Hong Kong equals transience. Whether it’s business, holiday or returning to our home countries many of us find ourselves in and out on a regular basis. Travel takes a toll on our health, even when it is for pleasure, but the good news is there are a few steps we can take to stay healthier while on the road.
Business trips can be a time of added mental stress as well as increased toxic exposure. Air travel exposes us to ozone, radiation and chemicals used inside the aircraft as well as those sprayed on food. Highway travel increases our exposure to carbon monoxide and air pollution. This increased exposure to chemicals is only part of the puzzle. Traveling also often brings with it more drinking and eating, less sleeping and less available healthy food options.
Aside from a change in diet, disrupted daily routines can translate into disturbed digestion and elimination. Constipation and travel go hand-in-hand for many and dehydration can be a major contributor. When flying overseas I suggest buying or bringing a big water bottle to have handy while on the plane. Refilling it regularly throughout your flight is a first step in staying healthy while traveling. An occasional cup of water is not going to keep you hydrated and when you notice your lips and skin feeling dry what is you need is water and not lotion or chap stick.
When traveling it’s also best to eat a diet high in water and fiber while reducing or eliminating foods containing unhealthy fats, refined carbs and sugar. Fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains are a great way to increase fiber and water. Avoiding convenience foods as well as fried foods, burgers, hot dogs and those refined baked goods, which are readily available at hotel breakfast buffets is another good travel habit worth cultivating. If you are one of the many that experiences constipation you may find it helpful to eat one main meal per day (this may be at a business lunch or dinner) and choose light healthy snacks for other meals. Salads, steamed vegetables, soup and fresh juice are all good options.
Bringing some key items and supplements can give you a nutritional boost during periods when you have less control of what and when you eat. Items I never leave behind when traveling include: powdered green food, nuts and seeds and plenty of herbal tea bags. Psyllium seeds husks and/or flaxseeds are also easy to travel with and can help combat constipation.
Finding ways to “de-stress” and aid sleep, especially on overseas trips, is essential for healthy travel. Hot baths, steam rooms and massages are all great ways to unwind in the evening. Calcium and magnesium work wonders for helping the body and mind relax and for promoting restful sleep. Chamomile, lavender and catnip tea can also help you relax at bedtime and adjust to time differences. Melatonin is another great sleep aid which helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. Likewise, if you need a pickup try ginseng, yerba mate, kola leaf or roasted barley tea rather than going for the extra cup of coffee or sugar hit to make it through the day.
I also suggest taking a few additional supplements. Increase Vitamin C intake before, during and just after flying to boost immunity, and provide antioxidant protection against increased chemical exposure. B complex can help balance energy levels and counter added stress. Calcium and Magnesium are anti-stress minerals aiding relaxation and sleep and green powders and probiotics help keep the GI tract moving while also boosting antioxidants, minerals and supporting our immune system.
There are a few ideas of ways to help ease the burden of business travel. It’s not necessary to take on all of the above suggestions but if you can aim to implement a few on your next trip you’ll notice a difference and possibly be surprised that jetlag is easier to overcome and find yourself back in the swing of things sooner than usual.
Jessica E Williams, MSc