Cases of COVID-19, or coronavirus have been steadily increasing across the globe and worries continue to rise, especially surrounding travel. At DBC and Nature’s Remedies, we have been barraged by questions regarding keeping immune systems raised in the case of necessary travel (especially flying) where the virus is known to spread. Even if you’re staying home for the time being, many of these supplements and recommendations are still applicable to boosting your body’s defenses and ability to fight viruses, bacteria, and infection.
Aside from your regular supplement regime, there are a few add-ons that we never leave at home. Traveling can wreak havoc on your immune system and your gut, so a few essentials we take along target those areas of health specifically.
Essential Defense is a Chinese herbal supplement that quickens the immune system’s response. It should be taken in the first 24 hours of feeling sick and can be taken at a high dosage: 2 tablets per hour for the first 24 hours. It can also be taken as a preventative during flying.
- Vitamin C
Many cells involved in immunity require vitamin C to function properly. This is precisely why regular supplementation reduces the severity and length of infection substantially. Once we become infected, however, our need for vitamin C skyrockets, and we need to increase our intake to match. Ultra Potent-C® 1000, from Metagenics, is fat soluble and therefore highly absorbable. We typically take an increased dose for several days to a week before traveling to make sure the immune system is properly prepared for travel. Spectra-C 500 is another form of vitamin c that more specifically targets the lungs, sinuses, and ears by helping push out excess mucous secretions.
Mycotaki is an excellent blend of 7 different mushrooms which aids natural T-killer cell production and supports cellular defenses for a healthy immune system. Mycotaki was formulated to support an immune system under stress. When traveling, this is often the case. It is the supplement of choice to take to keep the immune system boosted and to prevent illness while flying.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling is being able to try new cuisines and flavors. This does, however, mean the digestive tract will be exposed to foods and bacteria that it has never encountered. Our microbiome populations play a vital role in how our immune system responds to toxins and illness. In fact, scientists at Harvard University have shown microbiome to alter rapidly when dietary changes are implemented. To make sure the immune system stays boosted and the gut microbiome is “happy”, we supplement with probiotics like UltraFlora Spectrum and UltraFlora Acute Care (if one is traveling to a country with questionable water/food sources).
This is a top notch probiotic from Metagenics that contains a 50/50 mix of Lactobacillus paracasei 8700:2 (DSM 13434) and Lactobacillus plantarum HEAL 9 (DSM 15312). In an excellent study that came out of Denmark, 1 Billion CFU per day reduced incidence of cold by 18%, reduced the infection by 2 days, and led to a drastic decrease in symptoms, of which sore throat symptoms was reduced most markedly.
The DBC doctors recommend this sinus and respiratory system-targeted probiotic for both sickness prevention and treatment. When treating, better outcomes have been observed with increased dosage.
If you are flying, make sure you clean your seat and tray table area. It is well studied that many areas in airplanes (specifically tray tables and arm rests) carry opportunistic pathogens. I always carry wipes in my bag to wipe down my seat area. Also, it is typically wise to not use the pocket in the seat in front of you, as those often do not get adequately cleaned out.
The CDC recommends to avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands and be sure to wash your hands often, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, especially before eating, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing. This may seem like common sense, but it is shocking how many people do not follow hand washing guidelines.
After flying, it is important to take a shower right upon arrival to your destination (especially before climbing into a clean bed!) to remove as many germs and bacteria from your skin as possible.
Staying hydrated is vitally important- it is well known that the human body is mostly comprised of water. But what does that have to do with the immune system? Hydration is a key component of the lymphatic system, specifically important for producing lymph, which carries white blood cells (which fight infection) and other immune cells around the body.
When traveling, many people forget to drink water and become dehydrated, further lowering the immune system. In addition to drinking less water, airplanes typically have very dry air which also contributes to dehydration. Bring an empty water bottle with you to fill after you pass through security. The average person needs at least half of his/her body weight in ounces of water per day (for example, if a person’s weight is 140 lbs, he/she should drink at minimum 70 oz of water per day).
- Decrease Stress
Everyday stresses like work, relationships, and the constant need for online interactions can, over time, wear down on the body and suppress the immune, digestive, and reproductive systems. These issues can contribute to chronic issues like high blood pressure, mental illness, heart disease, etc. Many people don’t realize, however, that stress also greatly suppresses the immune system. When stress is increased, the body’s ability to fight infection decreases. There are many different, healthy ways to deal with stress, and vacation is often the perfect time to get a hold of your stress and figure out which methods work best. For example, exercise is a great stress modulator and so are meditation and yoga. There are also many great supplements that work well to help regulate stress (and stress hormone) levels- see Dr. Greg’s blog post on that here.
- Increase Sleep
Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night (a good general marker for how much sleep you need by measuring how many hours you sleep without an alarm by the end of your vacation). According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation actually activates stress response in your body and raises cortisol levels. Over time, sleep deprivation can have chronic and systemic negative effects on your stress response systems. Lack of sleep lowers your immune function significantly, so make sure you have had plenty of sleep before you travel, so you’re not traveling on a lowered and susceptible immune system.
- Indulge Responsibly!!
One of the worst things you can do for your immune system is binge on sugar, especially when your immune system is already diminished from traveling and exposed to more viruses and bacteria than normal. Sugar (and processed/refined carbohydrates found in many starchy foods that turn to sugar) drastically weakens the immune system, throws off the gut microbiome, and allows bacteria to thrive. Is that extra sugar really worth getting sick for?
It can be so tempting to stop all healthy habits and eating patterns while on vacation. The problem is, this doesn’t give your body a chance to recuperate from the stress of everyday life. Vacation is the perfect time to hit the reset button and recharge yourself because you have the time to put into it. You don’t need to throw all your healthy habits out of the window. In fact, you shouldn’t! Pick and choose how you want to indulge and the entire vacation will be much more enjoyable because you will feel so much better. (Even if you are not traveling, decreasing sugar intake is still extremely important)
*Disclaimer: If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements and health care recommendations are right for you.
"1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep." Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, 16 Feb. 2016, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0215-enough-sleep.html. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.
“5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml.
Besedovsky, L., Lange, T. & Born, J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch - Eur J Physiol 463, 121–137 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
Lawrence, David A., Corrine F. Maurice, Rachel N. Carmody, David B. Gootenberg, and Julie E. Button. "Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome." NCBI, 23 Jan. 2014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3957428/
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Nicolaides, C., Avraam, D., Cueto‐Felgueroso, L., González, M.C. and Juanes, R. (2020), Hand‐Hygiene Mitigation Strategies Against Global Disease Spreading through the Air Transportation Network. Risk Analysis. doi:10.1111/risa.13438