Traveller's Guide to Staying Healthy

Traveller's Guide to Staying Healthy

Justin Suyama

For as small as the world seems at times, it can feel quite large when you are traveling and exploring new places. There usually isn’t enough time in our days to drink in all the new sights, new sounds, and to experience the joy of meeting new people or to commune with a mountainside.

Whatever your interests and where ever they may lead you, there are plenty of things to remember and consider in order to keep your travels on track, on schedule and more pleasurable.



I figure we can spend our money on but a few things in this world (after of course, the government takes it’s share), those are: material possessions, charities and experiences.

As I’ve grown and divested myself of many material possessions, and given to a lot of charities over the years, I’ve begun to focus more on experiences and one of those is the experience of seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and meeting people.

Yet, there is nothing that will put a damper on things faster than getting sick on our vacations and travels. Montezuma’s Revenge or traveler’s diarrhea can come about from (usually) e. coli, giardia or any other bacteria or bug, we're all familiar with the results, nausea, vomiting, frequent trips to the bathroom, fever, and the like. 

There is a lot to the art of surviving in less than hospitable environments. Special considerations to take when traveling in deserts, across an ocean or up a mountain are all things that should be thoroughly researched prior to embarking. This article won’t get into those specific scenarios except to say that researching what you are going to do, along with the climate, local lore, and local wildlife can save you much time, possible inconvenience and make the experience better.

Instead, for this article, we will focus on travel itself and it's effects on the body. There are a few tools that we have at our disposal which can make traveling a little more enjoyable.

Water

In many countries of the world that do not have the standards or access to clean filtered water, there is the risk of such bacteria being contaminated with any number of bacterial agents. On the flip side, in places where water is treated it is often treated with harsh chemicals. In my own local city water supply we have chlorine, fluoride, some amounts of heavy metals along with an herbicide for crab grass. Thus even in "first" world countries, the water can have a stressful impact on our digestive systems by assaulting our good flora, paving the way for the bad bacteria. 



But going back to countries, such as Mexico, where the water systems are a little less safe can quickly land you in your hotel room praying to the porcelain God. This includes eating foods such as salads, which were rinsed in the local water or brushing your teeth. I highly suggest buying bottled water that doesn't draw from the local tap source. Carbonated water due to it’s carbonating process tends to destroy bacteria.

For hiking or being in primitive places where I don’t have access to bottled water, I carry a Katadyn-style personal water filter in case I need to consume water from a stream or river. These personal filters are easy to pack and carry. They are made for hikers so they have to be portable. They can be life-saving in some situations.

If you get TD or Montezuma's Revenge, it should pass fairly quickly depending on your health and what you can take to ease it along. Anywhere from 24-48 hours is fairly standard, but the problem can last a week. It's important to stay hydrated during these times as well as one will be purged of liquid, along with nutrients and when combined with high heat can lead to a medical emergency. 

Nausea

This unpleasant sensation can be caused by different factors. Typically in regards to travel, it is either from motion or a dysfunction in the digestive system due to tainted water, bad food (food poisoning) or a combination thereof.

I once heard that the vomiting that occurs from seasickness may be due to the body’s reaction to the motion, in thinking that it has been poisoned. Whether that is true or not, is not altogether relevant however it would be worth testing the theory.

If, for example, we fortified our intestinal system with a good probiotic for a few weeks before a boat trip, how might that affect seasickness? Remember, the brain/gut information. Our brain influences our gut, and our gut influences our brain. Our bacterial make-up also has a consciousness, as does our second brain located in our intestines (comprised of 200,000 million neurons). Whether high seas, on a boat in Alaska or sailing on the Puget Sound, I’ve yet to experience full on seasickness. Though I have felt queasy and can attest to eating raw ginger as a remedy. It won't work for everyone and sometimes if one has entered the stage of vomiting, then the best thing is stillness, ie being on land.  

