Healthy Travel Tips + Traveling with Chronic Illness

Traveling is exhausting and stressful for everyone, but for those with chronic illness, it's extra hard on the body.  If you have a chronic illness (for example an autoimmune disease or adrenal fatigue), your body does well when it's in a routine.  Getting up at the same time every day, getting proper sleep, drinking plenty of water, getting sunshine, and eating the proper ratio of healthy fats, healthy carbs, and protein.  However, when you're traveling, your routine is thrown WAY off.  This can bring up old symptoms, lead to a flare up, or can lead to insomnia.  So I want to share my best tips that anyone can use, but especially those with a chronic illness.

Take a later flight, when possible

For me, when I have to get up at 3 or 4 am to take an early flight, it seems that I'm trying to recover the entire trip (thanks, adrenals!).  My body just doesn't bounce back from this lack of sleep and sometimes it's not worth it to save the extra $50 for the earlier flight.  I try my best to find 10 am or later flights now.  It helps me ease into the trip without starting off exhausted.

Bring digestive reinforcements

Travel can be stressful.  When you are stressed, you stay in a sympathetic (fight or flight) state and may never get to a parasympathetic state.  To digest (and rest), you need to be in a parasympathetic state.  Therefore, if you aren't relaxing during travel, you may need some extra digestive support to help you digest. 

Essential oils, aromatherapy, HCL, probiotics, lemon water, apple cider vinegar, digestive enzymes or digestive bitters can all help you digest better. These are great for any time, but you may need to up your doses on your trip.  Ask a restaurant if they have some lemon water or apple cider vinegar. Simply drinking warm lemon water with your meals can help! My recent LOVE YOUR GUT box includes bitters, enzymes, probiotics, and essential oils to aid with digestion.  Perfect for on-the-go!  

If you tend to get.... shall we say, "backed up", while on the road, I have found that Microbe Formulas Instestinal Mover works wonders. It's not habit forming and gets your body back with peristalsis.  According to the website, "Intestinal Mover is beneficial for those that struggle with constipation by providing natural, gentle relief without cramping or causing a dependency."

Use downtime to meditate, read, or journal

If you're on a plane for hours at a time, try and use that time to de-stress. Sometimes I get worked up to go on a plane, but it's actually a great time to shut your eyes or meditate.  Tune out everything around you and just enjoy the moment.

Get the best sleep you can

If you're like me, you don't sleep well in hotels or new spaces.  Because of this I have to be extra prepared.  Bring a sleep mask, earplugs, and small sound machine.  Ask to be located away from the elevators.  Put your do not disturb sign on the door.  Nothing is worse than being woken up to realize you forgot to put the sign on the door!  Drink some herbal tea before bed or take a hot shower to reduce your body temperature.  Keep the room around 68 degrees. 

You may also need to bring some extra sleep aids. I use 5htp or L-Tryptophan (be careful if you are on an SSRI -- use under medical supervision -- since it raises seretonin levels).  I've also used essential oil blends.  I don't recommend most melatonin supplements unless at a very small dose.  I also wear blue blocking glasses once I am in my hotel or AirBnB. 

If you don't get the best night's sleep, don't beat yourself up. Accept it and move on. Go easy on yourself. Try not to reach for the coffee to self-medicate your exhaustion. It will only make it worse.

Bring activated charcoal

I can't tell you how many times this has saved me! When you're traveling, you're typically eating foods that aren't as high quality or you may indulge every now and again.  This can lead to the dreaded bloat or even worse, food poisoning.  Should you eat something that isn't agreeing with you, I always take an activated charcoal supplement. Bring for emergencies.  This is my favorite brand

Water, Water, Water + salt

I learn this the hard way EVERY time I travel.  Always drink more water than you think! Keep the fluids pumping.  I bring my own packets of Real Salt so I can salt my food with something other than table salt, but also my water! Check my other blogs for why I believe we need more salt in our diets, not less. Add a few packets to your water bottle as you travel.

Before reaching for Ibuprofen, Advil, or Tylenol, reach for the fish oil

Travel can make us inflamed and you may get a headache or back ache.  Before reaching for the Advil or Tylenol, try getting some Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil.  I like Biotics, Rosita, and Vital Choice brands (some store bought brands are rancid!)  Organic Tumeric can also help with inflammation.  It's a great excuse to have a Tumeric Latte (Golden Milk).

Advil, Ibuprofen, and Tylenol increase gut permeability.  I do think this was a HUGE factor in me developing leaky gut. I used to take 2 a day for my headaches! I do believe sometimes it's okay to take an Advil if you must.  I try and wait until the last possible second and try other supplements first.  But sometimes, I'm getting a migraine and there is nothing I can do and my trip will be wiped out if I don't get some relief.  If you MUST take Advil, try one pill instead of 2 or 3.  Try and see if you can go less and less without the Advil over time. You may save your gut!!

Bring your own food on the plane

Turkey, avocado, hard boiled eggs, sweet potato mash, veggie slices, fruit, beef jerky, low-glycemic fruit/nut bars all travel well so you can eat them on the plane.  When I'm heading to the airport, I drink Epic Bone Broth in the Lyft/Uber on the way there then recycle the container when I'm done.  There are also Bone Broth powders on the market which are good for travel.  BioIQ and Vital Proteins are good brands. 

Eat as many good quality fats as you can

When you're traveling, getting enough good fat is hard! Ask for your eggs to be cooked in butter or coconut oil. Ask for avocado on everything (because, duh!)  Use olive oil and vinegar on salads, bring your own coconut oil packets (Trader Joe's has these), MCT oil packets, or Bulletproof packets to add into your coffee/tea/whatever.  I've also eaten Bulletproof bars on the road which are full of collagen and good fats. 

Juice bars are great -- but watch the sugar

I always like to find a raw juice bar or smoothie shop when I'm traveling. It's a good way to get some quick nutrients and get some more veggies in your diet (which sometimes is harder when traveling). However, most of the juice shops have smoothies with mostly fruit or added agave/honey.  Try and find the greenest smoothie you can and ask for no extra honey/agave.  This will save you from a sugar crash later.  Also try and eat a lot of salads and veggies wherever you go!

Consider cooking your own food or delivering food for longer trips

If you're going to be in one location for a week or so, you may want to consider getting an AirBnB with a kitchen so you can have some healthy meals a few nights or stock the fridge with good snacks.  If you travel for work, you can also send yourself a box to the hotel or AirBnB from Thrive Market. Thrive has great non-perishable healthy food items and that way you don't have to travel with them! This requires just a little more planning, however. 

Explore local healthy restaurants

Instead of going for fast food, Subway, Panera (which are not healthy), search for "real food" type restaurants wherever you are.  I found Keto, Paleo, gluten free options in Indiana, Toronto, Detroit, and Cleveland just by searching "Paleo + The city".  You never know what you'll find! I also use the App FindMeGlutenFree to discover gluten free options on the road. Just be careful because a lot of the restaurants that come up are still unhealthy so use your best judgment.  However, it's great if you want to treat yourself to a gluten-free pizza on the road!

Other supplements to consider

These are supplements that have worked for me but as you know, everyone has bio-individual needs. Always use caution when trying a new supplement or essential oil. As with any piece of health advice, always do your research!

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