Holiday time is best spent sitting around a table with family or friends, breaking bread, and enjoying each other’s company. But the hectic pace and never-ending to-do lists that lead up to those relaxing moments can be taxing on your sleep schedule, your dietary habits, and your immune system. Add in a flight or a long drive to get you to your holiday destination, and you might wind up with a virus, digestive distress, or sleep troubles.
Our motto? Be prepared. First and foremost, be sure to get your flu shot, which can help protect you from the most common strains of the season.
Beyond that, consider packing up some natural remedies to tote with you on your next trip. Being prepared with a natural travel toolkit may help reduce your chances of full-blown illness, shorten the time you are sick, and be a bit gentler on your system than over-the-counter medications, says acupuncturist Amber Weiss. Plus, she says, many of them have fewer side effects.
We asked One Medical Group naturopaths and acupuncturists to share their top recommendations to help keep you healthy during the holidays – especially if you’re on the road. Here they are:
Cold and Flu
For symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, and sore throat, our experts recommend Wellness Herbal Resistance Liquid. “This formula is based on a traditional Chinese formula for immune support, but also contains good amounts of vitamin A, C, and Zinc,” says One Medical Group naturopath Alex Tan. Other options to stop these symptoms before they develop into a full-blown sickness include Gan Mao Ling herbal tablets and Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy.
Chuan Xin Lian is a Chinese herbal combination that works well for swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and fever. EmergenC packets provide high doses of vitamin C, which may reduce the severity of cold symptoms. For a runny nose and nasal congestion, try the nasal spray Xlear.
These remedies work best when you take them at the first sign of your symptoms, and for one full day after you feel better. “We find that it’s more effective to treat something right at the very beginning,” says Weiss.
Before You Go
Tan says that taking probiotics with strands of both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria may decrease your chances of falling prey to traveler’s diarrhea. If you have a sensitive stomach or are traveling somewhere that warrants extra caution for your gut, prepare yourself by taking probiotics four to six weeks ahead of time. Of course, it’s still important to be smart about avoiding potentially contaminated food and water while you’re on the road.
On the Road
For diarrhea while traveling, Tan recommends bringing probiotics that don’t need to be refrigerated, like Jarro-dophilus or Primal Defense. Both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains of probiotics have been shown to shorten the recovery time of diarrhea, according to Tan.
For constipation, pack magnesium citrate, a gentle, powdered formula that you mix with water or can take in capsule form. Take with water at the first sign of constipation.
For indigestion, try ginger: it’s good for more than just spicing up your sushi. Ginger is also a medicinal herb that acts on the digestive tract to alleviate spasm and help with indigestion, gas and bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. A cup of ginger tea or even candied or raw ginger might help soothe your stomach so you can get on with your trip.
Changing time zones and getting adjusted to new places can negatively impact your sleep. Pack Natural Calm, a powder with magnesium that you mix with liquid and drink. Or try drinking teas or taking capsules that contain valerian, chamomile, or hops, which are known as relaxing natural sleep aids. Lavender is another calming herb that you can use for relaxation before bed or on a flight. Place a few drops of lavender essential oil on your inner wrists or add a capful to a warm bath.
Tan advocates taking melatonin, which has been shown in studies to help with sleep disturbances and jet lag, for travel-related insomnia. Of course, use common sense when using these aids: “As with any kind of drug, natural or prescribed, that can affect sleep, don’t operate machinery or take before a high-stakes situation, such as a big meeting, if you don’t know how it will affect you,” he says.
Finally, be sure to use common sense when taking natural remedies, as “natural” doesn’t always mean safe. If you’re pregnant or nursing or have a chronic health condition, you should consult your doctor before starting anything new. You should steer clear of probiotics if you have active ulcers, IBS or AIDS. And if you become ill with a high fever or prolonged symptoms, you should see a healthcare provider to be properly evaluated.