There are a few things that I tend to carry with me on all travel trips whether I am flying, on a boat or driving. These are:

1) Ginger Root. I usually have capsules with me, though I have been known to stop into a local store and purchase the actual root and carry it wrapped in a napkin. Color me different, but slicing off a piece and chewing on it can rapidly remove nausea or an uneasy stomach.



2) Po Chai (or CuLing). Po Chai is an ancient Chinese herbal formula that can work wonders for nausea both from motion or from food. This formula is one of the most widely used in Asia and the great thing about it, is that to purchase a small box of 10 vials (or packets if you get Cu Ling), usually costs no more than about $6. CuLing is a similar formula with a similar effect in that it will help with nausea  bloating, gas and can settle the stomach quite quickly. The vials/pouches of these products are very small and can easily fit in a purse or that small pocket above the main front pocket of a pair of jeans.



3) Pericardium 6 (P6, PC6 or Nei Guan). Refer to the image below. This is quite simple to find. Place your palm up, from the large crease at your wrist lay down 3 fingers side by side from this point going in the direction of your elbow. You will stop and feel the tendons on either side of this middle point. Don’t rub too hard, just run in a circular motion for a couple minutes. You can repeat this on your other arm.



I know that some people sell bracelets that you can wear which constantly contact the PC-6, though I have not used one so cannot attest to their efficacy.

The above is my typical “bare minimum” for nausea but I will note the value of activated charcoal to combat food poisonings, but one needs to have enough of it with water for that to be effective. 

Montezuma’s Revenge or Tourista

Typically, food poisoning from food or water will pass within 24-48 hours. However there are some things that can combat the problem for both lessening the severity of symptoms and the duration of “the purge”.

1) Activated Charcoal. This can be purchased by itself in capsule form. Some places carry a colon cleanse formula that will have the charcoal along with such things as bentonite clay, psyllium seed husks and the like. The purpose of these items are to draw and absorb poisons and other toxic substances from your colon, wrap them up and pass them in the stool.

2) Grapefruit Seed Extract. This is especially good at combating E. Coli which is what most Tourista comes from.

3) Garlic is naturally effective against many forms of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. It also has a stimulating quality in regards to the immune system. In addition, it can also help clear the lungs of mucous. Finally, it does not appear to create resistant strains of bacteria by it’s usage (as opposed to antibiotics). Plus, you can usually find this food staple in most parts of the world. The stronger tasting the better. Cooking it will not yield the same benefits as raw as many of the medicinal effects are destroyed by high (cooking) heat. Also, for those who still consume milk, this can help to mitigate the “garlic breath” problem. It can be a little rough on an empty stomach for some, but water can help. 

4) Probiotics. This is more of a prevention point (and recovery point) than it is in helping to stop tourista at the moment it is happening. That is, by the time the probiotics can get in and begin to colonize, your body has usually dispelled the “poison” from it’s system by frequent trips to the toilet. It's still important to replenish good flora following tourista.

Fun fact: Your appendix is a holding container for good bacteria and is intended to replenish the colon with good bacteria following such purging events.  

Stay hydrated with bottled water. If you are in very hot climates, sea salt and potassium may be necessary to replenish what your body is rapidly sweating or expelling. We loose vital minerals including salt, potassium when we sweat, urinate and of course during bouts of tourista. For hot climates, I usually have along with me some pink salt and bioplasma from Hyland. This will help prevent muscle cramps and can also help with nausea which could be caused by a combo of heat sickness, lack of water and mineral depletion. Some of these minerals, such as potassium can be found in higher amounts in bananas, coconut water, avocados, potatoes including sweet potatoes, beets and more.  

5) Every winter I try to make a formula that I originally called “Justin’s Kick Ass Tonic”. It consists of garlic, hot peppers, white onion, ginger, horseradish, oregano leaf, olive leaf in an apple cider vinegar base, some grain alcohol. I'll publish the recipe soon enough. 

