Travel Wellness: 8 Essential Tips for a Healthy Journey

Travel has the ability to expose us to unique and unforgettable experiences. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association in January 2023, 52 percent of Americans expressed their intention to engage in leisure travel within the next six months.

Both traveling and taking time off from work and our daily routines can contribute positively to our well-being. Recent research indicates that individuals who travel frequently tend to enjoy better mental, physical, and emotional health compared to those who remain in familiar surroundings.

However, let's be realistic. Traveling isn't always glamorous and awe-inspiring. From flight and train delays to gastrointestinal issues and the challenges of adjusting to different time zones, there are various hurdles to overcome.

Dr. Akil Palanisamy, a San Francisco-based integrative medicine doctor and the author of The T.I.G.E.R. Protocol: An Integrative, 5-Step Program to Treat and Heal Your Autoimmunity, acknowledges the toll travel can take on our physical well-being. Prolonged periods of immobility during long-haul flights and waiting for transportation can lead to aches and pains. Additionally, research shows that extended sitting increases the risk of blood clots, a serious medical concern.

Dr. Palanisamy emphasizes that changes in time zones can disrupt our circadian rhythm, resulting in sleep disturbances, while dehydration is a common risk, especially when traveling by air.

Unforeseen setbacks during our journeys, such as lost luggage or traffic congestion, can intensify stress levels. Furthermore, our digestive systems may not always adjust smoothly to new environments. Research suggests that diarrhea, constipation, and indigestion are more likely to occur while traveling abroad compared to when we are at home.

However, rather than allowing these challenges to discourage us from traveling or ruin our trips, experts recommend following these tips for smarter and healthier travel:

1. Embrace Opportunities for Movement: When embarking on a journey by car, plane, or bus, utilize the intervals between stops to stay active. Embrace walking instead of relying on moving walkways, escalators, or elevators. This simple choice can help combat restlessness, adapt to time changes, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine at your destination is vital.

2. Utilize Compression Socks: During prolonged periods of travel, don a pair of knee-high compression socks. These specialized socks can effectively reduce leg swelling and minimize the risk of blood clots.

3. Opt for Non-Bloating Snacks and Beverages: Steer clear of salty snacks and carbonated drinks, as they tend to cause uncomfortable bloating. Instead, choose protein-rich snacks like Greek yogurt, grass-fed beef jerky, nuts, and pumpkin seeds. Stay adequately hydrated by carrying a reusable water bottle and refilling it throughout your journey.

4. Pack Fiber-Rich Snacks: In the event that you cannot find healthy snack options, be prepared by bringing along high-fiber snacks. Prunes, for instance, can aid in relieving constipation. Additionally, consider convenient options such as Kind Breakfast Cereal Bars and That's It Kick Coffee Energy Bars.

5. Don't Forget Your Travel Pillow and Eye Mask: To ensure a restful sleep experience, remember to pack an eye mask that can effectively block out light and assist in adjusting to different time zones. Investing in a comfortable travel pillow can also enhance relaxation during transit.

 6. Embrace Morning Sunlight: Expose yourself to sunlight in the morning, both during and after your journey. This practice can greatly assist in managing jet lag. Spending time outdoors within an hour of waking up helps reset your body's natural circadian rhythm.

7. Adjust Your Sleep Schedule: Upon reaching your destination, it is essential to promptly synchronize your sleep schedule with the local time. This means making a conscious effort to go to bed and wake up according to the new time zone. By maintaining a consistent sleep routine, such as engaging in relaxing activities like reading or meditating before bedtime, you can facilitate your body's adjustment to the local circadian rhythm.

8. Stay Hydrated: Dehydration poses a significant risk during travel, particularly during air travel, which can be particularly drying for the skin and body. To counteract this, make it a priority to stay adequately hydrated throughout your journey. Carry a reusable water bottle and drink water regularly, both during and between flights. Additionally, consider limiting your consumption of caffeine and alcohol, as these can contribute to dehydration. To keep your skin moisturized, consider using a hydrating facial mist or applying a light moisturizer. Remember, maintaining proper hydration not only supports overall well-being but also helps combat the effects of travel-related dehydration.

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