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  • Travel First Aid: Help for Every Travel Ailment

    Traveling-HealthThe new sights, the sunny beaches, the great food…Travel can be exciting, but even the most experienced travelers need a little help now and then. Here’s our roundup of common travel ailments—and natural remedies that can get you back to enjoying your vacation!

    The Problem: Jet lag

    It happens when we fly across different time zones, causing a disruption in our sleep/wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythm). Changing time zones rapidly can cause disruptions in falling asleep, staying asleep or staying awake.

    The Solutions

    Melatonin is the hormone our bodies make to regulate the sleep/wake cycle, so taking  extra in a supplement form may help to reset the sleep/wake cycle disrupted from jet lag. Research has shown that melatonin can aid sleep at times when you wouldn’t normally be sleeping. Good brands to try include Source Naturals, Natural Factors, Jarrow Formulas and Pharmaca. Regular doses usually range between 1-5mg.

    NO-JET-LAG (from Miers Laboratory) is a well-loved and trusted homeopathic travel companion. It is safe, easy to take and has been proven effective in tests. A blend of five homeopathic remedies (arnica, daisy, chamomile, ipecac and lycopodium) helps counter the effects of pressure changes and the debilitating effects of long flights.

    The Problem: Travel anxiety

    Many people experience anxiety around travel, whether it’s fear of flying, fear of where you are going, changing your regular daily routine, fear of leaving home or missing loved ones and animals.

    The Solutions

    L-Theanine is a unique amino acid found in green tea that supports mental calmness and relaxation by increasing dopamine and GABA in the brain. L-theanine assists the alpha brainwaves associated with relaxation, without any drowsiness. Brands to try include Source Naturals, Jarrow Formulas and Natural Factors.

    Rescue Remedy by Bach Flower Essences is a gentle formula to help center your emotions when you’re experiencing situational distress. Rescue Remedy is a blend of five flower essences that assist with emotional stress from illness, fright, injury, travel fatigue and irritation.

    Emotional Ally by WishGarden Herbs is formulated to help you cope with temporary anxiety, restlessness and irritability. With herbs like passionflower, skullcap and motherwort, it helps you to re-center yourself and feel relief from travel anxiety.


    The Problem: Motion sickness

    Also known as travel, car, sea or airsickness, it happens when visually perceived motion is different from your vestibular system’s sense of movement. The most common symptoms are dizziness, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

    The Solutions

    PSI Bands are adjustable wristbands that apply acupressure to help relieve the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Acupressure works by stimulating the body’s self-curative abilities.

    Ginger can help with nausea associated with motion sickness. Try New Chapter’s Ginger Force or Jarrow Formulas, Herb Pharm or Pharmaca brand Ginger.

    Peppermint can also help with nausea associated with motion sickness. Try Herb Pharm’s Breath Tonic or Enzymatic Therapy’s Peppermint Plus.

    Homeopathic Gelsemium Sempervire 30c is also indicated in motion sickness.


    The Problem: Travelers’ Diarrhea

    This one is common for a few reasons—one being that you are simply drinking water you’re not used to drinking. Another reason may be that the water is not thoroughly treated at your destination. The microbial balance in the digestive tract may be easily disturbed during travel, so it’s important to plan ahead and supplement with probiotics to give the immune and digestive tract a head start.

    The Solutions

    Start taking a good probiotic a few weeks before your departure to build up healthy colonies of friendly flora. Some specific probiotic strains are more effective at helping with travelers’ diarrhea, but remember that many probiotic formulas require refrigeration. Try Florastor, made with S. boulardii, Jarrow Formulas’ Jarro-Dophilus EPS or Dr. Ohirra’s—all of which are excellent products that do not require refrigeration.

    If possible, stick with bottled water from a trusted supplier, and use methods of sterilization when necessary (i.e. plan ahead for boiling, water cleansing tabs or filtration).

    The Problem: Decreased Immunity

    Cramped airplanes and foreign bacteria can take advantage of anyone’s immune system. That’s why it’s a good idea to start building your immunity several weeks before your trip.

