Travelling brings you to new places and new experiences, you get to learn about different cultures and societies. You go out of your comfort zone and do things you might never get a chance to do again. You make new friendships and solidify existing ones. It is an integral part of life, to travel and learn about new societies and traditions. Travelling is a huge time and financial commitment, especially if you are going to places like Asia or South America. It can be the most rewarding experience of your life, and undoubtedly will give you lifelong memories.
What causes illness when travelling?
However, there are things you will encounter on your travels, that may have a negative impact on your health. Perhaps the most common of these is the lack of filtered water, poor sanitation and illnesses your immune system has never been exposed to before. There are so many insects that are potential carriers of harmful illnesses and food production is not always going to be of the highest standards. Often our bodies can be shocked by the things they are being exposed to, so we can get sick. There are ways to prevent these things though, some of which should be done before you leave, which include vaccines and talking to a doctor about potential risks.1
What can I do to stay healthy while travelling?
To give yourself the best chance of avoiding getting sick or run down while you are travelling for an extended period of time, it is necessary to take a number of precautions. First and foremost, you should stay hydrated. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you are visiting a hot and humid climate. But, only drink filtered or boiled water - never drink water straight from a tap. Make sure you take any anti-malaria tablets or shots you need before you leave, and dry to drink some tonic water if you can get it. It was originally intended as an antimalarial because it contains quinine.2 If possible, check your meat before you eat it - cut right through and make sure it is completely cooked. There are also a number of supplements you can take to ensure your adventures aren’t ruined by illness.
Vitamin and mineral supplements to take while travelling
Before you jet off on your life-changing exploration of the world, make sure you check if there are any restrictions on bringing over-the-counter medications with you to your travel destination.3 Generally, it is fine to take vitamins and supplements with you once they are in their original packaging, and aren’t in huge doses. Generally, the main issues you might encounter are illness or infection caused by a sudden change in diet and lifestyle, poor or altered nutrition, and difficulty sleeping due to climate or time zone changes. To avoid these as much as possible, it is no harm taking supplements.
Some of the most common complaints people have when they are travelling are upset stomachs, and, as we all know, this can be hellish to cope with. If you experience motion or travel sickness, why don’t you take ginger?4 Ginger can help will all types of stomach upsets, and can be taken as a supplement5, or added to your cooking. If you still find your stomach is unhappy, maybe the balance of bacteria isn’t quite equal, so a probiotic could be the answer.6 Probiotics help to restore the right amount of healthy bacteria in your gut, which can make you feel so much better.
To fight off general illness and infection, Vitamin A and Vitamin C are good immune boosters. If you are avoiding consuming meat on your travels, you may be slightly Vitamin A deficient. This is because you Vitamin A is found in dairy and fish.7 Vitamin C has long been known as an immune-boosting vitamin. While it is found in certain fruits and vegetables, it is not stored by the body because it is water soluble. Therefore, a boost of Vitamin C is needed to make sure our bodies have the right amount. Not only does it boost our immune systems, it also is a powerful antioxidant, so it’s an all-round supplement for health.8 Zinc and Selenium supplements are another good one to have in your possession. These two elements are fantastic for boosting your body’s immunity and defences. They have antioxidant properties, and are good for boosting your metabolism, too.9
When you’re travelling, you might not get meals of the same standard or frequency that you would normally get when you were at home. You may find yourself unable to eat meat or dairy, depending on the place you are in. You might also struggle to find certain fruits or vegetables that are common at home, but hard to come by when you travel. This could ultimately lead to developing deficiencies in a number of key vitamins and/or minerals.
Therefore, it is no harm to monitor your intake of certain nutrient rich foods, and supplement anything you aren’t consuming a lot of. If you are eating less fibre than normal, you may find yourself struggling with stomach cramps or constipation. Psyllium husk is a great supplement to make sure you have healthy and regular bowel movements, and alleviate any cramps you might have caused by constipation.10 Omega 3 fatty acid deficiencies are common in countries with poor diets, and as they are found in meat and fish, if you are not eating a lot of them, or you are eating processed foods, you could find your level of omega 3s plummeting. Omega 3s are crucial for maintaining a healthy level of cholesterol, so a supplement is always helpful.11
B Vitamins are wonderful vitamins and have a huge role to play in most of your body’s functions. They are vital for proper organ function, metabolism, energy, nervous system and blood flow. Essentially, each B Vitamin has a different job to do, all of which are necessary for proper health. You can take an individual supplement of the B Vitamins you need, or you can take a B Vitamin Complex supplement, which will provide you with each of the B Vitamins.12 A Vitamin B deficiency can have horrible side effects and can cause fatigue, which will hinder your adventures. If you don’t want to carry an array of different vitamins with you as you travel, a good multivitamin should be your main priority. A multivitamin that has Vitamin C, a number of B Vitamins, and Vitamin A at a minimum, should be the one you choose. These are the three most important vitamins you will need if you want to stay healthy without carrying many different containers of supplements.13
Most of us will find it difficult to sleep for our first night in a new place, with unfamiliar surroundings it can be hard for us to relax and drift off. This can be hard even without changing time zones or climates, so it would make sense that you might find it hard to sleep while you’re travelling. 5-HTP can be hugely helpful in telling your brain it’s time for sleep. 5-HTP is a natural chemical found in the brain, so, compared with prescription sleep aids, it can provide a healthy, non-addictive, non-sedating solution to sleep disorders.14 Ginseng is another wonder plant. It can help with physical and mental energy and focus, and provide you with a natural energy boost, which can be much needed if you are on the go for hours every day.15
We’ve mentioned the importance of B Vitamins for overall health before, but Vitamin B6 is a great vitamin for helping you sleep. Not only that, but it can help you feel calmer, more relaxed and provide your immune system with a little defence boost. It boosts your brain’s production of serotonin, so you could see your mood improve, which also relaxing you after a stressful journey.16 If you need to balance your electrolytes, and switch off for the night, magnesium could be worth taking. Magnesium can be found in seaweed, kelp and certain nuts, but unless you are eating them in large quantities, you could find yourself deficient in this mineral.17
Travelling the world can be an exhilarating, yet exhausting experience. You are exposing your mind and your body to a huge range of new and exciting traditions, foods and countries. This can lead you to feeling overwhelmed and fatigued and could create health problems or other difficulties. But with the right preparation and supplementation of vitamins and minerals, you can increase your chance of preventing any negative impacts on your health.
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