Travel Rx: Healthy Summer Holidays
Summer holidays are here and many will make the most of it and travel home or to some fun locations. Travel can be demanding on the body, especially when crossing several time zones. Nothing derails fun holiday plans more quickly than illness or a serious case of jet lag. Here are a few of the most common problems brought on by the rigors of travel and some tips and solutions.
Humans have biological rhythms, known as circadian rhythms, which are controlled by a biological clock, daily routines and exposure to light and dark. These affect body temperature, alertness, appetite, hormone secretion, etc. as well as sleep timing.
Jet lag, medically known as desynchronosis, results from disruption of these circadian rhythms by traveling across multiple time zones. Your rhythms are out of sync with the new time zone, which can result in sleeping problems, fatigue, difficulty focusing, appetite/digestion issues and irritability. The body will naturally realign with the change, but this generally takes time (1 day per hour is often suggested), which makes short trips over long distances especially challenging.
Fortunately, TCM’s focus on rebalancing qi can speed up the process of recovery. Acupuncture is effective in reestablishing your body’s balance and decreasing symptoms. Schedule appointments before traveling, as you should come in for treatment soon after arrival (an ideal schedule is three times/week over two weeks). Herbal remedies can also help. A TCM doctor can put together a decoction based on your body’s condition and symptoms.
Jet lag tips:
- Try to reset your schedule to the new time zone. Avoid napping if possible and expose yourself to the natural light so your body starts to realign. When fatigue hits during the day, try to go for a walk instead of sleeping.
- Eat small, light meals. You may feel hungry at your old times and heavy meals will only worsen digestion problems and disrupt your body’s adjustment.
- Be careful about alcohol consumption (especially on flights, where it can increase dehydration) and don’t overdo caffeine, especially late in the day.
- Schedule accordingly and plan time for adjustment, when you can.
Many of us are all too familiar with “traveler’s diarrhea”. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year between 20%-50% of international travelers, an estimated 10 million persons, develop diarrhea. Others experience constipation, indigestion or upset stomach when traveling, due to jet lag, stress, and unfamiliar foods and eating patterns.
Hot, humid environments and unsanitary conditions in less developed, exotic locales mean you need to be extra cautious. Take preventative measures by practicing food safety precautions (bottled water, well-cooked foods, good hand washing and checking the environment of where you eat). It’s tempting to try all the exciting, new local foods but be careful not to overindulge. If problems strike, there are some highly effective Chinese herbal medicines to treat these conditions. Consider taking some along to be prepared.
Diarrhea: 香连片 Xiang Lian Pian (four pills three times/day)
Constipation: 麻仁丸 Ma Ren Wan (ten pills or two capsules each evening; for severe cases it can be taken both in evening and morning)
General digestion problems: 香砂养胃丸 Xiang Sha Yeng Wei Wen (six pills three times/day after meals)
Colds and Viruses
The strain of travel and close proximity to crowds of strangers make us more susceptible to viruses when traveling. Take these herbal remedies when you first feel symptoms to reduce symptoms and avoid a prolonged illness.
Colds: 双黄连口服液 Shuang Huang Lian Kou Fu Ye (one ampule three times/day)
Flu: 抗病毒口服液 Kang Bing Du Kou Fu Ye (one ampule three times/day)
Doris Rathgeber and the whole Body & Soul Team wish you a happy summer and safe travels! Click here to schedule an appointment before travelling – to make sure your body is in top shape for your upcoming travels – or after your return to get back in sync and fight jetlag.