How to Stay Healthy While Travelling

With winter in full swing, now is the time our minds wander to warmer climates – and the opportunity to travel to them isn’t far behind! While we often seek out sunny destinations for a brief reprieve during these colder months, some aspects of travel can cause a pause in the fun. While we look forward to being whisked away to somewhere new, we often forget that drastic shifts in climate can open us up to attacks on our immune systems, new environments hold a variety of unexpected flora and fauna and experimenting with local cuisines can play roulette with our digestive systems.

In spite of all of this, we love to travel too! That’s why we’ve developed a list of the most important precautions to take prior to taking off for your next exotic destination so you can get the most out of your upcoming vacations!

Pre-Travel Vitamins

Taking a daily multivitamin to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health is always a good idea, but it’s extra important when you’re preparing for a trip that could include flying and staying in various accommodations. Be sure to include Zinc, B-complex, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D3 to strengthen your immune system before and after your trip.

Hydration

Making sure you’re well hydrated is a critical preparation for trips as dehydration is a major factor in travel. Since travel generally includes conditions such as travelling in un-humidified airplanes, being in hot or arid climates, or exerting more energy than usual, we need to ensure that our hydration levels are optimized to support changes in bodily functions. When the airline attendant asks for your beverage order take it as a signal to have a glass of water and avoid those cups of coffee or glasses of wine. And – never be shy to ask for refills. If anyone knows in-flight dehydration, it’s the cabin crew!

Travel Supplements

It’s not just fun to experience new places, travel can be so exciting that it can send your body into high gear. Think for a moment about your last vacation. How many new situations, thrilling moments, and unexpected occurrences did you experience? While you worked through each of them, your body’s coping mechanisms were in full effect, helping you to experience joy, exhilaration, and stress – all heightened by brand new circumstances. When you consider it that way, it’s clear that everything including your digestive system, immunity, circadian rhythm, and even your adrenal glands are on active duty. Help your body to manage these ups and downs with natural supplements but please see your naturopathic doctor for proper dosage and proper supplement for your specific needs:

Adaptogens like reishi, ashwagandha, and holy basil can help fight stress, anxiety and fatigue. Begin taking your preferred adaptogen at least a week before you travel. Natural supplements take time to build in order to reach peak efficacy.

Antimicrobials are proven pathogen killers that can assist your digestive and immune systems in warding off new strains of bacteria to which your body might not be accustomed. Sometimes our best efforts to avoid foods like washed salads and raw vegetables that cause common stomach bugs still don’t keep us safe. In that case it’s good to know you can start early and ward off traveller’s tummy and diarrhea with antimicrobials like oil of oregano, grapefruit seed extract and colloidal silver.

Melatonin helps your body rebalance its circadian rhythm or find homeostasis in its wake and sleep cycle. This is the supplement of choice for fighting jet lag! Most melatonin supplements suggest taking the dose before going to bed in your new destination, and to do for a couple of days until you feel you’ve adapted.

Probiotics we talk about the benefits of these good bacteria often – and for good reasons! Keeping your gut flora nice and strong is of extra importance when travelling since there are many instances when you could encounter new or different foods and beverages. Even a seemingly innocent salad could harbour a surprise when eaten in a foreign land, since bacteria in water differ greatly around the world, as do food care standards! Help your gut to be as healthy as possible prior to and during your trip by supplementing with a great probiotic.

Ginger is world renown for easing nausea, stomach upset, indigestion, and even motion sickness. Sometimes there’s no need to try over-the-counter medications when a good natural supplement can also do an effective job. Keep some natural ginger chews with you at all times for when those unforeseen moments strike.   

First Aid Kit

A classic first aid kit is always welcome when going away. You can purchase a travel sized one at any pharmacy or make your own. We always include:

  • Adhesive bandages (multiple sizes)
  • Adhesive tape
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Antiseptic wound cleanser (like alcohol or iodine pads)
  • Blister pads or moleskin
  • Gauze
  • Safety pins and scissors

Suncare

Whether you’re going surfing or snowboarding or something in between, you always need to protect your skin from sun exposure. The reflective glare from sea and snow can make your skin more prone to burns which not only make your trip less enjoyable but it can also be dangerous in the long run. Look for natural ingredients such as zinc oxide which is a mineral used to create a physical block from the sun. Additional ingredients such as vitamin E or C are also nice ways of giving your skin a nice boost of topical antioxidants. 

Prescriptions

If you’re taking any prescription medication, please be sure to have enough for the duration of your trip, plus a couple of extra doses, in case of unanticipated travel changes. Always make sure that your prescriptions are in labelled bottles and that you also have a doctor’s note if necessary, as some medications might not be universally understood or accepted in different countries. You might also consider bringing a valid prescription for a refill of your medication as a just in case measure. 

Travel is exciting and has so many benefits from providing a well-deserved break from routine to exploring history and learning about different cultures to taking on new challenges and building new skills. We want you to get the very most out of your adventures, no matter how relaxed or extreme they might be.

If you’re travelling soon and want to review how to best prepare you and your family before heading away, please call or email us at 416-234-1888 or wellnessreception@sympatico.ca and book an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors.