    The Solutions

    WishGarden Herbs’ Kick-Ass Immune is formulated to activate a healthy immune response and emphasizes respiratory health, which is especially important when flying in airplanes. It’s handy for travel in 1 or 2 oz sizes.

    Perfect Immune by New Chapter is a probiotic, whole-food multivitamin that provides comprehensive support for immune and natural defenses.

    New Chapter LifeShield Immunity is an awesome blend of medicinal mushrooms packed with beta glucans that help potentiate and modulate the immune system.

    Also, don’t forget to wash your hands often and disinfect when traveling. I like sanitizers by CleanWell, EO and Dr. Bronner’s.


    The Problem: Sunburn

    Because travel destinations are often at a higher elevation, near water, closer to the equator or sunnier than where you are coming from, sunburn can be inevitable. Make sure you wear a hat, stay out of the sun during peak hours and reapply a good mineral sunscreen. And if you do get burnt, here are ways to beat the heat.

    The Solutions

    To treat sunburn, try All Terrain’s Aloe Gel Skin Relief with healing herbs, Boericke and Tafel’s Califlora Calendula Gel or Boiron’s First Aid Calendula Lotion. And after being out in the sun all day, remember to stay hydrated with electrolytes. Coconut water is an easy way to get them, but Ultima Replenisher or Trace Minerals’ Electrolyte Stamina are powdered electrolyte drink mixes that are great for travel.

    The Problem: Sleeplessness

    Whether it’s jet lag or loud hotel neighbors, there are a variety of ways to combat sleeplessness.

    The Solutions

    Herb Pharm’s Relaxing Sleep Tonic is an herbal blend with valerian, sold in a small 1 oz bottle that’s convenient for travel.

    Deep Sleep by Herbs, Etc. is designed to help with difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or for low-quality sleep.

    Sleep Formula by Pharmaca, containing melatonin, 5HTP and L-theanine, has worked well for many people.

    Magnesium is great to take before bed to promote relaxation and calmness. Try Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm, Pure Essence’s Ionic Fizz or Kal’s Magnesium Glycinate.

    You may also want to try an eye mask and/or earplugs to block out unwanted sounds or sights. The Bucky Forty Blinks Eye Mask is one of my favorites because it’s contoured to relieve pressure against the eyes.


    The Problem: Digestive issues

    Different foods, whether they’re too rich or just something you’re not used to eating, can also play a big part in the health of your digestive system.

    The Solutions

    Chewable Papaya Enzymes help promote healthy digestion by breaking down carbohydrates and proteins. Try Pharmaca brand or Natural Factors’ Chewable Papaya Enzymes. (Plus they’re delicious!)

    Bring along more potent digestive enzymes in case you’re headed somewhere where you know the food is more challenging for your digestion. I like Megazymes by MegaFood, Digest Gold or Digest Spectrum by Enzymedica, Advanced Enzyme System by Rainbow Light or Complete Digestion by Enzyme Science.

    Probiotics are always recommended when traveling to promote a healthy immune system and optimal digestion (see Traveler’s Diarrhea for shelf-stable recommendations). Begin taking probiotics a few weeks before travel to allow time for colonization in the gut. A belly with a powerful amount of microbial flora will protect you against harmful bacteria and viruses, helping you to stay strong and healthy during your travels.

    WishGarden Digestive Bitters can help balance the pH of the stomach and ease an acidic tummy. Supports healthy digestive response and enzymes.

    Hyland’s Upset Stomach is a homeopathic, charcoal-based formula designed to relieve gas and bloating from overeating or improper diet. Safe for adults and children.

    UrgentRx Heartburn Relief comes in pocket-sized packets designed for easy transport, featuring 1000 mg of calcium carbonate for fast-acting relief of heartburn, acidic stomach and acid indigestion on the go, with or without liquid.

    Ask a Pharmaca practitioner for solutions to travel problems not listed here.

