plan accordingly.”
Kyle St. John, executive chef of Harvest Restaurant in Laguna Beach, prides himself on offering dishes, like his Harvest Garden Salad, that highlight the seasons and ingredients sourced from their onsite garden. “I feel fresh local produce is a must – you have to start there. Use ingredients that are seasonal and local,” he advises. “By doing so, you are able to nourish and enjoy vegetables that are at the peak of their existence – you can't get any better than that,” he adds.
Probiotics Probiotics are live microorganisms known for their remarkable health benefits and found naturally in many fermented foods and drinks. Looking to have milk and cereal in the morning? Replace that milk with Greek yogurt. Not sure of what to eat for dinner? Incorporate Korean kimchi or Japanese miso into your meal. Wanting another cup of coffee? Grab kombucha instead.
Christy Rumbaugh, founder of Blessed Booch, states, “In addition to probitoics, kombucha has an abundance of B vitalism, so it is awesome for a quick boost. It is a great alternative to caffeine because it’s a nice gentle sustained energy.”
Kombucha changed Rumbaugh’s life so drastically that she started her own company dedicated to this fermented tea. “Integrating kombucha into my daily diet reorganized and reinvigorated who I was and where I needed to go. I was getting sick a lot, in a physical and mental funk, but now I am in a place of joy and wellness, resilient to any bug that may be going around. I get sick maybe once every two years.”
Regardless of source, probiotic cultures are impeccable for your digestive tract and overall immunity. As Nicole Cogan of @nobread shares, “I start every day with a probiotic pill. This is my number one health and wellness tip. Probiotics interact with immune cells and existing bacteria in the colon and they are essential for keeping our gut healthy. This is super important while traveling, because being out of our element and routine has a large effect on our gut and microbiome.”
IN-FLIGHT Water People often forget how much water the human body loses by being on a flight. According to Cleveland Clinic, airplanes circulate fifty percent of air from the outside, and the air at high altitudes lacks almost all moisture and humidity, dehydrating the occupants in the cabin.
If you are a frequent traveler, consider bringing a refillable bottle in your carry-on and replenish it before you board. Don’t be afraid to keep hydrating while on your flight. That brief inconvenient moment of disturbing your seat mate to go use the airplane lavatory will be well worth it to keep your body temperature regulated and brain alert. Also remember that if you decide to consume alcohol while in flight, drink at least twice that amount of water. You may not be driving yourself anywhere, but the same rules apply.
Sleep This ‘ingredient’ may not be one you can physically consume, but because we know business travelers’ habits, you need this reminder. Many of you do work on the plane and then head to meetings right after your flight lands. While we applaud your efficiency, lack of sleep severely damages your body.
Food and travel blogger, Tinger Hseish of @dashofting poignantly advises, “Your body needs sleep to repair itself. With proper sleep, your hormones are more likely to stay in balance. If our hormones are greatly disrupted, this could potentially cause our immune systems to weaken.”
We know your time is valuable, but try to get majority of your work done prior to your travels. If you use that time to listen to your body and rest, especially on long-haul flights, you will wake more high-functioning and ready for that meeting. AFTER LANDING Broth and Soups Post flight, eat a well-made soup or mineral-rich broth filled with electrolytes to rehydrate the body. We talked to Marco Canora, chef and founder of Brodo and Hearth Restaurant, on the major benefits of bone broth, an underrated staple in a cook’s kitchen since the beginning of time.
After Canora hit his early forties, he started feeling the physical, mental and psychological effects of running a restaurant for over 20 years. “I took a step back and decided to do something about my train wreck of a life,” he says. “I can only speak to my experience, but I believe that drinking broth regularly healed my gut, and my body’s ability to heal itself was triggered.”
Canora believes that the center of immunity lies in our guts, and the reason we have compromised bodies is because we have terribly comprised guts. “It is too taxing for our immune system to be constantly flamed and on. You have to heal your gut to restore your bodies for a strong, resilient immune system. It sounds a little self-indulgent since I sell bone broth, but my experience and the experience of many over the past five years, is that once you heal your gut, your body has the amazing ability to heal what ails you.”
Although Canora did not want to oversell his own brand, St. John agrees. “Soups or stews are great because you can introduce different nutritious ingredients that one may not eat standalone.” Soup is one principal food that you can easily find after a long travel day, and something that will satiate your appetite and gratify your soul with innumerable health benefits.
Garlic Garlic is another great ingredient that you can effortlessly include in your travel eating habits. It’s a strong immune booster with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Hseish adds that raw garlic is best when fighting a cold. “Whenever I feel that a cold is about to creep into my system, I eat lots of raw garlic; I swallow a few raw slices at night and in the morning like it's a vitamin pill. I’ve also combined Manuka honey, minced raw garlic, and cayenne pepper to soothe a sore throat. Like garlic, honey also has antibacterial properties and soothes sore throats. The cayenne helps to reduce pain and help with blood circulation.”
Balance Last, whether you are on a business, leisure or bleisure trip, remember to eat and drink the things that you desire. Chef St. John says it perfectly: “Food should nourish and bring about emotion. I feel everyone wants to eat right and it's about finding a balance of eating healthy, which helps to nourish the body and mind, while also indulging in foods that make you happy and spark joy.”
When it comes down to anything in life, the secret ingredient truly is balance. Traveling, although taxing, should be a satisfying and valuable experience that – with the proper defense – you can continue to approach with confidence.