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Supporting the immune system during holiday travel

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Travel at the holidays is often exciting – the anticipation of getting away, the enjoyment of seeing loved ones, and the indulgence of our favourite meals all beckon to us.

However, our immune systems can take a beating during this time, leading to susceptibility for colds and flu – not what we want our holidays to be full of.

If you’re planning on travelling this holiday season, take a strong, healthy immune system with you with these supportive tips.

1. Be conscious of sugar intake

Would the holidays really be the holidays without sugary treats?  For many of us, probably not –and that’s okay (for the most part).

Sugar can wreak havoc on the immune system, creating low-grade inflammation and weakening its fighting response to bacteria and viruses.

However, rather than depriving yourself of all of your favourite goodies, adapt your daily choices to fit the season. 

First, reduce and/or cut out sugars found in such foods and beverages as sodas, salad dressings, and processed foods. This will free up some sugar and caloric intake for that piece of pumpkin pie or glass of eggnog you’ve been craving.

Second, be aware of unconscious eating. It’s easy to reach for one of the doughnuts sitting out in the break room or snag a piece of hard peppermint at the receptionist’s desk during an appointment, but all of those things add up. 

Ask yourself if you really want that treat or if you’re choosing it just because it’s there.

Third, eat protein with sugar. Protein helps keep blood sugar levels stabilized. If you really want that breakfast pastry, include an egg on your plate. Or if you desire hot chocolate, make it with dairy or soy milk.

Lastly, have healthy options readily available. Place clementines in a bowl on your kitchen counter, pack hummus and vegetables in a small cooler for work, or fill a bottle with fruit-infused sparkling water. Whatever route you choose, be diligent in keeping low sugar options within reach.

2. Get good sleep

Hours sitting in a seat, shifting between time zones, and laying in a bed that isn’t your own are all catalysts for poor sleep. And when we don’t get enough, our immune system suffers.

During sleep, the body produces cytokines, proteins that fight infection and reduce inflammation. Sleep not only creates cytokines but also puts them to work.

For better travel sleep, start by adjusting your schedule slowly to your destination before you leave. That may mean going to bed 30 to 60 minutes earlier for a few nights before boarding the plane as well as making sure you still get your usual amount of sleep in after you land (even if that means going to bed early in your new time zone).

Also, bring sleep aids such as melatonin, a sleep mask, and earbuds (if sensitive to light and sound), as well as your own pillow if possible. For kids, make sure to pack their favourite stuffed animal or blanket.

3. Be prepared before, during, and after travel

Strong immunity for holiday travel starts before you’ve even left and doesn’t stop until long after you’ve arrived back home.

A daily supplementation regimen contributes to supporting the immune system throughout the entire holiday. Some things to include:

  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc (a lozenge can be helpful during a flight)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Colloidal silver (sprayed on hands and in the nasal cavity during travel)

But make sure you don’t just rely on supplements. Foods that boast these nutrients should be top of mind and your first choice whenever possible.

In addition to these tips, making the holidays about family, friends, and love and keeping it filled with plenty of joy and laughter may be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your immune system when travelling during the holiday season.

So let go of stress, take care of yourself, and revel in the time spent with those you love. Your immune system will thank you.