  • Demystifying the Flu

    Want to help prevent the flu? First you need to know a little about how flu and your body work. The flu is a viral infection that often occurs in the winter, for several reasons—because we don't get much exposure to sunlight and are often deficient in vitamin D, because we’re indoors consistently (and therefore passing around more germs) and because we’re more vulnerable to extreme changes in temperature.

    Infections first begin when you’re exposed to the virus through the secretions of coughs and sneezes of an already infected person. The virus then enters yourbody through the nose, eyes, throat and/or bronchial tubes and attaches itself to a cell wall there. It’s important to note that a virus is technically not a live organism, but rather a tiny particle that can only multiply within live cells. The virus particles must attack and take over the machinery of a host cell by injecting its own DNA, and diverting the work of the cell’s enzymes to its own duplication.

    Once the virus is fortified, it then kills the original host cell and is released into your system via the bloodstream. As this happens, the majority of flu symptoms begin. The lymph swells and the virus travels through the circulatory system, attaching to muscle cells and causing aches and pains. The immune system responds with inflammation, mucus and fatigue.

    While these symptoms may feel uncomfortable, they’re not necessarily bad for you. One great example of the vast intelligence of the body is that it responds to the infection by increasing the body temperature—creating a fever that helps fight the infection by slowing down the down the rate of viral reproduction. This immune response continues until the viruses are eliminated from the body and the lymph completes the purification of debris, dead cells, pathogens and waste.

    So how you do start feeling better?

    First, support your immune response instead of suppressing it, and you’ll move quickly through dis-ease and discomfort. Likewise, the sooner you take action against an infection, the easier it is to minimize its effects.

    The first 12-18 hours of the flu offers a window of opportunity to potentially stop the attack. At this stage, use herbs that support lymph and circulation and stimulate the immune response—like echinacea, stephania, yarrow, elderberry and flower and osha. Eat healthfully, and get to bed early. Products to try: Plantiva’s ImmuneDx, WishGarden Herbs' Kick-Ass Immune and Gaia Herbs’ Black Elderberry Syrup.

    If you didn’t catch it in time, it’s okay! But don’t suppress a fever right away. The fever is your body’s way to decrease viral duplication and encourage you to rest. At this stage you should focus on killing microbes, draining the lymph and moderating inflammation with herbs like garlic, cleavers, elderberry and elderflower, lemon balm and olive leaf extract. Products to try: Plantiva’s ColdDx, WishGarden Herbs' Lymph Mover or WishGarden Herbs' Kick-Ass Heroes (including Kick-Ass Immune, Biotic and Sinus, for all stages of illness). If you’re very uncomfortable, you can at least reduce inflammation and fever with natural or over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.

    Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water to flush out the body and loosen secretions (try coconut water or pure water, like from Eldorado Springs). To reduce discomfort from the fever, soak your feet in cool water and/or use a cool compress on your forehead. If the fever or aches are unbearable, consider herbal anti-inflammatories like New Chapter’s Zyflamend and sip chamomile, peppermint or elderflower tea or tincture.

    Continue to assist your lymph system and support your circulation. Add a hot cup of ginger tea to your regimen. Try gentle movement like stretching and hot baths to help move lymph, support circulation and ease discomfort. Try a bath with a half-cup baking soda (to alkalize, calm and deodorize) and 2 cups Epsom salts to cleanse the lymphatics, relax sore muscles and soften skin.

    Get plenty of rest. This means both physically and emotionally! Too much exercise can actually place more stress on your body and suppress your immune system. Limit activity to a simple walk if you’re coming down with a cold, since small amounts of exercise will facilitate lymph movement and circulation.

    Avoid milk products, grains and sugar, all of which can promote mucus and inflammation and deplete the immune system. Avoid alcohol and restrict chemical over-the-counter medications that suppress symptoms (sometimes half an adult dose can ease symptoms!).

    Stay home to avoid infecting others, and wash your hands and linens frequently. Small measures like these help prevent the virus from spreading to your community and family. Keep hand sanitizers, like those from Dr. Bronner’s or CleanWell, close at hand.

    If you do have the flu, take the time to take good care of yourself and remember that your health is a priority. Feel better soon!

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