It is fairly easy to make and I will often carry a tincture bottle of it to serve as my “anti-everything bad that I can eat or drink which may put me in the bathroom instead of outside playing” drink. Please note that glass tincture bottles are breakable in luggage unless carefully wrapped to prevent such. Even then, sh*t happens. I also carry these items in my carry on and have never had a problem with this (I carry the 2oz bottles as the 4oz are not allowed in the USA as carry on items).

6) In addition, the "pink stuff" Pepto-Bismol, according to the CDC can reduce the incidence of traveler's diarrhea by up to 50%. 

Finally, some things that can help outside of those things that I have mentioned:

1) Digestive Enzymes. By their very nature they can help you to destroy invading pathogens on your food and in your water. And while you may see no reason to take enzymes on a normal basis, it may be worth considering when traveling to foreign places and trying foods your body is not accustomed to digesting, especially very fatty foods. In addition, just the stress of traveling can affect our normal digestion so it’s good to have something on hand instead of find yourself on some adventure away from “civilization” but where you learn that you need the extra support.

2) Melatonin. Particularly good at combating jetlag on long flights. You may not need more than half a dozen tablets so there is likely not a need to carry an entire bottle with you.

From Dr. David Williams,

“When flying west: Take 3 to 5 mg on the day of your flight at the local time that corresponds to 2:00 A.M. at your destination. When you arrive at your destination, take another tablet at bedtime (around 10:00 or 11:00 P.M. at the new destination) for the next four nights, or as needed.”

“When flying east: After arriving at your new destination, take 3 to 5 mg at bedtime (10:00 or 11:00 P.M.). Do this for the next three or four nights or longer if needed. If you wake up in the middle of the night, the first night of your arrival, take an additional tablet at that time.”

3) Oil of Oregano is a potent herb, much like garlic, it has a wide variety of uses including acting to serve as an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic. The plus side is that it doesn’t give one the same breath that garlic can.

4) AHCC or active hexose correlated compound, a fermented mushroom extract. According to AHCCResearh.com

“In vivo and human clinical trials have shown that AHCC modifies both the innate and adaptive immune response, by:

Increasing the production of cytokines
Increasing the activity of NK cells by as much as 300-800%
Increasing populations of macrophages, in some cases doubling them
Increasing the number of dendritic cells
Increasing the number of T cells by as much as 200%” Source. (http://ahccresearch.com/how-ahcc-works.html)

Personally, I keep a few bottles of this product around no matter if I am traveling or staying home. It’s a must have for cold and flu season and works great, especially when you combine it with an anti-bacterial or anti-viral. 

5) Also from Dr. David Williams:

“A few of these remedies native to Mexico may suffice if you are stuck in primitive surroundings:

Drink 12 ounces of either ginger ale or 7-UP mixed with the juice of one lime and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. (From personal experience, I can vouch for this remedy.)
Drink the juice of one coconut and two limes mixed together.
Grind and eat the seeds of the papaya”

Other tips:

As was revealed in The Pyramid of Health, health comes about from a balance of certain factors including food and sleep. This applies to acute situations and there is no surer way to sabotage your fun than to be unprepared (think stress), bad food (another stress on your digestive system) and inadequate sleep (stress on the body systems in general). Sleep is quite important when traveling and sometimes a lack of quality sleep cannot be avoided, but be mindful and attempt to get some rest on your travels, not only will your body thank you, but your mind and eyes will be more fresh and attentive to the world around you.

On a final note, traveling offers the great opportunity of seeing new places, new people and experiencing new things. It takes time, costs money but the rewards are ample.



So remember these simple rules:

  • Research local lore and access to medical wherever you intend on going
  • Make sure that if you take medication, to keep it on your person and when flying, your carry-on
  • If getting immunizations, consider taking action to mitigate the effect of the adjuvants 
  • Get plenty of rest 
  • Eat good food and drink clean water. Don’t drink from the local water supply 
  • Start your day stretching, especially during and after traveling 
  • Carry any of the above remedies as you see fit 


Happy Travels! 

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