May 8, 2019
You spend all year taking care of yourself, feeding it healthy foods, exercising, reading all about nutrition tips and tricks, when eventually you tire of the “my body is a temple” mantra and actually want to go see some temples! There is no need to sacrifice health when travelling abroad, and often, due to less stress, we feel healthier. Here are some tips to maintain your level of health while experiencing new places.
5 Keys For Staying Healthy When Travelling Abroad
Eat With The Seasons
Many countries around the world are just beginning to care about “health” in terms of food processing, organic options, and nutrient content, and depending on where you go, it might be difficult (or expensive) to eat the same foods you have at home. Even if you live in a country that doesn’t have the organic, free-range kale you are used to in your home country, eating what is local and in season is a great way to ensure you are getting fresh food that isn’t shipped from across the world and soaked in pesticides.
In China, the best way to know if a food is in season is by the trucks that are filled to the brim with whatever fruit or veg is ripe right now. No one is debating over the healthfulness (or budget friendliness) of a truck full of pineapple!
Choose Activities Wisely
When travelling abroad, the activities you partake in can vary widely based on location, trips into the jungles of Brazil versus the concrete jungles of Hong Kong. Regardless of where you go, there will always be alcohol and the cultural pull of pubs, beach bars and rooftop clubs. It can be easy to fall into hostel culture of drinking every night with the group and failing to do much the next day from your previous night’s bender, but be cognizant of how you are spending your time. I am not anti-alcohol, especially for occasions like a vacation, but you will likely look more fondly on the things you did outside than the things you drank. Additionally, you will have more energy to meet the locals, hike that mountain, try new food and more if you are not sick and hungover. Not to mention keeping you stronger and better able to recover from our next topic.
Be Prepared For the Worst (digestively)
You are enjoying your favourite spot on the coast of Playa del Carmen, sipping a fresh juice, drinking in the sunset, when you are suddenly forced to run to a public bathroom by a visit from your unwelcomed travel companion (perhaps arch nemesis?) traveller’s diarrhea. Was it the improperly washed silverware? The salad you had for lunch? Ice cubes with nasty hidden microbes? Whatever the reason for your unfortunate gastrointestinal problems, there are things you can do to help and prevent these travellers’ sicknesses.
Prior to going on vacation, be sure to have a healthy diet full of foods that promote gut bacteria. Fermented vegetables, yogurts and kefir, kombucha, fibre, resistant starch and even a probiotic if you struggle to get enough of these foods incorporated into your diet.
Once abroad, especially in parts of Africa, Asia and South America, continue to eat these kinds of foods while avoiding raw, partially cooked and unpeeled foods. Cooking foods and boiling water makes the risk of infection much lower. Iodine tablets in water can also help clear microorganisms. Supplements that can help prevent and alleviate travel related sickness include bismuth salts to alleviate nausea/diarrhea, probiotics with bifidobacteria for diarrhea/constipation and, in severe cases, antibiotics. Make sure to hydrate with clean water and vitamin C rich fruits if you do get sick from that street cart selling all your favourite insects.
Get Some Sun (but not too much)
One of the best parts of vacationing is spending your time outside, exploring and soaking up those rays, proving to all those back home your vacation was a success solely based on your admirable tan. Bask in the sun as you should, absorbing vitamin D causing all kinds of mood-boosting benefits, but be careful about the amount you spend in the sun. Vitamin D toxicity usually only occurs with megadosing of vitamins, but too much sun can result in flu-like symptoms, even without a burn. Be sure to stay cool, cover up, wear sunscreen (look for kinds with PABA) and wear a hat to protect your delicate little forehead from premature wrinkles.
Take Time to Relax
Whether you are living abroad permanently or just travelling, we all need to take time to rest. Hopping off the plane and getting into the flow of life in your new country is a good way to get acclimated to a new time zone, but give yourself enough time, in the beginning, to adjust to the new place, don’t try and force too many activities into the first few days. Additionally, taking a bit of melatonin the first night or two will help your body adjust to a new circadian rhythm.
It’s easy to think that you need to make the most of your vacation by seeing every priceless cathedral, ancient temple, and statues of almost forgotten war heroes, but in reality, a little sightseeing goes a long way. Many people get “templed out” when they visit too many things, so remember to take time to experience other cultural activities that rejuvenate you, such as sauna and massage in Russia, massage in Thailand, massage in Indonesia, massage in Switzerland… The key thing is to get lots of massages. Happy travels!
DuPont, H. L., Ericsson, C. D., Johnson, P. C., Bitsura, J. A., DuPont, M. W., and de la Cabada, F. J. Prevention of travellers’ diarrhea by the tablet formulation of bismuth subsalicylate. JAMA 1987;257(10):1347-1350.
Scarpignato C, Rampal P. Prevention and treatment of traveller’s diarrhea: A clinical pharmacological approach. Chemotherapy 1995;41:48-81.