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Healthy traveling tips: don't get on a plane this summer without reading these suggestions from Dr. Elizabeth Pavka.

Q: What choices can a person make to maintain his/her health when traveling, especially on an airplane? We all know people who take supplements such as Emergen-C to boost their immune systems before flying. What do you think of this approach? What are some ways to avoid food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses, particularly when traveling to foreign countries?

--the staff of NLJ

A: Thanks, NLJ staff, for your great questions. Air travel can be hazardous to health. Think about it: a plane flying at 35,000 feet must be completely self-sufficient. It carries oxygen, water to humidify the air, and air filters (remember all those coughing people?). These add weight, so the plane carries the minimum required.

Before You Fly

Airline food is generally of a poor quality (or becoming closer to nonexistent in the last year), so plan ahead and carry your own good quality foods to eat on board. Suggestions include an apple, a pear, hard-boiled eggs with a cold pack, a bagel, a bag of nuts, trail mix, protein bars, a green nutritional powder to mix with some of the juice offered, or other easily portable, highly nutritious foods.

As a strong proponent of nutritional supplements, I recommend Emergen-C or another buffered vitamin C that provides much needed antioxidant protection and buffers the body into a more alkaline, healthier state. If you regularly take supplements at home, you'll definitely need them when you fly. For those of you who don't regularly take supplements, I recommend the following for one week before, during your trip and one week after: a good quality vitamin/mineral, buffered vitamin C, and probiotics (see below).

Ginger is great for any type of stomach upset. You can take ginger tea bags, crystallized ginger (yum!) or ginger capsules. If your destination is outside of this country, I'd definitely take a probiotic (beneficial bacteria for immune and digestive health)-twice the dossage recommended on the bottle-to maintain healthy digestive functions. Florastor is a good brand that doesn't need refrigeration. Start it a week before your trip. You can also take high doses of a probiotic that contains multiple strains of Lactobacillus at the very first signs and symptoms of food poisoning.

To enhance sleep on your airplane ride and once at your destination, herbs such as California poppy, Jamaican dogwood, passion flower, chamomile and valerian (tea, capsules or tincture) can be helpful. Also, melatonin, 0.5-3 milligrams nightly, promotes sleep. Pack at least 24 hours before you fly so that you can get a good night's sleep before boarding. Longer flights and flights that cross time zones create jet lag. Here's a website that, for $35, offers a customized program for reducing jet lag based on your flight itinerary, dietary patterns and sleep patterns: I haven't used it myself; if you do, let me know how it worked!


When You Fly

Eat the healthy food you've packed. You lose more water than usual through breathing because of the low cabin humidity, and chronic dehydration is a significant cause of fatigue. To keep your body well hydrated, drink two cups of water for each hour of flight, i.e. use the bathroom at least every two hours of flight time. Coffee and alcohol are dehydrating, so avoid drinking them. If you must, consume a cup of water for each cup of coffee or serving of alcohol.

Move your body often to increase circulation. In your seat, flex and extend your feet and stretch your neck and shoulders. Stand outside the bathroom and stretch against the wall. I select aisle seats so I can get up easily and often.

After You Arrive at Your Destination

Immerse yourself in water. Take a hot bath with one or two cups Epsom salts, or jump in the warm ocean or the cool pool. Your body will rehydrate through your skin. Walk or stand in the sunshine for 10-15 minutes.

After You Return Home

Plan some "down time" to recover, especially if your travel plans take you across several time zones. How long depends on your age, the length of your flight, the length of your trip, destination, and how often you strayed from the basics that support health during your travel.

Columnist Elizabeth Pavka, Ph.D., RD, LD/N, a wholistic nutritionist with more than 27 years' experience, provides nutritional counseling for a wide variety of health issues. Dr. Pavka helps her clients prepare an individualized eating plan and often recommends vitamins and mineral supplements, digestive enzymes, probiotics, etc. that support health. She teaches classes, writes articles for local and national publications, consults with organizations about nutrition and wellness, and speaks before professional and lay audiences; she can be reached at 828-252-1406 or

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Author:Pavka, Elizabeth
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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