Vacation is the best! Getting sick on vacation is the worst. Which is why I try to never do it.
Over the past year I've been experimenting with an array of key supplements to keep me in the game when I'm on the road. In that time I've successfully avoided getting sick during one trip to Mexico, two stays in Southeast Asia, and trips to Charleston, Portland, and Phoenix.
So far, so good.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to get all the nutrients we need from food. But when you’re traveling, you're not always in control of what you eat or your environment. Plus, travel can stress your body and leave it exposed to stuff it doesn't see everyday. Personally, I don’t want to take any chances, so I arm myself with specific supplements to counteract the impacts of travel.
With some extra help you can stay well and enjoy your vacation to the fullest. So here’s my go-to arsenal of supplements to stay healthy when on the road:
I seriously don’t go anywhere without vitamin C. It’s a vitamin with a surprisingly large number of functions in the body. We actually can’t make it on our own - we have to get it from food or in supplemental form. We need it for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of our bodies and it’s a powerful antioxidant. It turns out that low vitamin C levels can also cause a weakened immune system, something you definitely want to avoid when traveling.
Your body can’t absorb more than a few hundred mg at a time, so I typically spread the dosage out over the day.
Sometimes when we’re traveling, we tend to be a little more fast and loose with our food choices than if we were at home. No judgment here, enjoy yourself! But often that can lead to some digestive “distress” and sideline us for a while.
Digestive enzymes are really beneficial in these situations because, when taken with a meal, they contain the enzymes that our bodies need to fully break down and digest our food. I specifically like ones that have ox bile in them, because it’s really helpful for digesting fats - something many of us eat more of on vacation (extra cheese + extra sour cream + extra guac, anyone?).
I like this one.
HCl (or hydrochloric acid) is essentially just stomach acid, and can be extremely helpful to take with meals. Stomach acid is important for 1) sterilizing our food (super necessary when you eat some questionable BBQ'd grasshoppers from a random roadside stand) and 2) breaking down proteins. Many people are deficient in stomach acid, especially as we age, so supplementing with it - specifically when traveling - can be helpful for optimal digestion.
I like this one.
Silvercillin is my secret “I am not getting f***ing sick on this trip” weapon. It’s made of pure silver complexed with purified water. Important to note, it’s a non-toxic form of silver which is safe to ingest, and doesn’t build up in the body (so no need to worry about blue man syndrome).
There are a multitude of benefits, including:
It’s antibacterial (including against MRSA, eek!)
Doesn’t harm good bacteria
It’s antiviral (acts against viruses on a DNA/RNA level)
So can you understand why I like it so much for traveling?
I usually take the recommended dose (6 sprays) for prevention, but will double that if I feel something coming on.
I’m the dork that travels with two kinds of magnesium. I’d be more embarrassed, but I wasn’t cool anyway so whatever.
Just in case you haven’t listened to me talk about it ad nauseum in another post, here’s the deal with magnesium: it’s the best.
We’re almost all deficient in it, and it’s critical for optimal health. It’s responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body(!). It assists with proper sleep, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels - ALL things you want on point when you’re traveling.
So why do I take two kinds? Put simply, different forms help in different ways.
Magnesium glycinate helps raise overall magnesium levels and tends to be more on the relaxing side (helpful if you’re traveling and sleeping in a bed that’s not your own).
Magnesium citrate helps keep the bowels moving, something that’s incredibly important for good health, and which can sometimes be difficult when we travel and fall out of our normal routines. Word of caution: start slow with this and work your way up to a higher dose slowly, or risk disaster pants!
I like these little travel packets.
First off, what is melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in our bodies by the pineal gland to begin the sleep process. It releases every twenty-four hours when you are in your normal routine at home.
Supplementing with melatonin can be controversial. Some people absolutely swear by it, while others think interfering with our body's natural hormonal systems can have negative consequences.
Personally I don’t take it on a regular basis. If I’m having sleep issues, I try to get to the root of what’s causing them and handle it that way.
But when I’m traveling and jetlagged, I think a short-term dose of melatonin can be extremely helpful in resetting your internal clock and allowing you to fall asleep faster.
How many times have you flown through multiple time zones and ended up wide awake at 3am or falling asleep at the dinner table? Me too. That’s why I take melatonin on all my vacations that involve a time change.
I typically take 3-6mg one hour before I want to fall asleep. I do this for the first two nights of my trip and then take a half dose the third night. By then I’m usually in a good place and don’t take any more.
I like this one.
By now, you’ve probably seen a million articles about the benefits of probiotics, so I won’t bore you with another one. I’ll just keep this short and sweet and say that I never travel without them.
When you travel, you’re exposed to a variety of microbes that you don’t normally encounter. You’re also possibly tired, stressed, and *may* be consuming more alcohol than you normally do. All this to say your immune system might not be performing at its best.
Probiotics can help with this. They help bolster your immune system (which totally makes sense because the majority of our immune system is in the gut).
Along with magnesium, probiotics can also help keep us regular - something we know is super important, especially when traveling.
And lastly, they’ve been shown to help prevent travelers diarrhea, something NO ONE wants when you’re on vacation and have no idea where the closest bathroom is.
If you’re not taking probiotics regularly already, I would actually start taking them about two weeks before your trip. With beneficial probiotics already strongly present in the gut before you leave, our natural immunity is optimized. I usually take 1-2 capsules per day with food.
Also, I like to take a soil-based probiotic with me when traveling, because they don’t require refrigeration.
And that’s it. Anything I left out? What do you travel with?