December 7, 2012 by Dr. Andrea Seiffertt
Sustainable Health Nutshell: To keep digestive and immune systems happy during travel and holiday party schedules, keep the nervous system as calm as possible. Meditate, listen to calming music, use sesame oil to moisturize the sinuses and skin, and take a warm, simple (and mostly liquid) diet when flying.
Do you expect holiday travel to be terribly stressful, exciting and fun, or a little of both? Are you one of those people that always gets sick on planes? Or does your digestion becomes so irregular during travel or during the diet variations of the holiday season that you use medications to help with symptoms, or give up entirely, becoming resigned to being uncomfortable and vowing to improve ‘next year?’ Does this season more than others affect your sleep and compound any stress, digestive troubles, or immune system suppression? Besides the obvious (getting up and stretching during flights and car trips, resting if you do get sick, limiting alcohol intake, sleeping and exercising enough, and eating the healthiest food you can), you’ll be happy to know that all of these issues can be improved or avoided entirely with a few simple tips!
Flying! The altitude and pressure changes, the dryness, the close quarters and recirculated air, noise, and time zone changes our circadian hormonal rhythms must adjust to, all can wreak havoc on our nervous systems. Since the nervous system affects sleep, digestion, and the immune system, just flying itself can be a major player in our health during travel. The following will keep the stress on your body minimized during and immediately after the flight:
- Use 2-3 drops of nasya oil in the nostrils before and after (and during if it’s longer than 2 hours). You can also place a drop or two in your ear canals (and use earplugs) to help with the noise. The oil acts as a physical barrier to viruses, bacteria, and allergens, and keeps the sinuses moisturized. Oils infused with herbs like brahmi can also help keep your mind clear and calm during travel too. Ask me for individual recommendations for herbalized oils or supplements for travel. Keep up your abhyanga routine as well to make sure your skin stays comfortable, and rub a few drops on your hands before and after flying- the daily massage also helps detoxify and move lymphatic fluid to keep your immune system humming along!
- If you don’t need to, don’t eat anything right before, during, or right after your flight. The pressure change affects the gas in your digestive tract (imagine what it does to those plastic water bottles!), and affects its efficiency. If you are hungry or the travel is lengthy, eat small amounts of warm smooth things like thin oatmeal or soup- avoid foods that are more difficult to digest like dry, raw, or cold food (including meats and cheeses).
- Keep hydrated with Spice Water. You’ve heard me talk about this often, but the extra-dry environment of a plane cabin is a perfect time to try it out. Pack a small bag of spices (2 parts fennel seeds, 1 part cumin seeds, 1 part coriander seeds, and perhaps a little ginger for winter), and an empty thermos. When you find a restaurant with a hot water dispenser or on the plane, ask to have it filled, and add ½ a tsp or so of your own spices to the water and sip throughout your flight. The spices keep your digestion gently stimulated to help you detoxify, and keeping hydrated of course helps all systems function optimally. The added benefit is that there are no plastic cups or cans to dispose of!
During car travel, listen to calming music or upbeat books on tape to pass the time without being disturbed by violence or negativity in popular music or news. A few good ones I’ve found recently (and I love singing along- but that might just be me J) are Deva Premal’s meditation cd and the 108 sacred names of the Mother Divine.
The last tip is arguably the most important of all and can be your gift to yourself this season: keep to your daily meditation practice as much as feasible. Whatever your practice- meditation, mindfulness, prayer, or yoga- the reminder that you are, at your core, love, peace, and joy, will help carry you blissfully and compassionately through the holiday season. At the same time it will help your immune system function optimally, stabilize emotions through stress and colder darker weather, and keep joy, love, and compassion (for yourself as well as everyone else) at the forefront of your holiday experience!