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You’ve got your suitcases packed, your travel-ready snacks in your carry-on, and your perfectly-planned itinerary ready for your next trip. But traveling can throw your usual health and wellness out of whack unexpectedly, all thanks to stress, new environments, and dietary changes. Whether you’re worried about catching a cold or don’t want jet lag getting you down, adding some supplements into your daily routine might help.
I asked Dr. Fred Pescatore, renowned natural health physician and author, for his insight into how supplements may be beneficial when traveling. He shared his top supplement tips and recommendations for staying well while you travel.
1. Start Taking Supplements Before You Leave Home
While many of us rely on supplements to “fix” whatever health woes we’re experiencing, Dr. Pescatore actually recommends taking them preemptively. If you start certain supplements before your trip begins, you may be able to avoid common travel woes like swelling, inability to sleep, and low energy when you arrive at your destination.
“Just like you plan your itinerary and pack a suitcase, you should prepare your health for the stress of travel, too,” he says. “A good wellness routine can help ease the discomfort of travel and boost your immune system.”
These are the supplements Dr. Pescatore suggests starting before you even begin packing.
Maritime pine extract
“Inflammation is the root of many travel health concerns, like jet lag and swelling of feet and ankles. Research shows Pycnogenol French maritime pine bark extract is a reliable, go-to option,” says Dr. Pescatore.
Maritime pine bark extract, or Pycnogenol, is “a very specific natural plant extract found to contain a unique combination of procyanidins, bioflavonoids and phenolic acids.” Dr. Pescatore recommends taking it one week before your departure date and while traveling.
“Adding B vitamins to your routine before and during a trip can help naturally boost energy levels,” Dr. Pescatore explains. “B vitamins play an important role in energy metabolism by helping the body convert food into glucose, which provides fuel for the body.”
While B vitamins are energy-revving in general, Dr. Pescatore says he specifically recommends B-12 to his patients when they have travel plans.
Vitamin D or zinc
It’s no secret that traveling stresses your immune system (and introduces you to plenty of fresh germs and viruses). So, Dr. Pescatore suggests bolstering your natural defenses by taking either vitamin D or zinc before you leave home.
“After two years without travel, our immune systems need extra support,” he explains. “Giving your immune system an added boost is important before, after, and during travel.” He also recommends ensuring you get quality sleep before you travel as an extra layer of immune system protection.
2. A Probiotic May Ward Off Digestion Woes
If you’re planning to dive into the local cuisine on your next trip, you might want to pack a probiotic. New foods and altered eating habits can easily throw off your gut, leaving you with bloating, discomfort, or seriously unpleasant gastrointestinal movements.
“Adding a probiotic to your routine before and during travel can help prepare and soothe your gut when it interacts with new foods,” Dr. Pescatore says.
Even more importantly, taking a probiotic may ward off that dreaded stomach upset. “Research has shown a 15 percent relative decrease in the risk of traveler’s diarrhea with probiotic use,” Dr. Pescatore notes.
Another option is to pack some antioxidant-rich tea blends in your suitcase. When he travels, Dr. Pescatore always brings a couple: “My favorite teas to have when my stomach feels uneasy on the go are green and ginger.”
3. Supplements and Lifestyle Changes Can Counter Jet Lag
Jumping into a totally new time zone can confuse your body. You’re hungry at weird times, you’re unable to fall asleep, your energy levels are low – and even shifts of just a couple hours can lead to frustrating jet lag.
The key to beating jet lag, according to Dr. Pescatore, is understanding your circadian rhythm. “Jet lag is a circadian disorder that disrupts your body’s biological clock, often when you cross time zones due to travel,” he says. “There are many natural ways to fight jet lag symptoms. Make sure you’re hydrated and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. For some, it may help to try and fight the fatigue and adjust to the sleep schedule of the time zone you are in right away. For others, it helps to address the fatigue, take a nap and then get back on schedule.”
If these lifestyle tweaks aren’t doing the trick, Dr. Pescatore suggests trying maritime pine bark supplements. “A 2018 study found that supplementing with Pycnogenol actually reduced the duration of time individuals felt jet lagged by nearly 50 percent and improved feelings of fatigue, visual impairment and inability to sleep,” he explains.
Additionally, you can also try melatonin supplements. This particular hormone helps encourage sleep with the very same hormone that your body naturally releases when it’s time for you to head to bed. While it likely won’t keep you asleep, when taken it can allow you to fall asleep at the “right” bedtime in your new time zone.
4. Don’t Forget About Hydration
Water isn’t a supplement. But it’s a key piece of wellness that you can’t overlook when you’re traveling. As Dr. Pescatore points out, “Good health starts with being hydrated!”
Whether you’re headed somewhere beachy and warm or cold and icy, make daily hydration effortless by preparing in advance. “I always bring a reusable water bottle with me on my trips, “ says Dr. Pescatore. Not sure you’ll like the taste of the water where you’re headed, or visiting somewhere with an uncertain water supply? Pack a reusable water bottle that also includes filtration accessories.
For more stay-well tips ahead of your next vacation, keep reading: