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When Traveling Is a Health Hazard

A self-confessed travel bug, I come down with a serious case of wanderlust whenever I’m grounded for more than four months in any one city. Having said that, I’m not blind to the fact that travel can be a health hazard. While I have savoured a plethora of culinary and cultural experiences from different parts of the world over the years, I’ve come home after some journeys with more than my fair share of ailments. Allow me to name a few:

1) Bali Belly: Bali Belly is another synonym for traveller’s diarrhea.  Also called Montezuma's revenge and the Rangoon runs, I was first afflicted with this condition while on a trip to Bali in my 30s, on my honeymoon no less. Spending half of the trip in desperate search of a restroom, the bloating and severe abdominal pains that followed me back home to Australia cleared after a hefty dose of antibiotics. While that particular marriage didn’t last the distance, the traveler’s mantra has embedded itself in my psyche ever since: "Cook it, wash it, peel it or forget it."

2) Bug Bites: My journey across Sri Lanka in 2011 opened my eyes to the wonders of Ayurveda, riding elephants and the deliciously aromatic Sri Lankan cuisine. The downside, however, were the monsoon rains during our 2-night stay at Passikudah, which brought on a raging horde of mosquitos on steroids that cannibalized every spare inch of my unexposed body. Along with the sand fleas that nipped at my feet, ankles and calves as we walked along the shore line, the angry bites that adorned my limbs  after our 2-night stay resembled the polka dots on a Betty Boop dress. Insect repellant and a salve for insect bites are now integral items on my packing list.

3) Insomnia: Most of us get jet-lagged when we fly across several time zones over a short period of time. Sleep-wake patterns become disrupted because the sunshine and local timetables are dictated to by the pattern in the previous location. When this happens often enough, the internal clock gets out of sync with the external environment over longer periods of time. Frequently challenged by insomnia, and particularly after traveling, I have since sacrificed all caffeine from my diet and meditate everyday.

4) Back Pain: While shoulder and neck injuries due to overweight luggage tend to be common ailments for travelers, lower back problems are my weakness. What has helped me enormously is strengthening my core muscles through regular exercise and stretching before, during and after a long flight. Having a brilliant Osteopath at home doesn’t hurt either.

5) Weight Gain: Between foreign food, irregular eating schedules, increased consumption of alcohol and dining out for weeks on end, being on the road can be rough on even the healthiest bodies. With this in mind, I maintain a well-balanced diet on my travels by eating lots of salads and fresh fish (when available) and steering clear of overly heavy meals, junk food and lots of sugar. I make sure that I’m properly hydrated by drinking lots of (safe) water and avoiding soft (carbonated) drinks. 

6) The Airplane/Airport Cold: I can’t think of anything more unpleasant than traveling with a cold or sore throat. And yet close quarters, shared air, low cabin humidity and a drastic variation in temperatures between airport interiors and the outdoors are ideal environments for the cold and flu viruses to spread. The best remedy is to strengthen the immune system and I do this by regularly consuming a range of products that are on the cutting edge of nutrition.  

Points on how to stay healthy if you’re a frequent traveler: 

* “Cook it, wash it, peel it or forget it.”

* Include insect repellant and a salve for insect bites on your packing list.

* If you have trouble sleeping, try decreasing your caffeine intake and meditate regularly.

* Strengthen your core muscles through regular exercise. 

* Stretch before, during and after a long flight. 

* Have a good Osteopath on standby at home should you come home with any injuries.

* Maintain a well-balanced diet and stay hydrated by drinking lots of (safe) water. 

* Strengthen your immune system with vitamin supplements and flooding your body with nutrients regularly. If you want to know what’s transformed my health, feel free to contact me here

Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 18th June, 2014 | Trackbacks
Categories: Travel Tips
Tags: Travel, Health

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