Staying Healthy on the Road


Before we leave for a trip, many people ask us if we worry about being sick on the road. George and I have both been ill a few times in our travels so we asked Jordan Hoffman, a traveler and a California Licensed Acupuncturist to share his tips for good health.

In December 2011, I took my first major international trip in years.  For 2 ½ weeks, I travelled in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.  Not only did I have a most amazing time freely floating where ever the wind took me, relishing the fresh and flavorful food, and basking in the decompressed glow of time away, but I also got to test out first-hand all the travel advice I give my patients.  And much to my great relief, it all works!

Traveling offers unique challenges to our health:  different food, different micro-organisms, different air, irregular sleep, and long plane flights, to name just a few.  So how do you prepare for the expectedly unexpected?  Do you worry about all the things you might catch?  If you did that, you would probably never leave home.  Instead, you support your immune system so it can keep you healthy no matter what little critters you encounter.

Both Eastern and Western Medicine agree that it is in the digestive tract where we receive the nutrients necessary to bolster and support all bodily functions including fighting off disease. And in Chinese Medicine, we identify the Lung Channel as beginning literally in the stomach. This is to say that the health of your lungs, a major component of your immune strength, depends completely on the strength of your digestion.

Tips for Healthy Digestion

1.     If there are questions about the cleanliness and safety of the local water:

a.    Drink only sealed bottled water.  If that is still questionable, drink only carbonated beverages—micro-organisms cannot live in carbonation;

b.    Eat only cooked foods;

c.    Eat only fruit with peels;

d.    Avoid ice cubes in drinks.

2.    Avoid all dairy products (advice that is true for travelers and non-travelers alike).  Simply put: cow’s milk is for cows, goat’s milk is for goats, and human’s milk is for humans. And we all stop drinking it after we are infants. Dairy is replete with loads bacteria and viruses that survive the pasteurization process and is very hard on our digestive system and as such can distract our overall immune function further compromising our health.

3.    Avoid coffee (advice that is true for travelers and non-travelers alike).  Coffee/Decaf is highly acidic and inflammatory and is linked to various cardiovascular disease and other inflammatory conditions.

4.    Minimize your sugar intake.  Sugar feeds all micro-organisms.  If you feed the bugs, the bugs stick around and grow stronger.

5.    Keep the bowels flowing.  Eat plenty of fiber and drink plenty of water.  Irregular bowel function is one the first signs digestive imbalance and a potential immune challenge.

Tips for Healthy Lung Function

The mucus membranes of your sinuses and your lungs need to stay moist so bugs cannot grab hold and set up camp.  And when we fly, the dry air can easily dehydrate us setting the stage for:

1.    Mold:  Anywhere you find cool air and condensation like in the air conditioning systems on planes, you stand a good chance of encountering mold—a pathogen that is incredibly toxic to our health.
2.    Heavy metals in the jet fuel.  Diesel jet fuel contains several heavy metals that can profoundly compromise our immune system.
3.    Both of these pathogens can affect us so quietly that we overlook them when experiencing jet lag, when we “catch a cold” two days into our trip, or when we notice symptoms like headaches or fatigue following plane flights.
4.    Tips:

a.    Close the overhead vent blowing on you;
b.    Drink a liter of water every 2-3 hours;
c.    Take travel size bottles of saline rinse to rinse your sinuses every hour.  Nothing lives in salt and the rinsing keeps your sinuses moist.
d.    Be careful touching things on the plane and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.  Bring Purell.

Acknowledging Reality

Traveling is all about having a good time and seeing the world. And the health bottom line is that it is hard to avoid catching a bug here and there.  But you can certainly do what you can to strengthen your health so if you do catch something it does not ruin your trip or knock you out for a few days.

And if you are traveling to far off exotic lands, be sure to consider health warnings from the US State Department, Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.

Travel safely and travel in good health!

Jordan Hoffman, L.Ac. Dipl. OM

Jordan Hoffman is a California Licensed Acupuncturist, a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and Nationally Board Certified in Chinese Herbology, specializing in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Nutritional and Lifestyle Counseling.  Jordan maintains offices in West Los Angeles and Canoga Park, CA.

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3 responses to “Staying Healthy on the Road

  1. These are great tips since nutrition is imperative to good health when you travel and can be the source of illness on the road. I also carry a small “arsenal” of OTC products that I can’t get internationally (like for stomach upset, bug bites, etc.). If you have to go to a pharmacy abroad, remember, you may not be able to read the labels since so many products are labeled in a language you probably won’t understand.

    1. Marianne, I agree it is important to take some things with you but when I was sick in Indonesia at New Years, George spoke to the pharmacist and got me exactly what I needed! Thanks for reading and commenting on Jordan’s article! Hope to see you June 12 for our travel event (Inspired by Caine!)

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