Here’s to your next adventure!

Wellness Institute

Lectins – What Are They? Love Them or Leave Them?

We’re all familiar with that schoolyard rhyme: “beans, beans, they’re good for your heart….” As adults we roll our eyes, but have you ever wondered where the rest of that rhyme came from, or why foods like legumes are so tough to digest?

Turns out that most of our foods contain certain compounds that, by nature, are difficult on our digestive systems – because they’re not really meant for our digestive systems at all! Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t tolerate them but more and more research is helping us learn the reasons why some foods can be tough on our systems, and what the implications are of consuming them. In the case of beans and legumes, amongst other foods, the main culprit we’re learning more about is lectins.

Lectins are a kind of protein that’s found in a variety of plant- and animal-based foods. In fact, almost all plant and animal substances contain them in small amounts!

We know proteins are the building blocks of muscles and are critical to our health so the question for most of us is: if lectins are just proteins, how could they be bad for us?

Simply put, lectins bind cells together, and in particular, they bind to sugars. Their ability to lessen the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients puts lectins in a special category known as ‘antinutrients’. Because we can’t digest lectins, they tend to pass through our systems unnoticed which, for most people, means antinutrients like lectins don’t pose much of a problem at all! In fact, in small amounts, lectins can have numerous health benefits. They’ve been shown to have an important role in immune function, cell growth, and might even be helpful in cancer therapy.

However, lectins can wreak havoc for people who consume a diet with lots of high lectin foods and for those who suffer from GI disorders or immune deficiencies. In more severe instances where GI disorders and immunity dysfunction are at play, lectins can have quite a serious effect on the gut lining and tight junctions that keep the intestines functioning well. To read more about tight junctions, check out our article about Leaky Guy Syndrome here.

To update that schoolyard rhyme: the more lectins you consume the more discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, and importantly, malabsorption of nutrients you might experience.

If these sound like familiar symptoms, that could be because the 30% of foods that have high levels of lectins are ones we commonly eat such as dairy, nightshades (like tomatoes and peppers), whole grains, seeds, GMO foods, and yes – beans and legumes! 

Some experts have suggested that removing all lectins from your diet can help the gut to recover from antinutrient-caused distress and that this could be critical to treating GI and immunity disorders. Still, many others have pointed to the various preparation techniques that people have used around the globe to help weaken and eliminate lectin proteins, making these staple foods much easier to enjoy!

We caution against removing whole categories of foods unless truly necessary, especially because foods high in lectins also have other essential benefits such as fiber and minerals, that our bodies need. Instead, we want to provide you with a variety of methods you can use to prepare high lectin foods that are centuries old, and globally trusted to make these foods easier to digest.

These are our favourite four ways of preparing legumes, grains, and seeds so you can keep them in your diet without worrying about the negative effects of lectin protein. Prepare them mindfully, and with the help of a few tried and true techniques to get the most out of them:

1. Soak
Beans (canned or dried) in particular benefit from soaking, as do many harder grains and pseudograins like oats, rye, barley, wheat, and quinoa. Soaking and rinsing legumes and grains help to shake free starches, acids, and proteins, making minerals more bioavailable as well as make them easier to digest. Put yours in a larger bowl and cover with water by about 2 inches. Allow them to soak for a few hours or overnight. Drain fully and rinse again until the water runs clear. As an extra tip: we like to add a 1” piece of kombu or dulse seaweed to the water when soaking beans – it further helps to break down lectins and make beans easier to digest!

2.Sprout
For most beans and seeds sprouting deactivates lectins completely. Why? Because you’re no longer eating them in their contained form. Rather, since they’ve begun the initial stages of germination, they’ve evolved from that seed state. The nutrients are even more available when you sprout, and it’s a lot of fun for the family when you have a hand in ‘growing’ your own food.

This works for almost all legumes except for alfalfa in which, interestingly, lectins increase when sprouted!

3. Boil or Pressure Cook
It seems obvious that if you were going to eat legumes or grains that you would boil or pressure cook them first – but these techniques actually have many benefits and ridding beans of lectins is one of them. Studies show that boiling soybeans, red beans, and many others at 212°F/ 100°C for a minimum of 10 minutes reduces lectins to negligible amounts.

4. Ferment
Fermenting foods is the act of allowing good bacteria to grow in the food. The new good bacteria break down and convert would-be harmful proteins including lectins. This is an ancient and common approach across many cultures to consuming foods that are otherwise difficult to digest. In fact, fermented foods are great for you for many reasons because that good bacteria is also known as probiotics – one of the most important factors in overall gut health. Just think of tofu, tempeh, miso, kefir, and natto as great examples of fermented foods that would contain high levels of lectins prior to fermentation and you can see why this technique is so far-reaching!

At the Wellness Institute we want to see you and your family on a path towards your optimal health, and we have the tools to help make that journey clearer and easier. If you’re curious to learn more about how reducing or removing lectins from your diet could be beneficial to you, please call or email us at 416-234-1888 or wellnessreception@sympatico.ca and one of our naturopathic doctors or nutritionist will be happy to have a detailed consultation with you.   


Yours in good health,

Wellness Institute